SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea’s “appalling” human rights situation must improve before the country can expect to normalize relations with the United States, President Barack Obama’s special envoy on the issue said today.
In comments certain to anger North Korea, Robert King blasted its human rights record even as a U.S. citizen remains under detention for crossing into the communist country last month without permission.
“It’s one of the worst places in terms of lack of human rights,” King told reporters after meeting South Korea’s foreign minister. “The situation is appalling.”
He said that the situation is preventing the normalization of ties between Washington and Pyongyang, which have never had diplomatic relations and remain locked in a standoff over the North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs.
King, who is on his first visit overseas, also called on North Korea to release the U.S. citizen it is holding, but acknowledged that Washington had little information on the person’s condition.
Opposition wins Croatia presidency
ZAGREB, Croatia – Legal scholar and leftist opposition candidate Ivo Josipovic won Croatia’s presidential elections, upsetting the capital’s popular mayor and confirming the country’s pro-Western course.
The state-run Electoral Commission said today Social Democrat Josipovic had 60.29 percent of the vote compared with 39.71 percent for Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandic, with 99.6 percent of the vote counted.
Comparing his election to a “victorious symphony,” Josipovic – who also is a classical music composer – said that “every citizen who aims for a better, more just Croatia has won.”
Radical cleric returns to Kenya
NAIROBI, Kenya – A radical Jamaican-born Muslim cleric who led a British mosque attended by convicted terrorists was flown back to Kenya on Sunday after an attempt to deport him failed, officials said.
Nigerian authorities refused to grant a transit visa for Sheik Abdullah el-Faisal and instead sent him back to Kenya early Sunday, according to an official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information.
Al-Amin Kimathi, head coordinator for the Muslim Human Rights Forum, said el-Faisal was now being held in a Nairobi prison. He said el-Faisal had been invited to Kenya by Muslim youths to give lectures.
Kenya deported el-Faisal on Thursday, as the Immigration Minister Otieno Kajwang said the cleric posed a serious threat to the country’s security.
Europe struggling with heavy snows
BERLIN – Europeans were struggling to restore roads and railways Sunday after heavy snow caused hundreds of traffic accidents, halted flights from Germany and France, downed power lines in Poland and trapped more than 160 people overnight on a frozen German highway.
The 148 adults and 19 children stuck on Germany’s coastal A20 highway survived by running their car engines until rescuers using snow plows and excavators pushed through 6.5-foot drifts to free them Sunday morning, police in the town of Altentreptow said.
In Poland, about 80,000 people were without electricity Sunday after snow-laden tree branches cracked, damaging several power lines.