World in brief: Quakes rattle Pacific islanders

Wellington, New Zealand – Thousands of panicked South Pacific islanders raced away from the coastline after three strong earthquakes rocked the region and generated a small tsunami today, just over a week after a massive wave killed 178 people in the Samoas and Tonga.

There were no immediate reports of damage, and all tsunami warnings and watches were soon canceled. But people across the South Pacific took no chances, scrambling up hillsides and maneuvering through traffic-clogged streets to reach higher ground.

The Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued a regional tsunami warning for 11 nations and territories after a quake with a magnitude of 7.8 struck 183 miles northwest of the Vanuatu island of Santo at a depth of 21 miles. Two other quakes of magnitude 7.7 and 7.3 followed in the same area.

There were no immediate reports of injury or damage from officials in Vanuatu, a chain of 83 islands.

U.S. blamed for missing scientist

Tehran – Iran’s foreign minister on Wednesday accused the United States of being involved in the disappearance of an Iranian scientist with alleged links to Iran’s nuclear program.

The charge comes less than a week after Iran reached tentative accords with the United States and other major powers on addressing questions about its nuclear ambitions, including letting international inspectors visit its newly disclosed uranium-enrichment site near Qom.

The scientist, Shahram Amiri, vanished during a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia four months ago; Iran previously called on Saudi Arabia to help locate him. He is a researcher at Malek Ashtar University, which is connected to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps and was listed by the European Union last year as an entity linked to Iran’s nuclear activities or weapon delivery systems.

“We’ve obtained documents about U.S. involvement over Shahram Amiri’s disappearance,” Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said, according to the semiofficial Fars News Agency. The official Islamic Republic News Agency quoted Mottaki as saying, “We hold Saudi Arabia responsible for Shahram Amiri’s situation and consider the U.S. to be involved in his arrest.”

State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said, “We just basically don’t have any information on this individual.”


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