In Short


A round-up of today's other stories in brief

Petrol shortage feared in Iraq

BAGHDAD - Long lines formed outside filling stations in Baghdad yesterday, as word spread that Iraq's largest oil refinery had shut down in the face of threats against truck drivers and fears grew of a petrol shortage.

Nine people sitting along the banks of the Tigris in the Iraqi capital were killed in a drive-by shooting, police said, adding that another 16 were injured. A suicide car bomber and a mortar killed six people and injured 23 in separate attacks yesterday.

An international team, meanwhile, agreed to assess Iraq's parliamentary elections, a decision lauded by Sunni Arab and secular Shia groups, which have staged repeated protests around Iraq complaining of widespread fraud and intimidation. - (PA)

Kennedy denies resignation calls

- Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy yesterday dismissed claims that grassroots activists were signing up to an internet petition calling for him to resign. The Liberal magazine - not connected to the party - claims to have accumulated several thousand signatures calling for Mr Kennedy to quit.

On BBC Radio 4 he was asked why one in 12 local councillors was willing to sign up. Mr Kennedy replied: "I would be very surprised if that were the case, let me put it no stronger than that, very surprised indeed." - (PA)

84 US detainees now on strike

- The number of detainees on hunger strike at the US military detention facility in Guantanamo Bay has more than doubled in the past week to 84.

Forty-six detainees joined 38 already on strike on Christmas Day, said Guantanamo spokesman Lieut Col Jeremy Martin, who added that the number of fasting detainees "routinely fluctuates".

"On the anniversary of September 11th, the number of strikers spiked to 131," he said. "They steadily decreased over the weeks and months until December 25th, and then they spiked again."

Thirty-two fasting detainees were being fed through tubes, either through their noses or intravenously. - (PA)

Beijing journalists stage protest

- About 100 Beijing News reporters walked out in protest at this week's dismissal of its top editor, the latest victim of China's strict press controls, industry sources said yesterday. Journalists also displayed their anger through a photograph in the paper showing a flock of birds flying through dark skies above the newspaper's office, with one bird leading.

"The sky may not be very clear, but they will still fly into the distance with their mission close to their hearts," said a note with the picture. - (Reuters)

Spain in asylum case turnabout

- Spain has overturned the asylum status of Equatorial Guinea opposition leader Severo Moto after receiving evidence that he was involved in several coup attempts, the government said yesterday.

Deputy prime minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega announced the decision, under consideration since June, after a cabinet meeting. - (Reuters)

Drunk passenger dropped on island

- A drunken passenger on a holiday flight from England to Spain was dropped at a tiny island off the African coast after he swore at the cabin crew, a newspaper reported yesterday.

The plane's captain decided to leave the man at Porto Santo, a volcanic outcrop in the Atlantic, after he became abusive when he was refused more alcohol, the Daily Mail said. - (Reuters)