Fiji suspended

SUVA: Fiji was suspended from the 16-nation Pacific Islands Forum on Saturday and told there was no place for a regime which displays “such a total disregard for basic human rights.” Suspension from the regional bloc, which represents the common interests of Pacific island nations, came as a forum deadline lapsed for Fiji coup leader Voreqe Bainimarama to set a date for democratic elections this year. “It is with considerable sorrow and disappointment that I confirm the suspension of the current military regime in the Republic of the Fiji Islands,” said forum chairman Toke Talagi. — AFP

Uzbek bus crash

ALMATY: At least 26 people were killed and more than 20 wounded in a bus crash on Saturday in the Central Asian state of Uzbekistan, Russian news agencies reported from the Uzbek capital. The incident occurred in the south-western Kashkadarya region of the isolated ex-Soviet state when a bus carrying 50 passengers collided with a stationary construction vehicle, the Interfax and RIA Novosti news agencies reported. “The bus collided at high speed with an excavator that was sitting on the roadside. As a result of the accident 26 people were killed,” an interior ministry source told the agencies. — AFP

Pope pilgrim of peace

VATICAN CITY: Pope Benedict XVI said on Saturday he was going to the Middle East next week as a pilgrim of peace in a region plagued by violence and injustice, mistrust, uncertainty and fear. On his first trip to the region where Jesus Christ lived since becoming pope in 2005, he will spend a week visiting Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories. “In just a few days I will have the privilege of visiting the Holy Land,” he told members of the Papal Foundation in Rome on Saturday. “I go as a pilgrim of peace.” He added, “For more than 60 years, this region — the land of our Lord’s birth, death and resurrection, a sacred place for the world’s three great monotheistic religions — has been plagued by violence.This has led to a general atmosphere of mistrust, uncertainty and fear — often pitting neighbour against neighbour, brother against brother.” — AFP

Pak post attacked

ISLAMABAD: Scores of militants attacked a Pakistani security post near the Afghan border on Saturday, triggering a battle that left 16 assailants and two troops dead, the military said. The attack occurred in the Mohmand tribal region, where the army recently declared victory over militants who had begun to threaten the strategically vital northwestern city of Peshawar. About 100 insurgents attacked the Spinal Tangi post before dawn, the army said in a statement. “Sixteen militants were killed in retaliatory fire. Two security forces personnel embraced shahadat (martyrdom),” it said. Syed Ahmad Jan, a senior administrator in Mohmand, said three more troops were wounded. Pakistani generals claimed earlier this year to have dismantled Taliban mini-states in Mohmand and the neighbouring Bajur region, from where insurgents were attacking U.S. troops in Afghanistan as well as Pakistani forces and officials. — AP

Juvenile execution

TEHRAN: Iran has hanged a young woman who was convicted of murder when she was a minor, her lawyer said on Saturday, drawing condemnation from international human rights groups who have sought to end capital punishment for juvenile offenders. Authorities executed the 23-year-old woman Friday in northern Iran without informing her lawyer or allowing the family to be present, said the lawyer, Mohammad Mostafaei. She was 17 at the time the crime was committed, in 2003. Iran executes more juvenile offenders than any other nation, according to Amnesty International. — AP