International briefs

Taliban free three Afghan aid workers

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - The Taliban released three Afghan aid workers Sunday who were kidnapped with two French colleagues nearly two months ago, as the militant group announced a new operation targeting foreign and government forces.

The three aid workers from the France-based group Terre d'Enfance - Mohammad Hashim and brothers Ghulam Rasul and Ghulam Azrat - were abducted April 3 along with the two French nationals in the southwestern province of Nimroz.

The Taliban released the French woman, Celine Cordelier, on April 28, and the man, Eric Damfreville, on May 11.

"The three Afghans who were detained with the two French aid workers have been released today in Nimroz province at the request of tribal leaders," purported Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi said Sunday.


Court clears nurses, doctor in HIV cases

A Libyan court Sunday acquitted five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor on charges of slander.

The six were accused of saying that Libyan officials had tortured them to extract confessions in an investigation into HIV infections at a children's hospital in Benghazi where they worked.

In that case, the defendants were found guilty of intentionally infecting 426 children with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, and sentenced to death twice, in May 2004 and December 2006. They have been in jail since 1999. International AIDS experts have concluded that the virus predated the nurses' arrival and was probably spread by contaminated needles.


Government wants

more nuclear plants

BEIJING - The Chinese government plans to boost the country's nuclear power generation capability by up to 20 times its current level by the end of 2030, a Chinese official close to the plan said Saturday.

The National Development and Reform Commission, which administers China's energy policy, aims to increase nuclear power generation to between 120 million and 160 million kilowatts, the official said during a speech - at a strategic energy forum held in Beijing, which was sponsored by the Chinese Construction Ministry. At present, China has 10 nuclear reactors, which are capable of generating 8 million kilowatts.

China has previously announced that it wanted to increase nuclear power output to 40 million kilowatts by the end of 2020. To attain its goal under the new plan, China would need to build in excess of 100 nuclear reactors, each capable of generating 1 million kilowatts, over 20 years.

Tiananmen Square protests remembered

HONG KONG - Hundreds of people marched through the streets of Hong Kong on Sunday to commemorate the Tiananmen Square protests 18 years ago, angry over comments from a lawmaker who appeared to take China's side in the crackdown.

Walking through heavy rain, the protesters chanted slogans condemning the lawmaker, Ma Lik, who disputed witness accounts of the June 4, 1989, crackdown, saying Chinese troops did not fire indiscriminately at protesters.

Organizers said about 1,500 people took part in the march, which has been held every year since 1989 on the Sunday before June 4. Police put the figure at 1,000.


President endorsed for a second term

DAMASCUS - Posters plastered on walls of the capital and songs blaring from cars and loudspeakers proclaimed "We love you" as Syrians voted Sunday in a referendum to endorse President Bashar Assad - the only candidate - for a second term.

But the country's tiny opposition boycotted the voting, saying Syrians should have a choice in who governs them. And critics of Assad's regime accuse him of clamping down on pro-democracy activists, rampant corruption and mass arrests, though many are fearful of openly expressing dissent.

The regime is also under intense international scrutiny, accused of meddling in Iraq, supporting Palestinian militant groups and involvement in the assassination of former Lebanese premier Rafik Hariri in 2005. Under Assad's rule, Syrian troops were forced out of Lebanon following an outcry over Hariri's killing.

Olympian news services