New negotiations planned in Nigerian hostage crisis

Friday, May 2, 2003

LAGOS, Nigeria -- Ahead of a new round of negotiations, Nigerian navy ships and private helicopters prepared Thursday for a possible evacuation of 97 foreigners and 170 Nigerians being held hostage on oil rigs by striking workers.

The rigs' owners were to meet today with Nigerian labor leaders, including representatives chosen by the hostage-takers, in the Nigerian capital of Abuja, according to Peter Akpatason, president of the country's largest oil union.

A senior navy official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the captives "should be rescued" imminently. It was unclear if that meant a raid or some sort of organized surrender by the hostage-takers.

A pilot for a private helicopter company told The Associated Press that he and other crew members had been asked to be ready for a possible air evacuation of those onboard the four drilling rigs.

Mexicans claim organ deals motivated murders

MEXICO CITY -- Federal investigators are looking into claims that some of the dozens of women slain in the border city of Ciudad Juarez over the last decade may have been killed for their internal organs.

Investigators were considering the theory for 14 of the 91 women whose murders are still unsolved. They didn't specify what evidence they had to support the idea but suggested that autopsy evidence on some better-preserved bodies backed the claim.

"Several details support the idea that these women were killed to extract their organs and sell them," the Justice Department said in a statement Wednesday.

Those 14 cases involved women whose decomposed remains were found in Juarez in 2001, 2002 and early 2003.

The prosecutors indicated that the organs would be sold to wealthy people needing transplants.

Two from America raise $1 million for U.N. work

UNITED NATIONS -- Two American women angered by the U.S. decision to stop funding the U.N. population agency said Thursday their grassroots campaign has so far raised $1 million for the agency, money that will go to helping women in poor nations.

More than 100,000 people -- the vast majority Americans -- have contributed to their campaign, which began in October, after President Bush blocked $34 million for the U.N. Population Fund last year, accusing the agency of tolerating abortions and forced sterilizations in China.

Now media mogul Ted Turner is giving a boost. The United Nations Foundation -- which he created to manage his $1 billion gift to the world body -- announced it would match the campaign's donations with 25 cents to the dollar, for a total of $250,000.

Jane Roberts, a retired teacher from California, and Lois Abraham, a lawyer from New Mexico, are still a long way from their goal of raising the $34 million that was withheld.

But 200 letters with contributions arrive every day, and they are taking their campaign worldwide, staring in Europe on May 7.

Same-sex marriage ban in Canada challenged

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- A British Colombia appeals court ruled Thursday that Canada's ban on homosexual marriage is discriminatory and told the government to change the law.

The ruling, which overturned a lower court decision that marriage should be restricted to heterosexuals, was the latest court challenge to the federal ban.

The government said it was studying the opinion and had not yet decided whether to appeal.

The three-judge panel ordered the federal government to change the law by July 12, 2004 to allow same-sex marriages. Otherwise, the court said it would rewrite the legal definition of marriage on its own to read "the lawful union of two persons to the exclusion of all others" -- as opposed to the union of man and woman.

--From wire reports

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