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Archive for Wednesday, April 30, 2003

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April 30, 2003

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Nigeria: Oil workers taken hostage

Striking Nigerian oil workers have seized 97 hostages, including 17 Americans, on several offshore oil rigs, officials said Tuesday. Some captives said they feared armed rescue attempts would end in disaster.

There were conflicting reports about whether the hostages had been threatened. One wrote an e-mail that said the hostage-takers warned they would blow up the rigs if attacked, but oil officials dismissed reports that any oil workers had been threatened.

The rigs, owned by Houston-based Transocean, were drilling wells on behalf of oil multinationals Royal/Dutch Shell and TotalFinaElf.

Libya: $3 billion to be paid in Pan Am bombing

Libya is willing to pay close to $3 billion to the families of victims of Pan Am Flight 103 after accepting "civil responsibility" for the 1988 explosion over Lockerbie, Scotland, the foreign minister said Tuesday.

The payout was agreed to during negotiations last month between lawyers representing the families and Libya, and is conditional on the lifting of sanctions, Foreign Minister Abdel-Rahman Shalqam told The Associated Press.

The family of each of the 270 victims will receive $10 million in three installments, he said.

After a first payment of $4 million, U.N. sanctions on Libya would be lifted, and after a second $4 million payment, U.S. sanctions would go, he said. After the final installment, Washington would have to remove Libya from its list of states sponsoring terrorism, Shalqam said in a telephone interview.

Qatar: First constitution approved

Qatari voters approved their first real constitution Tuesday -- a leap toward democratic rule in a country where the emir has held absolute power since independence from Britain in 1971.

The draft will become Qatar's first real constitution, replacing a 1972 "Provisional Political Order" that outlined only limited government structures and did not lay out voting or other rights.

The constitution envisages a 45-member parliament, of which 30 will be elected in polls where women may stand and vote. The remaining 15 -- as well as the Cabinet -- will be appointed by the emir.

Serbia-Montenegro: Milosevic, numerous others charged with political crimes

Former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic was charged Tuesday with attempting to kill an opposition politician, while dozens of his loyalists were indicted in the March 12 assassination of Serbia's prime minister.

Milosevic was charged with "organizing a criminal group" that tried to kill Vuk Draskovic in June 2000. Draskovic, a key opposition leader at the time, was only slightly wounded when bullets grazed his ear.

Several members of the same underworld group also were among 45 suspects charged Tuesday in the sniper shooting of Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic.

Police have not directly linked Milosevic with the prime minister's slaying, but they claim the underworld group that masterminded the killing was connected to a special police unit.

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