In brief: S. Korean leader vows retaliation

SEOUL, South Korea – South Korea’s president vowed a relentless retaliation against North Korea if provoked again, saying today he is not afraid of a war with the communist North.

The two Koreas have ramped up their rhetoric since North Korea shelled front-line Yeonpyeong Island near the tense western sea border last month, killing four South Koreans.

President Lee Myung-bak used much of his regular address today to vow to get tougher with any new provocation by North Korea.

“We have now been awakened to the realization that war can be prevented and peace assured only when such provocations are met with a strong response,” Lee said. “Fear of war is never helpful in preventing war.”

South Korea has staged a series of military drills – including one on Yeonpyeong Island on Dec. 20 – in a show of force against the North. The South was to begin routine naval firing exercises today, but not on border islands, according to the Defense Ministry.

Authorities clear 5 terror suspects

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands – Dutch authorities on Sunday cleared five of the 12 Somali men who were detained Christmas Eve on suspicion of preparing a terrorist attack in the Netherlands.

Prosecutors said they had no evidence of criminal involvement against the five men, but the investigation of the other seven was continuing.

They must decide by Tuesday whether to bring the remaining suspects before a judge or let them go.

The men were picked up in Rotterdam after a tip from intelligence services that an attack may be imminent. There was no information on the alleged target, although Rotterdam is one of Europe’s biggest commercial hubs with a huge port and large oil and gas storage facilities.

On Friday, police raided an Internet cafe, four homes and two motel rooms but found no weapons or explosives.

Ex-leader, in coma for weeks, dies

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic – Former Dominican President Salvador Jorge Blanco, who was convicted of corruption under a political antagonist’s administration but later declared innocent by an appeals court, died Sunday. He was 84.

His son, Orlando Jorge Mera, said the former president died peacefully at his home in Santo Domingo.

Jorge Blanco had been in a coma since suffering a cerebral hematoma when he fell out of bed on the morning of Nov. 20. He had been diagnosed with hydrocephalus, in which liquid builds up around the brain and spinal cord.

President from 1982 to 1986, Jorge Blanco was sentenced along with three other men to 20 years in prison in 1991 for misspending government funds meant for military purchases. He was the first former Dominican head of state to be convicted of corruption and served two months in prison before he was released to continue his appeal.

The conviction was overturned in 2001 by an appeals court that ruled Jorge Blanco and the three other men were never provided the right to defend themselves during the 1991 trial.


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