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FOREIGN BRIEFING

Caution urged in London

July 01, 2007|Times Staff and Wire Reports; Reuters; Associated Press

1 Britain

The U.S. Embassy in London reminded Americans to be "vigilant to suspicious activity" after foiled bomb plots last week in London. Hours later, police confirmed a second explosives-rigged car was found nearby, as of the Travel section's Friday deadline.

The first car bomb was defused shortly after 1 a.m. Friday as an ambulance crew, who was treating someone outside the Tiger Tiger club near Piccadilly Circus, saw a car filled with smoke.

They notified authorities, who said the Mercedes contained gasoline and propane cylinders and nails.

Peter Clarke, head of the Metropolitan Police Service's anti-terrorism unit, said the bomb could have caused "significant injury or loss of life."

Clarke said Friday evening that the second car was originally parked in the same area but had been towed to an impound lot.

Piccadilly Circus is a popular meeting spot for travelers and others. Piccadilly Circus subway station remained closed until early Friday afternoon.

On July 7, 2005, a suicide bombing during the morning rush hour killed 52 people on subway trains and a bus.

In August, another alleged plot was foiled in which components of explosives concealed in hand luggage were taken aboard aircraft departing London for the United States. That incident led the U.S. to ban more than 3 ounces of liquids in luggage carried onto an aircraft.

2 France

One of France's most brilliant architectural showpieces, the Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles, revealed its face Monday after a three-year restoration to remove layers of grime.

The hall, built between 1678 and 1684 on the orders of Louis XIV, takes its name from a wall panel of 357 mirrors that reflects the vast palace gardens seen through the windows opposite.

About 100 restorers worked to clean up the site in a $16-million project.

-- Reuters

3 China

Beijing will not intervene in the pricing of hotel rooms during the 2008 Olympic Games, the city's tourism chief said, amid reports of exorbitant room rates and dwindling supply more than a year before the Games start.

A Beijing tourism official said in the June 21 edition of China Daily that the city would let the market decide hotel rates.

Local media reported that some hotels were quoting rooms up to 10 times above the listed price.

More than 2 million people are expected to visit Beijing during the Games.

-- Reuters

4 Brazil

Brazil's president declared his nation's air-traffic-control system to be safe last week, hours after two planes clipped each other on a Sao Paulo runway.

It was the latest in a series of accidents, near-collisions and equipment failures in Brazil and Argentina that have prompted international safety warnings to pilots about walkouts and slowdowns by air-traffic controllers.

Hundreds of flights have been delayed or canceled, frustrating travelers across South America.

-- Associated Press

5 Caution spots

The State Department recently issued travel warnings for the following countries:

* Lebanon, because of ongoing fighting and political tensions.

* Saudi Arabia, citing concerns about potential attacks on Americans.

* Chad, because of safety and security concerns connected with rebel activities in the eastern and southern parts of the country.

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