World digest 02/15/03

Saturday, February 15, 2003

Iranian court lifts death sentence on professor

TEHRAN, Iran -- Iran's Supreme Court has lifted the death sentence ordered in the case of a university professor whose sentencing provoked nationwide demonstrations, one of the judges who heard his appeal said Friday.

Hashem Aghajari, a history professor at Tehran's Teachers Training University, had been condemned to death for insulting Islam and questioning clerical rule during a speech in June.

"Three out of four of the judges voted to revoke the sentence," said Ayatollah Mohammad Sajjadi, one of the judges who heard the appeal in the Supreme Court in Qom.

The Supreme Court would refer Aghajari's case to an appeals court to review the remainder of the sentence, Sajjadi said.

Aghajari, who is in prison, also was sentenced to 74 lashes, banned from teaching for 10 years and banished to three remote cities for eight years.

Yasser Arafat agrees to appoint a prime minister

RAMALLAH, West Bank -- Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat announced Friday that he had agreed to a U.S. and Israeli demand that he share power with a prime minister but did not say how much control he was prepared to hand over.

For months the United States and Israel have been demanding that Arafat give up some of his day-to-day control of the Palestinian Authority. They say he has been discredited by his failure to stop Palestinian attacks against Israelis and argue peace is not possible until he is replaced.

Arafat said he would immediately convene the Palestinian legislature and Palestine Liberation Organization's Central Council to approve the measure.

He did not say was how much power he plans to share but gave no indication he was prepared to accept a largely symbolic role. Arafat also did not say who he will name as prime minister -- or when.

China plans to send man into space this year

BEIJING -- China is sticking to plans for a manned space launch this year, confident its rockets are safe, the head of the country's main civilian space agency was quoted Friday as saying.

The comments by Zhang Qingwei, president of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp., to the China Daily newspaper were the highest-level affirmation yet of Chinese determination to go ahead with a manned flight.

"China put into place its space program long ago, and it will stick to its schedule without being distracted," Zhang was quoted as saying. He was paraphrased as saying a manned launch would take place this year, though the report gave no details.

Britain says goodbye to tobacco advertising

LONDON -- Britain has banned all tobacco advertising, effective Friday, overriding industry protests in a bid to cut smoking-related illnesses and deaths.

Legislation passed by Parliament last year outlaws newspaper, billboard and Internet advertising of tobacco products in Britain, where tobacco companies have long been powerful and smoking fairly widespread.

The new law also prohibits the promotion of smoking through mail campaigns, coupons and the free distribution of cigarettes.

-- From wire reports

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