Archive for Thursday, July 7, 2005

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July 7, 2005

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Moscow

Russia agrees to send American into space

Russia's space agency has signed a contract with U.S. millionaire Gregory Olsen to be the next space tourist, a deal that would make the 60-year-old scientist only the third tourist to visit the international space station.

Olsen could fly to the orbiting station as early as October, when the next Soyuz mission is scheduled to bring supplies and a new crew to the station, Vyacheslav Davidenko, a spokesman for the Russian agency, said Wednesday.

Olsen, founder of a New Jersey-based infrared-camera maker, resumed training in May at a site just outside Moscow for the flight on a Russian-built Soyuz spaceship.

Terms of the deal were not immediately released, but earlier reports said the flight could cost $20 million.

Jerusalem

Sharon orders speed-up in building barrier

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has ordered quicker work to finish Israel's contentious West Bank separation barrier, a senior official said Wednesday, setting off Palestinian accusations that he's undermining peace prospects.

The official said the order applied especially to the section enclosing Jerusalem - a sensitive part of the barrier that Palestinians contend is an attempt to take over part of the disputed city.

Begun more than two years ago, the 425-mile barrier is still only about one-third completed, blocking access from the West Bank across Israel's narrowest point, nine miles from the Mediterranean Sea and Israel's main population centers.

Holding up the process is a combination of court appeals, funding shortages and lack of government prioritizing. Despite periodic declarations, Sharon's government has not shown determination to finish it.

Palestinians complain that the barrier dips into their territory to encircle settlement blocs, in effect annexing about 7 percent of the West Bank to Israel.

Santiago, Chile

No immunity in human rights case for Pinochet

A Chilean court stripped Gen. Augusto Pinochet of immunity from prosecution Wednesday for his alleged role in the killing of 119 dissidents in the early years of his dictatorship.

The Santiago Court of Appeals voted 11-10 to strip the 89-year-old former dictator of the legal immunity he enjoys as former president for a case known as "Operation Colombo" during his 1973-90 regime.

The ruling can be appealed before the Supreme Court. Pinochet's lawyer, Pablo Rodriguez, did not immediately announce his plans.

The case, which involved the killing of 119 people in 1975, was complicated and the Pinochet regime contends the victims died in clashes in Argentina involving rival armed groups opposed to his rule. The opposition says they were dissidents.

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