N. Korea is said to kill Christian

SEOUL, South Korea - A Christian woman accused of distributing the Bible, a book banned in communist North Korea, was publicly executed last month for the crime, South Korean activists said yesterday.

The 33-year-old mother of three, Ri Hyon Ok, also was accused of spying for South Korea and the United States, and of organizing dissidents, a rights group said in Seoul, citing documents obtained from the North. Ri reportedly was executed in Ryongchon, near the border with China.

The Investigative Commission on Crime Against Humanity report included a copy of Ri's government-issued photo ID and said her husband, children, and parents were sent to a political prison the day after her June 16 execution.

The claim could not be independently verified and there has been no mention by the North's official Korean Central News Agency of her case.

- AP

Bomb flaw kept terror toll down

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Many more could have died in last week's attacks on two U.S.-owned hotels in Indonesia's capital if a third bomb in a guest room had not malfunctioned, police said yesterday.

The unexploded device - a laptop computer filled with explosives and bolts - was found on the 18th floor of the J.W. Marriott hotel, where the bombers stayed. It should have gone off first, sending hundreds of guests fleeing to the lobby, where a suicide bomber was waiting, said Ketut Untung Yoga of the national police.

But the plan failed because the timer malfunctioned, sparing an unknown number of victims in the near-simultaneous explosions at the Marriott and Ritz-Carlton that killed seven and wounded more than 50, Untung Yoga said. - AP

U.S. gives $200M to Palestinians

RAMALLAH, West Bank - The United States has transferred $200 million to the Palestinian government to help ease a growing budget deficit, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said yesterday.

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has been struggling in recent months to keep his government afloat, borrowing hundreds of millions of dollars from commercial banks just to cover the public payroll.

The reasons for the shortfall include Israel's restrictions on the Palestinian economy, the border blockade of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, and the failure of some donor countries to make good on their aid pledges, Fayyad said during a video news conference with Clinton. - AP

Elsewhere:

Israel, Lebanon, and Hezbollah want to maintain the truce that ended a devastating 2006 war despite incidents that have raised border tensions, a U.N. envoy said yesterday.

Spain was placed on maximum wildfire alert as authorities elsewhere in the Mediterranean also battled blazes and braced for a weekend heat wave. Eight fires raged in eastern Spain. A firefighter died in the hospital yesterday, bringing the number of deaths this week to six.