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Archive for Sunday, April 17, 2005

Briefly

April 17, 2005

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Haiti

U.N. Security Council ends fact-finding mission

U.N. Security Council members ended a fact-finding mission to Haiti on Saturday, saying they believe general elections will be held in the fall despite current violence and the slow pace of disarming former soldiers who helped oust President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

The council's four-day mission coincided with the shooting death of a Filipino peacekeeper and a gunfight between gang members and Haitian police that killed at least five people in a Port-au-Prince slum.

The violence underscored the challenges facing 7,400 U.N. peacekeepers charged with pacifying the country. The Security Council traveled to Haiti for the first time to evaluate the mission ahead of a vote next month on whether to extend it beyond its scheduled June expiration.

Moscow

Kasparov: Chessboard hit political attack

Garry Kasparov, the world's former No. 1 chess player who quit the professional game last month to focus on politics, said Saturday he had been hit over the head with a chessboard in a politically motivated attack.

Kasparov, an outspoken critic of President Vladimir Putin, was not injured Friday when he was hit with the chessboard after signing it for a young man at an event in Moscow.

A spokeswoman for Kasparov, Marina Litvinovich, said the assailant told the chess champion: "I admired you as a chess player, but you gave that up for politics."

She said the unidentified attacker -- who did not reveal his political allegiance -- tried to hit Kasparov again but was hauled away by security guards.

The 41-year-old Kasparov, a brilliant and aggressive tactician regarded by many as the greatest chess player of all time, has been ranked No. 1 in the world since 1984.

He retired last month, saying he planned to focus on politics and do "everything in my power to resist Putin's dictatorship." He plays a leading role in the Committee 2008: Free Choice, a group formed by liberal opposition leaders.

India

Pakistani official visits for first time in 4 years

Gen. Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's president, planned to hold formal talks with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today, part of a weekend of cricket-watching and politics, during his first visit to India in four years.

Pakistani officials have expressed hope that the visit, which comes at a time of improving relations with India, will yield progress toward a settlement of the long conflict over the divided Himalayan province of Kashmir.

"We have brought a message of peace from Pakistan," Musharraf said Saturday during a stop in the Indian state of Rajasthan, where he visited a Sufi Muslim shrine. "I have prayed for peace between India and Pakistan. Development of the countries and people can happen only if there is peace."

Musharraf is making his first trip to India since a summit in 2001, which broke down over the issue of Kashmir. His visit comes little more than a week after the two nuclear-armed rivals kicked off a path-breaking bus service to carry civilians across the cease-fire line that divides Indian and Pakistani forces in Kashmir.

Musharraf, who was scheduled to dine with Singh Saturday night, planned to watch a cricket match between the Indian and Pakistani national teams in New Delhi today.

Mexico City

Residents return home after ammonia leak

Hundreds of Veracruz state residents returned to their homes Saturday following a three-day evacuation resulting from a deadly leak of ammonia gas Wednesday that killed six people and injured 25. The rupture of the gas line owned by the state oil monopoly Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex, was the latest in a string of oil-related accidents that have plagued this area in recent years. Pemex said the leak, in the southern Veracruz town of Nanchital, was caused by a private crew that inadvertently punctured the line while doing regular maintenance. The six people who were killed worked for the contractor.

The leak spread a noxious deadly cloud of gas, prompting the evacuation of 6,000 people from eight neighborhoods of eastern Nanchital, said Alfredo Gonzalez of the Nanchital civil protection department. Ammonia gas can cause death, blindness and severe respiratory injuries.

Although Pemex said the leak had been plugged quickly, the persistent danger posed by the ammonia cloud meant that a rescue team had to wait until Friday to recover the bodies of the six victims from the scene. Saying the residue of the gas still posed a hazard, Veracruz governor Fidel Herrera on Friday extended the evacuation for another 24 hours.

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