Archive for Friday, April 1, 2005

Briefly - World

April 1, 2005

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Albania

U.S. military plane crashes; 9 believed dead

A U.S. military airplane crashed in central Albania while on a training mission Thursday, and nine American personnel aboard were believed to have been killed, the Albanian Defense Ministry said.

The Pentagon confirmed a C-130 crashed and a search was under way.

The plane had taken off from Tirana's Mother Teresa Airport and crashed on Driza Mountain in the district of Gramsh, 50 miles southeast of capital, Tirana, Albanian Defense Ministry spokesman Agim Doci said.

Doci said officials thought the nine people aboard, all Americans, were killed. He said the plane was taking part in joint exercises with the Albanian military.

The Albanian News24 television station reported that the location of the crash was remote and hard to reach, adding that a helicopter was seen circling the area.

Monaco

Prince Albert takes over

Groomed from birth to rule, Prince Albert took over Monaco's royal powers Thursday, assuming all but the throne in the tiny principality after a royal commission decided his critically ill father is too sick to perform his duties.

The announcement by the royal palace marked the first time since 1949 that Prince Rainier III -- Europe's longest-serving ruler -- has not been in control of the Mediterranean realm smaller than New York's Central Park and famed as a playground for the rich and famous.

Albert, 47, is the only son of Rainier and his late wife, Grace Kelly, the American beauty who exchanged Hollywood stardom for the life of a princess.

Rainier, 81, was hospitalized March 7 and has been in intensive care for 10 days with breathing, kidney and heart problems.

Kyrgyzstan

Kazakh president criticizes uprising

The president of neighboring Kazakhstan on Thursday denounced the uprising in Kyrgyzstan as "banditry and looting," while Europe's leading security organization urged ousted leader Askar Akayev to step down formally.

Kyrgyzstan authorities formed a parliamentary commission to seek Akayev's resignation as president one week after he fled to Russia.

The remarks by Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev come as the popular uprising in Kyrgyzstan -- which followed successful upheavals in Georgia and Ukraine in the past year and a half -- is increasing the pressure on other autocratic rulers across the former Soviet landscape.

Observers say last week's ouster of Akayev, Kyrgyzstan's Soviet-era president, could embolden the opposition in Kazakhstan to unseat Nazarbayev, a former Communist leader who is accused of autocratism and corruption.

Colombia

U.S. soldiers accused of cocaine smuggling

Five U.S Army soldiers are under investigation for allegedly trying to smuggle 32 pounds of cocaine out of Colombia aboard a U.S. military aircraft, American officials said Thursday.

The soldiers were detained Tuesday as a result of the investigation, said Lt. Col. Eduardo Villavicencio, a spokesman for the U.S. military's Southern Command in Florida.

He would not disclose where the five are being held, other than "in the United States."

Colombia's Defense Ministry confirmed an investigation was under way, but wouldn't discuss details of the case.

The United States has provided more than $3 billion in aid over the past four years to help Colombia battle Marxist rebels and drug trafficking that fuels the 40-year-old insurgency.

Up to 800 U.S. troops are permitted in Colombia, according to U.S. law, to train Colombian armed forces and provide logistical support. Up to 600 Americans also are permitted in the country as U.S. government contractors.

West Bank

Compromise made on Abbas gunmen

Palestinian officials Thursday backed away from a pledge to crack down on gunmen who shot up Mahmoud Abbas' office building, underlining the difficulties authorities face in restoring order in the chaotic West Bank.

The Palestinian leader was in the building but unhurt in the gunfire late Wednesday. He ordered his forces to go after the gunmen, who security officials said had "crossed a red line" by attacking the seat of government.

But in the light of day, officials adopted a conciliatory line, and one even admitted they feared coming under armed attack themselves.

Under a compromise, the gunmen will be allowed to rejoin their former units in the security forces.

Late Thursday, West Bank intelligence chief Tawfik Tirawi called Abbas and threatened to resign unless more is done to restore the rule of law, a senior Palestinian security official said.

United Nations

Council OKs trials for Sudan war crimes

The U.N. Security Council approved a resolution Thursday to prosecute Sudanese war crimes suspects before the International Criminal Court, after the United States reversed policy and agreed not to veto the document.

The United States, which abstained with three other countries, won significant concessions, including ironclad guarantees it sought that Americans working in Sudan would not be handed over to the ICC or any other nation's courts if they commit crimes in Sudan.

With Secretary-General Kofi Annan looking on, the council voted 11-0. Algeria, Brazil and China also abstained.

The document is the last of three Security Council resolutions aimed at putting pressure on Sudan to stop a crisis in Darfur, where the number of dead from a conflict between government-backed militias and rebels in Darfur is now estimated at 180,000.

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