WORLD IN BRIEF: Spokesman rejects leaked Russian cables

Spokesman rejects leaked Russian cables

MOSCOW — The leaked U.S. diplomatic cables that portray Russia as a virtual mafia state are ‘‘total nonsense’’ of doubtful authenticity, the spokesman of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Thursday.

‘‘We don’t know whether these dispatches, cables are authentic or some kind of fakes,’’ Dmitri Peskov told Itar Tass news agency. ‘‘They look like total nonsense.’’

The cables, part of a vast tranche of purloined communiques released by the WikiLeaks website, describe Russia as a country where criminals work closely with the powerful security agencies, men enter the Kremlin lugging suitcases purportedly stuffed with cash and governors collect bribes as methodically as taxes.

Egypt mulls nuclear arms if Iran gets them

CAIRO — Egypt’s president would consider turning his country into a nuclear power if Iran acquired atomic weapons, leaked U.S. diplomatic cables revealed.

A cable from May 2008, one of hundreds of secret diplomatic documents released by the WikiLeaks website over the past week, described how President Hosni Mubarak told a U.S. Congressional delegation that everyone in the region was ‘‘terrified’’ of a nuclear Iran.

‘‘Egypt might be forced to begin its own nuclear weapons program if Iran succeeds in those efforts,’’ the cable said in reporting about a meeting between Mubarak and the delegation on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

Dozens of rescuers killed in Israeli fire

MEGADIM, Israel — A bus burst into flames as it raced to an Israeli prison during a massive forest fire Thursday, killing dozens of prison guards participating in the rescue mission, officials said. It was one of the deadliest accidents in the nation’s history.

Fire officials said the blaze, which torched some 1,600 acres, remained out of control after nightfall. A university, three prisons and a hospital were evacuated and at least one village was destroyed.

After nightfall, bodies of 25 victims from the bus had been identified, police said. Fire officials said about 40 people were killed. About two dozen people were still missing, Israel Radio reported.