Holiday park was no wonderland

LONDON - A Christmas theme park that promised ice rinks, elves and reindeer canceled its opening yesterday, after a local council warned customers that the event was no winter wonderland.

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Lapland West Midlands had promised visitors an "authentic taste of Christmas" with huskies, reindeer and snow blown every hour at a site at Essington, 135 miles northwest of London, but early visitors saw only a handful of tents in a muddy field, garishly painted figurines, and no sign of the promised ice rink.

Local authorities warned people not to show up. "There aren't any animals up at the site. There's not a lot up there in the way of an event," said Carol Dean, an official from the local Staffordshire County Council.

Another Christmas park in southern England closed last week after customers complained the decorations were shoddy and events badly organized. Some customers there reportedly became so irate that they attacked the park's Santa Claus and physically abused an elf.

- AP

Thailand plans new government

BANGKOK, Thailand - Thailand's main opposition party said yesterday that it plans to form a new government with the help of defectors from the ruling coalition, a move certain to appease an antigovernment group that recently paralyzed the capital.

The opposition Democrat Party announced it had mustered the backing of 260 lawmakers in the 400-seat lower house, allowing it to form a government with Oxford-educated party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva as the new prime minister.

But the party's apparent triumph, managed during a still chaotic situation the day after Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi airport reopened, will not be sealed until parliament meets within the next 30 days to endorse Abhisit and the five-party coalition behind him. The former ruling party said it would not give up the fight.

- AP

Anti-crime plan to close sex shops

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands - Amsterdam unveiled plans yesterday to close some brothels, sex shops and marijuana cafes in its ancient city center as part of a major effort to drive organized crime out of the tourist haven.

The city is targeting businesses that "generate criminality," including gambling parlors, and the so-called "coffee shops" where marijuana is sold openly. Also targeted are peep shows, massage parlors and souvenir shops used by drug dealers for money-laundering.

"I think that the new reality will be more in line with our image as a tolerant and crazy place, rather than a free zone for criminals," said Lodewijk Asscher, a city council member. Prostitution was legalized in the Netherlands in 2000 but had long been tolerated before then.

- AP

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North Korea will reject

Japan's continued participation in the six-party nuclear talks that are due to begin tomorrow in Beijing, an official warned yesterday. The move was apparently in response to Japan's refusal to provide aid to North Korea under a disarmament-for-aid pact.