Buddha statues join Barbie on banned list
TEHRAN - Buddha statues have joined Barbie dolls and characters from "The Simpsons" TV cartoon as banned items in the conservative Muslim nation.
Authorities are confiscating Buddha statues from shops in the Iranian capital, Tehran, to stop the promotion of Buddhism in the country, according to a report Sunday in the independent Arman daily.
Iran has long fought against items, such as Barbie toys, to defuse Western influence, but this appears to be the first time that Iranian authorities are showing an opposition to symbols from the East.
Police: 7 foreigners kidnapped in north
BAUCHI - Gunmen attacked a camp for a construction company in rural northern Nigeria, killing a guard and kidnapping seven foreign workers from Britain, Greece, Italy, Lebanon and the Philippines, authorities said Sunday.
The attack Saturday night happened in Jama'are, a town in Bauchi state. There, the gunmen first attacked a local prison, burning two police trucks, Bauchi state police spokesman Hassan Muhammed told The Associated Press.
The gunmen then targeted a workers' camp for Lebanese construction company Setraco, which is building a road in the area, Muhammed said. The gunmen killed a guard at the camp before kidnapping the foreign workers, the spokesman said.
At least 37 are dead in Baghdad bombings
BAGHDAD - Car bombs tore through shopping areas within minutes of each other in mainly Shiite neighborhoods of the Iraqi capital on Sunday, killing at least 37 people and wounding more than 100.
The attacks come amid rising sectarian discord in Iraq and appear aimed at shaking Iraqis' confidence in the Shiite-led government. The explosions struck at the start of the local workweek and primarily targeted outdoor markets.
Violence in Iraq has fallen since the height of sectarian fighting in 2006 and 2007, but insurgents still frequently launch lethal attacks against security forces and civilians.
Leftist leader Correa celebrates re-election
QUITO - President Rafael Correa, a dynamic but polemical leftist who has spent heavily on the poor, confidently celebrated his second re-election Sunday even before the first official results were announced.
An exit poll gave the incumbent, who first took office in 2007, 61 percent against 20 percent for his closest challenger, former banker Guillermo Lasso.
A beaming Correa appeared on state TV hugging jubilant supporters at the Carondelet presidential palace less than an hour after polls closed.
"We are only here to serve you. Nothing for us. Everything for you, a people who have become dignified in being free," Correa told cheering supporters.
Report: Assange sees politics as safe haven
CANBERRA - A news website says WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange regards his bid to become an Australian senator as a defense against potential criminal prosecution in the United States and Britain.
Assange spoke to The Conversation website at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London where he was granted asylum in June to avoid extradition to Sweden on sex-crime allegations.
If he wins a Senate seat on Sept. 24, Assange told the website in an article published today, the U.S. Department of Justice would drop its espionage investigation rather than risk a diplomatic row.
Assange told the website that the British government would follow suit, otherwise, "The political costs of the current standoff will be higher still."
Call for talks a test for Assad, envoy says
AMMAN - A Syrian opposition leader's call for dialogue is a test for the intentions of President Bashar Assad, an international envoy to Syria said Sunday, as fighting raged between rebels and government forces in at least three Syrian provinces.
Lakhdar Brahimi, the joint U.N.-Arab League envoy to Syria, said the proposal by Mouaz al-Khatib, the president of the opposition coalition, "has opened the door and challenges the Syrian government to fulfill its often-repeated assertion that it is ready for dialogue and a peaceful settlement."
"This initiative is on the table and will be on the table," Brahimi told reporters in Cairo following talks with Arab league chief Nabil Elaraby.
"We believe that if a dialogue begins in one of the U.N. headquarters ... it will be a start for getting out of the dark tunnel in which Syria is placed," Brahimi added.
Netanyahu freezes his ice cream budget
JERUSALEM - Following an Israeli newspaper's scoop, the country's prime minister has "frozen" his annual ice cream budget.
Benjamin Netanyahu's office on Sunday said once he was made aware of the state-financed contract issued to purchase ice cream from his favorite Jerusalem parlor, he ordered it stopped immediately. Netanyahu called the contract "excessive and unacceptable."
The Israel economic publication Calcalist published a list of items on the prime minister's annual expense budget, including $2,700 for ice cream.
Following the publication, Israelis flocked to the Metudela ice cream shop near the prime minister's residence to check out his alleged favorite flavors: pistachio and vanilla.
The prime minister's office said the cost included hosting high-ranking officials. Still, it offered a rare peek into the personal life of the private Netanyahu.
The Associated Press