$500M in Saudi food aid to U.N.

UNITED NATIONS - Saudi Arabia made an unprecedented contribution of $500 million to the U.N. World Food Program to respond to rising prices, meaning the agency won't have to cut rations to the world's needy, the United Nations announced yesterday.

The contribution by the world's biggest oil-producing nation was by far the largest response to the U.N. food agency's emergency appeal for $755 million to cover increased costs that threatened critical aid to millions of needy people.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon "warmly welcomes the offer of the landmark contribution," U.N. deputy spokeswoman Marie Okabe said.

- AP

S. America creates its version of EU

BRASILIA, Brazil - A South American union was born yesterday as leaders of the region's 12 nations set out to create a continental parliament. Some see the new Union of South American Nations, known as Unasur, as a regional version of the European Union.

Summit host Brazil wants it to help coordinate defense affairs across South America, and Venezuela's Hugo Chavez calls it a counterweight to the United States.

Brazil's president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, invited other Latin American and Caribbean nations to join the venture. "Unasur is born, open to all the region," he said, "born under the signs of diversity and pluralism."

- AP

$1.4 billion aimed at Palestinian jobs

BETHLEHEM, West Bank - A business conference helped raise $1.4 billion in investments for projects aimed at bolstering Palestinians' battered economy, the Palestinian prime minister said yesterday.

The investments could create as many as 35,000 jobs, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said at the end of the three-day conference, which drew more than 500 foreign investors, many from the Arab world, along with hundreds more from the Palestinian territories.

The conference was not without its critics. Most of the money will go into construction, creating temporary jobs rather than steady employment. And the largest investment, $650 million by a new mobile-phone provider, still need approvals from Israel.

- AP

Elsewhere:

Canada violated

its constitution when it gave U.S. officials the results of interviews with a Canadian detainee at Guantanamo Bay, the nation's high court ruled yesterday. Omar Khadr has a right to material related to interviews that Canadian officials conducted with him, the court said.

Mexican officials

said homicides related to organized crime jumped 47 percent so far this year - to 1,378 from 940 in the same period last year.

The spread

of a virus that has sickened more than 24,000 people and killed dozens in China is slowing in Anhui province, where the outbreak began. No deaths from the hand, foot and mouth disease have occurred there in the last 12 days.