Archive for Saturday, May 17, 2003

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May 17, 2003

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Venezuela: Economic woes prevent Miss Universe entry

For the first time in four decades, Miss Venezuela won't compete in the Miss Universe pageant because of strict foreign exchange controls imposed amid a general strike earlier this year.

The Miss Venezuela Organization announced Friday it was unable to obtain the dollars needed to send Mariangel Ruiz to the June 3 pageant in Panama.

Venezuela has won four Miss Universe crowns, five Miss World crowns and three Miss International titles.

Zimbabwe: Authorities ignore order, deport U.S. journalist

Defying court orders, Zimbabwe immigration officials Friday deported a U.S. journalist accused of violating the country's stringent new media laws.

Andrew Meldrum, 51, a correspondent for the London-based Guardian newspaper who has lived in Zimbabwe for 23 years, was the fourth foreign journalist expelled from the country in the past two years.

Police blindfolded Meldrum and drove him around on dirt roads before taking him to the airport, a technique they commonly use to intimidate people.

Meldrum was put on a flight Friday evening from Harare to London, his wife and lawyer said.

Paris: Officials request end to American 'lies'

France wants "clarifications" from the United States in response to French allegations that U.S. officials are encouraging anti-France news reports, the foreign minister said Friday.

In a letter to the U.S. government this week, France accused American media of mounting a misinformation campaign against Paris and said some of the false allegations were leaked by American officials.

Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin has said that his government would take an inventory of press accounts about France with plans to show they are untrue.

"We wanted to have some clarifications from our American friends," he said in Paris. "We are witnessing a campaign, numerous articles that are lies, sometimes calumnious."

Spain: $2.3 billion lawsuit filed in oil spill disaster

Spain said Friday it filed a $2.3 billion lawsuit against an industry regulatory organization for certifying the tanker that broke apart and split in November in the Atlantic Ocean. The tanker spilt more than 10 million gallons of oil into the sea.

The suit, filed in New York, alleges that the Houston-based American Bureau of Shipping was negligent in granting a technical certificate to the Prestige, which sank Nov. 19 and resulted in Spain's worst environmental disaster.

The Prestige broke in two off northwest Spain and sank after Spanish authorities ordered it out to sea. The government estimates it spilled about half its cargo of 20.5 million gallons of fuel oil.

Indonesia: Rebels threaten to abandon talks

A chief rebel negotiator threatened Friday to withdraw from talks with the Indonesian government over the disputed province of Aceh, but he later traveled to Tokyo, where the two sides were to meet this weekend.

Zaini Abdullah said he would not negotiate until the government released five rebel delegates who police arrested Friday as they prepared to leave the provincial capital, Banda Aceh. Authorities said the men violated a requirement to register before leaving the region.

But Abdullah then traveled to Tokyo with four other rebels for today's talks, which seek to save a faltering Dec. 9 peace deal in the oil-and gas-rich province on ending a 26-year insurgency that has left 12,000 people dead. The Indonesian government has threatened a new offensive if the rebels don't drop their demand for independence.

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