Malaysia: To save Hindu temples

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - Malaysia's government unveiled a major initiative yesterday to protect Hindu temples, hoping to pacify ethnic Indians who complain that hundreds of their places of worship have been demolished in this Muslim-majority country.

Samy Vellu, an ethnic Indian minister in the cabinet, said the prime minister had asked him to "continuously monitor" all the temples in the country and submit information on their status periodically. He said in a statement that he would travel nationwide soon to compile a report.

The destruction by authorities of Hindu temples, deemed by the state to be illegally built, was one of the main grievances of the impoverished ethnic Indians who poured into the streets on Nov. 25 in an unprecedented antigovernment rally.

- AP

Kyrgyzstan gets prime minister

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan - A former energy and industry minister was named Kyrgyzstan's prime minister yesterday, the President's Office said.

Igor Chudinov was nominated by President Kurmanbek Bakiyev's Ak Jol party, which dominates the parliament. The party's parliament members then approved the nomination, which the president affirmed in a decree.

Opposition groups - which were excluded from the parliament by a new election law that Bakiyev recently pushed through - contend that the voting in this month's national elections was unfair. Their complaints have raised the prospect of a new wave of protests in the country.

- AP

Beijing monitors text messages

BEIJING - A Beijing city regulation clamping down on people who send text messages that "spread rumors" or "endanger public security" is a threat to freedom of expression, a watchdog group said yesterday.

China Human Rights Defenders, an international network of activists and rights monitoring groups, said the recent regulation on text messages "raises serious concerns over the restriction of freedom of expression in China."

Beijing police will work with government agencies and telecommunications companies to investigate and punish those using text messages to "spread rumors" or "endanger public security," the city government said in a notice posted on its Web site late last month.

- AP

Elsewhere:

A 12-story building

collapsed yesterday in Egypt's Mediterranean port city of Alexandria, killing at least three people, a police official and witnesses said.

Thailand's parks

and wildlife reserves could hold up to 2,000 wild tigers, about three times their current level, but only if the government steps up efforts to control poaching, researchers said yesterday.

Police in Somalia

said a French journalist abducted by Somali gunmen was released yesterday, eight days after he was seized in the northern part of the country.