Iraqi police held in prison abuse

BAGHDAD - Iraq's interior minister said yesterday that more than 40 police officers face charges after an investigation into prison abuse found inmates incarcerated without warrants and others with their rights violated.

Jawad al-Bolani's announcement came as the government tried to contain a scandal over charges of widespread torture in Iraqi prisons, which is threatening to become a major issue ahead of Jan. 30 national elections.

Bolani spoke during a tour of one of the most notorious prisons in eastern Baghdad, where prisoners are packed by the dozens into small cells.

Ali al-Miyali, a lawmaker from militant cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Shiite bloc, told reporters that inmates had been detained on false accusations from politically motivated informants and that some families had been forced to bribe "corrupt police officers" for even for visitation rights.

The issue took on prominence last week when a Sunni lawmaker who was an outspoken advocate of rights for prisoners from both Islamic sects was killed after delivering a sermon at a Baghdad mosque. - AP

Vatican envoy: China ties worse

VATICAN CITY - The Vatican's top envoy for China says the time has come for the Holy See to get tough with Beijing and not compromise over religious freedom, saying relations were taking a "worrisome slide."

In an interview yesterday with the Vatican-affiliated missionary news agency AsiaNews, Hong Kong Cardinal Joseph Zen repeated his call for officially recognized bishops in China to "not give in" to pressure from the state-sanctioned church, saying they had to remain firm in their faith and loyalty to the pope - even to the point of martyrdom.

Pope Benedict XVI has made improving often-tense relations with Beijing a priority of his papacy and has sought to unify the country's 12 million faithful under his wing. But there is little tangible evidence of progress in his four-year effort.

The Vatican recently denounced a new wave of arrests of underground priests and bishops, and accused Beijing of mounting obstacles to a dialogue with the Holy See.

- AP

Italy recovers ancient artwork

ROME - Italian police said they had recovered an illegally excavated marble bas relief depicting one of ancient Rome's most popular gods, worshiped mainly by the empire's soldiers.

Police said yesterday that the relief was recovered in March at a country house near Rome. Investigators believe the artwork, depicting the ancient god Mithra slaying a bull, was about to be sold to a Japanese art collector.

Four people were arrested in the case. In Italy, archaeological finds must be reported to authorities.

Experts called the second-century work a rare and exceptional find. It is now undergoing restoration. Italy is aggressively combating the pillage of its ancient treasures, demanding the return of allegedly looted antiquities sold to museums worldwide.

- AP

Elsewhere:

Guatemalan authorities have confiscated 10 million pseudoephedrine pills worth $33 million at Puerto Quetzal, the country's main port on the Pacific coast. A police spokesman called it the biggest seizure of methamphetamine precursor chemicals in Guatemala.

Britain's international spy agency, MI6, has a new chief - top U.N. diplomat John Sawers, who had a senior role in talks about Iran's disputed nuclear program.

The arduous mid-Atlantic search for the remains of Air France Flight 447 will go on as long as there is hope of finding the plane's black boxes, French Defense Minister Herve Morin said yesterday.