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'Pay up' call by small traders

Nearly half of small traders in the country are struggling to get paid by big business and state agencies, a trade association warned today.

A survey by representatives, the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association (Isme) showed 44pc of their members were hit with delays of three months or more.

Mark Fielding, Isme chief executive, has demanded that the Government take urgent action to speed up the payments.

The poll of 770 small firms found they wait 73 days on average for payment from their customers.

Massive dip in asylum pleas

Some 358,800 applications for asylum were lodged in industrialised countries last year -- some 42pc lower than the decade's peak in 2001, the latest UNHCR report on asylum trends shows.

Europe -- where many countries are mired in heated debates over immigration -- accounted for nearly 270,000 claims, a 6pc drop, mainly due to far fewer requests recorded in Italy, Malta and Greece.

"We need to study the root causes to see if the decline is because of fewer push factors in areas of origin or tighter migration control in countries of asylum," the agency said.

Khmer butcher fights sentence

The man who admitted to overseeing the torture and killing of 16,000 people as the Khmer Rouge's chief prison warden has returned to the courtroom to appeal his 19-year prison sentence for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Kaing Guek Eav is the only person so far to be tried by a special UN-backed tribunal set up to investigate and prosecute officials from the regime whose four-year rule in the 1970s led to the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million people.

Two killed as boat capsizes

A sailboat has capsized off San Diego, California, leaving two men dead and seven people injured.

The boat flipped over near Shelter Island. Nine people were pulled from the water.

Two men in their 50s or 60s were declared dead at the dock and seven people, including three children were taken to hospitals.