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WORLD BRIEFS


FRANCE: Sarkozy fires minister

Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie was fired Sunday because of a Christmas vacation spent at a Tunisian resort while that country was caught up in violent protests that toppled its president. Alliot-Marie's lack of judgment, compounded by falsehoods as she attempted to explain away the problem, embarrassed Nicolas Sarkozy, who announced her departure as part of a limited cabinet reshuffle.


CHINA: Peaceful protesters stifled

Large numbers of police and new tactics like shrill whistles and street cleaning trucks squelched overt protests for a second Sunday in a row after more calls came for peaceful gatherings modeled on Mideast demonstrations. Police blew whistles nonstop near Shanghai's People's Square and shouted at people to keep moving. About 200 people, a larger crowd than a week ago, braved the shrill noise. In Beijing, trucks drove repeatedly up the shopping district, spraying water to keep crowds pressed to the edges. Foreign journalists met with tighter controls. In Shanghai, they were warned indirectly to stay away from the protest sites. In Beijing, police blocked reporters with cameras from the street where protests were called. Bloomberg News said five men in plainclothes assaulted its reporter, confiscated his video camera and detained him until uniformed police arrived. Several Chinese were also detained, two in Beijing, four in Shanghai, driven away in vans.


THE KOREAS: New warnings from North

North Korea threatened Sunday to fire cross-border shots if South Korea continues a leaflet propaganda campaign that aims in part to inform the hermetic North of anti-government revolts in the Middle East. The warning comes one day before a U.S.-South Korean joint military drill that Pyongyang considers a preparation for invasion.


IRAQ: Oil refinery sabotaged

Gunmen stormed Iraq's largest oil refinery and bombed the facility Saturday, forcing operations to shut down at a time when Iraqis are suffering through electricity shortages and lines at the gas pump.

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