Amnesty: China slow on reforms

BEIJING - Amnesty International yesterday accused the Chinese government of failing to meet its promise to introduce more freedoms, continuing months of international criticism in the run-up to the 2008 Olympic Games.

The London-based human-rights group said China had made progress reforming its death-penalty system and granting more access to foreign journalists. But China still detains local activists without trial, stifles domestic journalism, and has embarked on a campaign to "clean up" the streets of Beijing of petty criminals, vagrants and drug users ahead of the Games.

China's Foreign Ministry rejected the findings, saying in a statement: "The Chinese constitution respects and secures human rights." - Los Angeles Times

Turkey's leader appeals for calm

ISTANBUL, Turkey - Turkey's prime minister appealed for calm yesterday after the stock market dropped amid a deepening conflict between his Islamic-oriented government and pro-secular forces backed by the military.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey must ensure its stability to safeguard its economic recovery.

"Even 41/2 years ago, this country was riven by serious problems, which, thank goodness, have been overcome one by one," said Erdogan, whose government was elected in 2002 as Turkey struggled to recover from soaring inflation and a declining currency.

Pro-secular forces are locked in a showdown over the presidential aspirations of Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, whose ruling party they accuse of steering Turkey away from its long secular tradition and toward Islamic rule. - AP

Statue reerected after deadly riots

TALLINN, Estonia - A statue of a Red Army soldier whose removal was at the heart of deadly riots in Estonia was reerected at a military cemetery in the capital yesterday, overlooking dozens of Russian war graves.

The cemetery will also be the new resting place of Red Army soldiers being exhumed from a downtown memorial. Archaeologists excavating the grave said they had found nine coffins by yesterday but had not yet opened them.

The statue's removal from the downtown memorial last week provoked sharp criticism from Moscow and rioting in Estonia - the worst since the Baltic country quit the Soviet Union in 1991. One man was stabbed to death, more than 150 people were hurt, and 1,100 were detained. - AP

Elsewhere:

A blind British

adventurer, supervised by a sighted copilot, touched down in Sydney, Australia, yesterday to end an epic 54-day, 13,500-mile flight by micro-light aircraft from London.

Suspected Islamic insurgents in the southern Thailand town of Pattani exploded a bomb at a busy night market, wounding 20 people yesterday, police said.

Cuba geared up yesterday for its traditional May Day march, featuring many thousands of workers, but it was uncertain whether recovering leader Fidel Castro would make an appearance at today's event.