World briefs 01/28/03

Tuesday, January 28, 2003

Passenger train collision in Alpine tunnel kills two

SAINT-DALMAS DE TENDE, France -- French and Italian passenger trains collided head-on in an Alpine tunnel in southeast France on Monday, killing two people and injuring four seriously.

French authorities said the two trains slammed into each other in the Biona Tunnel near the Italian border at 11:15 a.m., throwing passengers to the floor and causing their suitcases to tumble down from overhead bins. Some passengers were in shock or had light injuries.

The confined area of the crash site made rescue operations difficult, said Jean-Paul Boulet of the French railway authority, SNCF.

Alleged militants being investigated by France

PARIS -- Two radical Islamic militants were placed under investigation, a step short of being charged, for suspected links to terrorist groups, French officials said Monday.

Karim Bourti and Ruddy Terranova were brought before judges Sunday after being arrested Wednesday in connection with an investigation into their alleged connection with terrorist activities, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The arrest of Bourti, a 34-year-old French citizen of Algerian origin, came shortly after his release from prison on a previous terror-related conviction. He was sentenced in December 2000 to three years, with one suspended, for involvement in a foiled plot to attack the 1998 World Cup in France.

Philippine rebels say they will reject peace accord

MANILA, Philippines -- Communist guerrillas said Monday they would reject a government-proposed peace accord to end their 34-year rebellion.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo announced Saturday she had approved a draft proposal for ending the communist insurrection -- one of Asia's longest -- but warned the offer is only for those who renounce violence.

Rebel spokesman Gregorio Rosal said the guerrillas would reject the proposal, saying they expect it to be a "declaration of surrender."

Under the draft proposal, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press, the government would offer "absolute and unconditional" amnesty to the guerrillas, except those who have committed crimes unrelated to the insurgency.

EU nations protest plans for Mugabe visit

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- European Union foreign ministers failed to reach agreement Monday on extending sanctions against Zimbabwe and its President Robert Mugabe after criticizing French attempts to weaken sanctions.

Several EU nations, led by Britain, protested French plans to invite Mugabe for an official visit next month, one day after the current sanctions expire.

The EU nations imposed diplomatic sanctions last year because it said Mugabe's government violated human rights and pursued policies that have led Zimbabwe into unprecedented economic and political chaos.

France, however, wanted Mugabe to attend the Feb. 19 Franco-African summit in Paris, arguing it would use the occasion to raise political and human rights complaints.

Iran lifts house arrest on senior dissident cleric

TEHRAN, Iran -- Iran's most senior dissident cleric will be freed after spending five years under house arrest for challenging the Persian state's current supreme leader, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported Monday.

The decision to lift the house arrest order on 81-year-old Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, whose health has been deteriorating, was made by the Supreme National Security Council, Iran's highest security decision-making body, and takes effect today.

-- From wire reports

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