Archive for Sunday, December 28, 2003


December 28, 2003



3 days of mourning begin for crash victims

Benin declared three days of national mourning Saturday as crews recovered more bodies from a Christmas Day plane crash that killed at least 138 people, many of them Lebanese.

Lebanon's foreign minister, Jean Obeidhe, arriving home from a brief trip to Benin, said overloading may have caused the plane to go down moments after takeoff.

The Boeing 727 had 161 people aboard when it clipped a building near the airport's perimeter just after takeoff Thursday in Cotonou, the commercial capital, and plummeted into the shallow surf off Benin's Atlantic Ocean coast.

By Friday night, the search for survivors had been called off and 130 bodies, mostly Lebanese, had been recovered, Biaou said. A military cargo plane sent by France was waiting to airlift corpses to Beirut.

Eight more bodies washed ashore Saturday and were taken away by medical teams in ambulances to the city's overcrowded morgues.


Nuclear program called 'low level'

The chief U.N. nuclear weapons inspector, Mohamed ElBaradei, arrived here Saturday to test Libya's willingness to fully disclose its atomic arms program, which he said had not yet produced a bomb.

ElBaradei, director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, told reporters that Libya's program was "at a low level, a nascent stage." The Libyans did not enrich uranium, a step necessary to build a nuclear bomb, he added.

His comments appeared to run counter to recent suggestions by officials in Washington that Libya had made substantial progress toward acquiring sophisticated equipment needed to produce weapons-grade uranium. The officials had described the Libyan program as active, but much smaller than nuclear weapons efforts in Iran and North Korea.

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