Satellite surveillance of Iraq sites considered
With no green light from Baghdad to let inspectors into Iraq, the United Nations weapons inspection agency said Thursday that it was considering the purchase of satellite imagery to help identify suspected arms facilities.
The agency said it has trained 120 experts for weapons searches, but that it will not go ahead with more costly commitments such as helicopter service contracts unless there is some indication Iraq will admit inspectors.
However, discussions are proceeding with governments and commercial providers about possibly renting or leasing satellite technology, the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission said in a report.
"While imagery cannot be a substitute for on-site inspection, it can provide a valuable complement to inspection," chief U.N. inspector Hans Blix said in the quarterly report to the Security Council.
The report was issued two days after the conclusion of U.N. talks on restarting weapons inspections in Iraq, which ended in December 1998 just before the United States and Britain launched airstrikes against Baghdad.
New prime minister vows economic renewal
Haiti's Senate confirmed economist Jean-Marie Cherestal as the new prime minister Thursday, backing his plans to repair relations with international donors and rebuild the shattered economy.
An overwhelming majority of senators ratified Cherestal's program, which is based on newly inaugurated President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's promises of stability and economic improvement in the impoverished Caribbean nation.
"I will orient my program to create the environment necessary to promote investment to give the disadvantaged majority the opportunity to go to school, receive health care, and find work," Cherestal said in a radio address Thursday.
Cherestal, 53, was named planning minister in 1993 during Aristide's first stint as president. He became finance and economics minister in November 1995 and kept the post under President Rene Preval until March 1996. In 1998, he was put in charge of international development funds.
N. Korea accused of opium smuggling
A senior customs officer said Thursday that North Koreans were smuggling opium into the Russian Far East by rail and that they were probably hiding the drug in diplomatic pouches.
The accusation comes as President Vladimir Putin is trying to expand Russia's role as a mediator between the two Koreas. Putin visited North Korea in July to mend Russian ties with the Stalinist country, and was in South Korea this week.
Vladimir Davydov, chief of the drug-smuggling department of the Customs Agency's Far East office, told a news conference in Vladivostok that police regularly confiscate industrially processed opium from North Korean citizens.
In one take last year, authorities seized about 20 pounds of opium from North Korean loggers near the town of Tynda. Police confiscated the narcotics, he said.
Oil workers released after ransom paid
Seven foreign oil workers including four Americans kidnapped last October in Ecuador's petroleum-rich northeast jungle were freed Thursday.
An oil industry source said a $13 million ransom was paid.
Ecuador's defense ministry said in a statement that the kidnap victims, who also included a Chilean, an Argentine and a New Zealander, were released before noon Thursday and picked up by a military patrol. President Gustavo Noboa's office said the men were "in good condition."