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Reports: Russia to ratify Kyoto climate pact

Ending its wavering, Russia will approve ratification of the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, Russian news agencies said Wednesday.

The 1997 protocol can go into force only with Russian ratification. President Vladimir Putin vowed to speed up the ratification process in May in return for European Union approval of Russia's bid to join the World Trade Organization.

The Interfax and ITAR-Tass news agencies, quoting unidentified government sources, said the government would approve a draft law today on ratification of the pact to stem global warming. That would mean ratification would have Putin's backing, making approval by Parliament highly likely. Government officials declined to comment on the report.

Powell blames commerce in Sudan crisis

WASHINGTON _ Secretary of State Colin Powell says commercial interests some countries have in Sudan were motivating their opposition to a U.S. diplomatic campaign to help the oppressed non-Arab community in Darfur.

Powell singled out the four countries, Russia, China, Algeria and Pakistan, that abstained on a U.N. Security Council resolution two weeks ago that set up a commission to explore human rights abuses in the violence-ravaged area of Sudan.

But in a radio interview with Michael Reagan on Tuesday, he did not say which of the four countries he believed were motivated by commercial interests and which by their opposition to the sanctions threatened in the resolution.

10 nations back Thai to lead U.N.

UNITED NATIONS _ Thailand's foreign minister won the unanimous support of Southeast Asian nations in his campaign to be the next U.N. secretary-general, but he said Wednesday that there's "a long road ahead" to get the backing of all Asian countries.

Kofi Annan's second five-year term ends Dec. 31, 2006, and it is Asia's turn to select his successor.

Thai Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai, 43, is the first Asian candidate, but others are expected from the 56-nation Asian group.

Foreign ministers of the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations gave Sathirathai their backing at a meeting Tuesday. He holds a doctorate in law from Harvard University.

Elsewhere . . .

BISHOP QUITS IN SCANDAL: A Roman Catholic bishop blamed for a seminary porn scandal that has rocked Austria's church has resigned, Austrian media reported Wednesday. Bishop Kurt Krenn, who had overall responsibility for the seminary where authorities found up to 40,000 lurid images on computers _ including child pornography _ sent a letter to Pope John Paul II saying he was stepping down, Austrian state radio said.

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