U.N. faults U.S. on war probes

GENEVA, Switzerland - A U.N. human-rights expert said yesterday that the United States was failing to properly investigate alleged war crimes committed by its troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Although some cases are investigated and lead to prosecutions, others aren't or result in lenient sentences, Philip Alston, the U.N. Human Rights Council's independent investigator on extrajudicial killings, said in a report published on a U.N. Web site.

"There have been chronic and deplorable accountability failures," Alston said.

One case he cites is that of Chief Warrant Officer Lewis Welshofer, convicted of negligent homicide in the death of Abed Hamed Mowhoush, an Iraqi general who had turned himself in to military authorities. Mowhoush suffocated after his head was covered with a sleeping bag and an electrical cord wrapped around his neck. Welshofer was fined and ordered reprimanded, without jail time. - AP

Blast at mosque kills 15 in Iran

TEHRAN, Iran - An explosion in a mosque killed 15 people near Iran's volatile border with Pakistan and Afghanistan yesterday, and a local official said it was a terrorist attack. The state news agency said 80 people were injured.

The blast went off in Zahedan, the capital of a lawless province that frequently witnesses clashes between police and drug smugglers. It has also seen attacks by a militant group called Jundallah, which claims to be fighting for rights of Sunni Muslims in mainly Shiite Iran but is suspected of al-Qaeda links.

Alaeddin Mazari, a journalist in Zahedan, told the AP that the explosion occurred in the city's second-biggest Shiite mosque.

Ali Mohammad Azad, governor of Sistan-Baluchistan province where Zahedan is the capital, told the official Islamic Republic News Agency that a terrorist was involved, but he did not provide details.

- AP

Britain's cuckoo is endangered

LONDON - Britain's cuckoo bird, known for its distinctive call, is in danger of extinction along with 51 other species, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds said in a report yesterday.

It found that 21 percent of Britain's bird species face extinction unless steps are taken to protect them, spokesman Tim Webb said. He said the cuckoo and other birds that visit Britain in the summer have suffered population loss largely due to a decrease in food and water supply in sub-Saharan Africa, where many migrate from.

"The Sahara desert is spreading and the birds are having a hard time flying out in good condition," Webb said. The society said Britain's cuckoo population had declined 37 percent since 1994. - AP

Elsewhere:

Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, known for being loquacious, yesterday began what he said would be a four-day Hello President radio and television show celebrating the 10th anniversary of the program. Chavez said the talkathon would run through Sunday, with some breaks of unspecified duration.