World briefs 3/16/03

Sunday, March 16, 2003

U.S. Embassy urges China to reopen newspaper

BEIJING -- Protesting what it called backsliding on media freedom in China, the U.S. Embassy on Saturday urged authorities to reopen a pioneering newspaper shut down after publishing an article discussing political reform.

The closure of the 21st Century World Herald, published in the southern city of Guangzhou, was a "particular disappointment" in light of a mild relaxation of restrictions on the press, the embassy said.

Chinese authorities haven't commented on the closure of the paper. It was believed to have been ordered shut by officials of the ruling Communist Party's propaganda department, which keeps a tight leash on all Chinese media.

Rwanda may send troops back into Congo

KIGALI, Rwanda -- Rwanda will send troops back to Congo if the Ugandan army doesn't withdraw from the central African nation and if the Congolese government fails to return its forces to positions established in a 1999 cease-fire agreement, the foreign minister said.

The Ugandan and Congolese governments -- working with former Rwandan soldiers and Interahamwe Hutu militia who fled to Congo after carrying out the 1994 genocide in Rwanda -- are deploying troops near areas in eastern Congo that are held by Congolese rebels backed by Rwanda, Foreign Minister Charles Muligande said Friday.

Official: 30 missing after ferry sinks in Bangladesh

DHAKA, Bangladesh -- A passenger ferry sank in a river in southern Bangladesh during a tropical storm on Saturday, with about 30 people still missing and at least one confirmed dead, officials said.

The twin-deck ferry had nearly 200 passengers on board when it sank in the Tetulia River in Bhola district, 65 miles south of the capital, Dhaka, amid high winds and waves, the United News of Bangladesh agency reported.

The ferry, M.V. Cyprus, was approaching a passenger terminal near Bhola town when the storm struck.

Up to 150 passengers initially were reported missing and feared dead, but officials later said most of those on board managed to swim ashore or were picked up by passing boats.

Thousands mourn slain Serbian prime minister

BELGRADE, Serbia-Montenegro -- Hundreds of thousands of mourners marched through Belgrade on Saturday behind the casket of Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic while the hunt for his assassins moved beyond Serbia's borders.

A band playing dirges led tearful crowds from the Saint Sava Temple to the cemetery where Djindjic, gunned down Wednesday in downtown Belgrade, was buried.

Djindjic, 50, was instrumental in ousting former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic in 2000 and extraditing him to the U.N. tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, a year later. That, along with his pro-Western stance and recent declaration of war on organized crime and corruption, made him many enemies.

Venezuela oil production now 3 million barrels a day

CARACAS, Venezuela -- Venezuela's crude oil production has surpassed 3 million barrels a day -- approaching levels that made it the world's fifth-largest exporter before a crippling national strike, the state oil monopoly's president said Saturday.

But government officials say work still needs to be done before the industry fully recovers from the failed two-month walkout aimed at forcing President Hugo Chavez to resign or call early elections.

The strike, which ended last month, was strongest in the oil industry, the source of half of government revenue and 80 percent of export earnings.

"The task now that we have reached that level is to maintain and stabilize production," said Ali Rodriguez, president of Petroleos de Venezuela S.A.

Oil executives fired for participating in the strike dispute the government figures, saying daily production is at 2.1 million barrels.

-- From wire reports

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