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World briefs for Saturday, Feb. 6


U.S. missionary freed

An American missionary arrived in Beijing on Saturday after being freed by North Korea, which had detained him for illegally crossing its border from China on Christmas Day. Robert Park, appearing pale and drawn, did not say anything as U.S. consular officials escorted him from the North Korean plane at Beijing's airport. U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Susan Stevenson said Park would leave later in the day for the United States. On Friday, North Korea announced it would free Park, saying he had shown "sincere repentance." Park, 28, slipped across the frozen Tumen River into North Korea carrying letters calling on leader Kim Jong Il to close the country's notoriously brutal prison camps and step down from power - acts that could risk a death sentence in the totalitarian nation. However, the North Korean government "decided to leniently forgive and release him, taking his admission and sincere repentance of his wrongdoings into consideration," the official Korean Central News Agency said.


Militants' explosives seized

Portuguese police seized a large amount of explosives Friday at a home being used by Basque separatist group ETA as a base to prepare attacks in neighboring Spain, officials said. About 1,100 pounds of explosives were found inside a garage at the house, bomb squad commander Helder Barros said at a news conference. A considerable amount of bomb-making equipment was also found, he said. The discovery was made after two occupants of a stolen van containing material, including detonators, had fled from police control near the central town of Obidos, police spokesman Nelson dos Santos said. A search of the area led to a house that police believe was used as a base by suspected ETA members Andoni Zengotitabengoa Fernandez and Oier Gomez Mielgo, Dos Santos said.


Backlash over Dalai Lama meeting

China has responded sharply to President Barack Obama's plan to meet this month with Tibet's spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, saying it is "resolutely" opposed to any such contact. China accuses the Dalai Lama of pushing for Tibetan independence, which he denies. The United States confirmed on Thursday that Obama would meet the Dalai Lama in Washington in the middle of this month. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said in a statement late Friday that "China resolutely opposes the visit by the Dalai Lama to the United States, and resolutely opposes U.S. leaders having contact with the Dalai Lama." Every U.S. president in the past two decades has met with the Dalai Lama.


Deserted town sold to investor

Latvia sold a deserted town built around a Soviet-era radar station to a Russian investor who bid $3.1 million at an unusual auction Friday, officials said. The town formerly known as Skrunda-1 housed about 5,000 people during the Cold War but was abandoned over a decade ago after the Russian military withdrew from Latvia following the Soviet collapse. A representative of a Russian investor won the bidding contest in Latvia's capital, Riga, with an offer of $3.1 million, said Anete Fridensteina-Bridina, a spokeswoman for the Baltic country's privatization agency. She said the buyer was Aleksejevskoje-Serviss, a Russia-based firm, though she could not provide details. It wasn't immediately clear what plans the buyer had for the 110-acre property, located in western Latvia about 95 miles from Riga. The town contains about 70 dilapidated buildings, including apartment blocks, a school, barracks and an officers' club.

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