Archive for Sunday, May 4, 2003

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May 4, 2003

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Nigeria: Oil rig hostages gain freedom from striking workers

Hundreds of hostages left the offshore oil rigs where striking Nigerian oil workers held them captive for weeks -- signaling a peaceful end to the standoff Saturday.

Some essential staff would remain behind on the four oil-drilling platforms, but "everyone else, they are departing in phases" over the weekend, said Guy Cantwell, spokesman for rig owners Transocean Inc., based in Houston.

Many of the 170 Nigerian and 97 expatriate hostages -- which include 35 Britons, 17 Americans and two Canadians -- traveled Saturday with their 100 captors on boats and helicopters to port cities in Nigeria's oil-rich southern Niger Delta.

Nigerian oil workers took the hostages as part of a wildcat strike launched April 19 over grievances with Transocean's management.

Washington, D.C.: Pentagon pressured to act on Guantanamo Bay detainees

In a strongly worded letter, Secretary of State Colin Powell has urged Pentagon officials to move faster in determining which prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay can be released, defense officials said Saturday.

Powell's April 14 letter to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld questioned the continued detention of some 660 prisoners from 42 countries who were captured during the war against al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations.

A Pentagon official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the "strongly worded" letter made it clear that the secretary of state wanted the Defense Department to determine who could be released.

Spain: Pope makes plea for peace

Pope John Paul II urged hundreds of thousands of young people Saturday to be "artisans of peace," telling a rally outside Madrid that violence and terrorism were sowing hatred and death in the world.

Pressing ahead with foreign travel despite his physical infirmities, the pope made peace a theme of the opening day of his weekend visit to Spain, clearly referring to his opposition to the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

"Dear young people, you well know how concerned I am about peace in the world," he said in a clear voice.

Police estimated that up to 600,000 young people -- well above the church's prediction -- filled the grounds of the Cuatro Vientos air base on the outskirts of Madrid.

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