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【整理】SENEWS-2004-0825-1530

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It is 15:30 Universal Time. I’m Steve Ember in Washington.

1. Russian President Vladimir Putin has returned to Moscow after two passenger airplanes crashed at almost the same time Tuesday. 89 people died in the crashes. The Russian leader ended his holiday in the Black Sea city of Sochi. One of the planes that crashed was traveling to Sochi. The top security agency in Russia says it has found no evidences of a terrorist attack. Officials say they are still considering the possibility of technical failures, bad fuel or other problems. The two planes left Domodedovo airport in Moscow within an hour. One of them sent a signal showing trouble before it crashed. One plane crashed in the Tula area about 180 kilometers south of Moscow. Wreckage of the other plane was spread near the southern city of Rostov-on-Don.

2. Officials in Russia have increased security at airports and other places after the two airplanes crashed. The planes went down five days before a presidential election in the Republic of Chechnya. Russian troops have been struggling against Chechen separatist forces for most of the past ten years.

3. A top Shiite Muslim religious leader is urging Iraqis to march in the Shiite holy city of Najaf to prevent a raid on the Imam Ali center. Shiite fighters are occupying the center. Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani returned suddenly to Iraq after receiving medical treatment in London. He is now resting in the southern city of Basra and expected in Najaf on Thursday.

4. In the Iraqi city of Fallujah, hospital officials say four people have been killed in American air strikes on suspected rebel positions. At least four others were wounded in the attacks. An American marine spokesman said both aircraft and tanks were used in the attacks. Fallujah has been a center of resistance activity since American-led forces ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein last year.

5. Palestinian officials say gunmen in Gaza city have shot at vehicles carrying the acting head of Palestinian intelligence services and his guards. They say intelligence chief Tareq Abu Rajab was wounded and two guards were killed. It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the attack. The intelligence chief is described as a close ally of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. But Mr. Rajab is not widely believed to be involved in the growing power struggle among opposing Palestinian groups. Also Palestinian lawmakers have approved measures calling for reforms in the Palestinian authority.

You are listening to the news in VOA Special English.

6. A United States military court in Guantanamo Bay Cuba has officially announced charges against an Australian man. David Hicks was charged with plotting war crimes and aiding the enemy during the American-led war in Afghanistan. Lawyers say Mr. Hicks plans to tell the court that he is innocent. Australia says it will demand his immediate release if he is found not guilty. Mr. Hicks has been held at Guantanamo Bay since 2001. Before the court hearing Wednesday, he met with his father for the first time in five years.

7. Hundreds of thousands of people have fled the eastern coast of China as a powerful storm struck the area. The storm called Typhoon Aere hit Fujian province, south of Shanghai late Wednesday. Chinese television showed heavy rain and fierce winds hitting the area. There were no immediate reports of injuries. Earlier, Typhoon Aere struck Taiwan. Strong winds and heavy rain forced financial markets, schools and offices there to close for a second day. The storm caused landslides and flooding that destroyed bridges and buried homes in some areas. At least 12 people died from incidents linked to Typhoon Aere in northern Taiwan and southern Japan.

8. A fifth person has died as a result of an accident at a Japanese nuclear power center earlier this month. The victim died Wednesday of severe burns suffered in the accident. A hot air leak at the Mihama center west of Tokyo killed four other people and injured several others on August 9th. The Kansai electric power company owns the center. The company has since closed down the nuclear reactor and others like it for inspections. Kansai is being investigated for possible carelessness.

9. In Bangladesh, a newspaper reports that an Islamic group has claimed responsibility for a bomb attack last Saturday. A group calling itself the Hikmatul Zihad made the claim in an electronic mail message sent to the newspaper. The message said the group would carry out an attack against Awami party leader Sheikh Hasina within a week. She is believed to have been the target of the bombing four days ago. The threat comes on the second day of a general strike called by the Awami League to protest the bombing. The attack killed at least 20 people.

10. Vietnam say it has released a member of a banned Buddhist group from house arrest in Ho Chi Minh city. City officials say Le Quang Liem was released seven months earlier than expected. Mr. Liem has been found guilty of what government calls causing social problems. He belongs to the Hoa Hao Buddhist organization. Vietnam recognizes the organization, Mr. Liem’s group separated from the organization to protest government control over religion.

11. And in sports news, Japan defeated Canada in baseball at the Olympic Games in Athens. The victory earned Japan third place in the baseball competition. This is the third time that a Japanese baseball team has won an Olympic medal. Teams from Australia and Cuba will play for the baseball championship.

And now briefly here again is the major news of the hour in Special English.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has returned to Moscow after two passenger airplanes crashed at almost the same time Tuesday. 89 people died in the crashes. A top Shiite Muslim religious leader is urging Iraqis to march in the Iraqi holy city of Najaf to prevent a raid on the Imam Ali center. And hundreds of thousands of people have fled the eastern coast of China as a powerful storm hit the area.

That’s the news in VOA Special English. From Washington, this has been Steve Ember reporting.

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