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Archive for Sunday, February 20, 2005

Briefly

February 20, 2005

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Lebanon

Government struggling to trace attack

From traces of explosives supposedly collected off airline seats to the prospect a powerful bomb could have been planted beneath a Beirut street during recent road work, the mystery is deepening over who killed former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and how.

The Lebanese government and its Syrian supporters have been under intense domestic and international pressure to apprehend those responsible for the massive explosion that also killed 16 others and wounded more than 100 a week ago.

Foreign Minister Mahmoud Hammoud said Saturday that his government would "study" a request by the United Nations to involve a team of international investigators, adding it was "keen" to cooperate with the international body.

Lebanon has asked Switzerland to send DNA and explosives experts but has rejected calls for an internationally led inquiry.

Washington, D.C.

North Korea urged to resume nuclear talks

Expressing deep concern about North Korea's nuclear weapons program, senior U.S. and Japanese officials on Saturday pressed the communist nation to soon resume international talks aimed at halting its arms development.

The North Korean government gave no indication it was interested.

Negotiations among the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States offer North Korea the best path forward to security assurances and a better life for its people, Rice said at a news conference at the State Department.

But North Korea is not ready to resume the talks and does not want direct meetings with Washington, according to a report Saturday from China's official news agency, citing an unidentified North Korean official.

Haiti

Gunmen attack prison holding Aristide allies

Heavily armed gunmen attacked Haiti's national penitentiary Saturday, killing one guard in a shootout that allowed some prisoners to escape, Haitian and U.N. peacekeeping officials said. Guards rushed two jailed allies of ousted leader President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to a secret location when inmates began rioting.

Damian Onses-Cardona, a spokesman for the U.N. peacekeeping force, told The Associated Press that former Prime Minister Yvon Neptune and former Interior Minister Jocelerme Privert were later turned over to U.N. soldiers.

"They are now in the protective custody of the U.N.," Onses-Cardona said. "They have agreed to return to the prison."

Authorities were investigating whether the attack was aimed at freeing Neptune and Privert, but neither man tried to get away, Onses-Cardona said. Some prisoners did escape, but it was not clear how many, he said.

Pakistan

Police arrest 15 terror suspects

Police raided several homes in southwestern Pakistan, arresting 15 Islamic militant suspects and seizing hand grenades that were likely to be used against Shiite Muslims during the festival of Ashoura, police said Saturday.

Friday's arrests came hours after two alleged members of an outlawed Sunni militant group blew themselves up with bombs when police raided a house in Quetta on a tip that some suspects were hiding there. The pair belonged to Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, which is accused of killing hundreds of Shiites in recent years, police say.

City police chief Rafi Pervez Bhatti said they are holding 15 suspects from the outlawed group. "These people wanted to attack Shiites' processions during Ashoura on Sunday," he said, but gave no other details.

Ireland

Robbery cash found in police country club

Some of the money stolen in December during a Northern Ireland bank heist worth $50 million was found in the restrooms of a Belfast country club run by police, Northern Ireland authorities said Saturday.

Police said currency worth $95,000 was abandoned Friday in five packages and discovered after an anonymous tipster called the police-complaints authority in the British territory.

In a statement, the Police Service of Northern Ireland said they suspected that whoever planted the money in the New Forge country club did so "in an effort to distract the police from investigating the Northern Bank robbery."

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