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Archive for Friday, February 7, 2003

Briefly

February 7, 2003

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Venezuela

Opponents say controls will collapse economy

Venezuela's business leaders warned Thursday that foreign currency controls imposed by President Hugo Chavez would breed corruption, fuel inflation and push the nation's fragile economy to the brink of collapse.

They also suspect Chavez will use the controls to repress opponents and punish those who staged an unsuccessful two-month strike seeking to oust him.

Chavez announced the controls late Wednesday night, two weeks after suspending the sales of U.S. dollars as the bolivar currency sank to record lows. The fixed exchange rate took effect Thursday, and trading in dollars resumed.

Many news media supported or promoted the strike, which ended this week in all sectors but the oil industry.

Past governments used currency controls to restrict newspapers' ability to buy newsprint, 100 percent of which is imported.

Ivory Coast

U.N. removes staff before accord decision

The United Nations Thursday ordered all nonessential staff to leave Ivory Coast ahead of the government's long-awaited decision on a peace accord that has provoked two weeks of protests and riots.

President Laurent Gbagho has scheduled a nationally televised address today in which he is expected to announce whether he will go along with the deal.

In brief remarks late Thursday, he said the accord was plagued with "many points of contradiction" that he suggested might be resolved with unspecified "political arrangements."

The French-brokered accord seeks to end a 4-month-old war that has seen rebels seize more than half the country. The agreement was reached Jan. 24 near Paris after two weeks of talks.

Northern Ireland

Thousands mourn Belfast terror chief

With a bagpiper's wail and revenge in the air, more than 5,000 Protestant extremists walked Thursday behind the coffin of a senior Belfast terrorist gunned down in an internal feud that threatens to claim more lives.

An "honor guard" of masked men in leather jackets fired a volley of shots over the casket of John Gregg, 45, a commander in the outlawed Ulster Defense Assn., the major anti-Catholic paramilitary group responsible for hundreds of sectarian killings in the past three decades.

The UDA's four surviving commanders emphasized that their No. 1 target now is a fellow extremist: deposed UDA warlord Johnny "Mad Dog" Adair.

Adair was blamed for ordering Gregg's assassination Saturday at a Belfast stop light in a feud about egos and drug-dealing turf.

Australia

Government suggests terrorism survival kit

Food and water for three days, sunscreen, a flashlight, fire extinguisher, battery-powered radio, a repair kit for the car -- and playing cards to keep the family amused.

Sound like a shopping list for a camping trip? It's actually a list of supplies the Australian government is advising residents to stockpile as part of a terrorism survival kit. The advice comes in anti-terror packets mailed this week to every home in Australia.

The mailing is the second stage of a government television, radio and newspaper campaign that began in December and advises people to be "alert but not alarmed" about terrorism.

It follows a government warning last November that it had received credible information of a possible terrorist attack in Australia in coming months.

Colombia

Government minister's plane goes missing

A small plane carrying Colombian Minister of Social Welfare Juan Luis Londono disappeared Thursday soon after taking off on a domestic flight.

The private plane failed to make normal radio contact with a control tower soon after leaving an airport in Girardot, 50 miles southwest of the capital, Bogota. Control towers said they received no radio reports of an emergency from the pilot, who took off in sunny weather.

The flight path was to have crossed an Andean mountain range on the way to the city of Popayan, 230 miles southwest of Bogota.

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