World digest 05/06/03

Tuesday, May 6, 2003

Strong quake jolts China; one death reported

BEIJING -- A strong earthquake jolted a northwestern region of China still recovering from a temblor earlier this year, flattening houses, killing livestock and causing a 72-year-old man to die of heart failure, officials said Monday.

The magnitude 5.8 quake struck at 11:44 p.m. Sunday in the Xinjiang region, near the area where a more powerful earthquake in February killed 268 people, according to the State Seismological Bureau in Beijing.

The man who died was living in a tent since the earlier quake destroyed his house, said the official, who gave only his surname, Mu. He said the man died of heart failure about five minutes after the earthquake.

"He has been sick and was frightened to death," Mu said.

Pakistan raises prospect of nuclear disarmament

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- Pakistan upped the stakes in peace overtures with India on Monday, saying it would scrap its nuclear arsenal if its South Asian rival does the same.

The challenge to India -- which New Delhi did not respond to -- came after India's prime minister called for "decisive" talks with Pakistan to end the two countries' bitter rivalry.

Hindu India and Islamic Pakistan have gone to war three times since independence from Britain in 1947, two of them over mostly Muslim Kashmir, where guerillas are fighting a bloody war against Indian rule. Both claim the region in its entirety.

"As far as Pakistan is concerned, if India is ready to denuclearize, we would be happy to denuclearize," Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman Aziz Ahmed Khan said. "But it will have to be mutual."

Chinese villagers attack office over SARS patients

BEIJING -- Frightened Chinese villagers attacked a government office where SARS patients were said to be quarantined.

In Xiande, a town in China's coastal Zhejiang province, several thousand villagers began protesting last weekend in front of a local government building where suspected SARS patients were being quarantined, said a witness, who asked not to be named.

"They shouldn't have hospitalized patients in the government building, which has no medical facilities and professional staff," said the villager, reached by telephone.

An officer in the Yuhuan County Public Security Bureau said two people who led the attack would be detained for five to seven days. Five others would be released later, said the policeman, who gave only his surname, Chen.

Thousands displaced, 30 dead in Kenya flooding

NAIROBI, Kenya -- Floods caused by two weeks of heavy rain have washed out roads and submerged entire villages in Kenya, killing at least 30 people and forcing thousands from their homes, a Red Cross official said Monday.

Rains also triggered landslides that damaged the water treatment system for Nairobi, disrupting water distribution to one-third of the capital's estimated 3 million people, the Daily Nation newspaper reported.

Red Cross teams have been sent to the flooded areas and are distributing blankets, plastic sheeting and food, she said. The government also sent out a team to assess flood damage.

Two high-level Colombian hostages reported killed

MEDELLIN, Colombia -- President Alvaro Uribe confirmed Monday to family members that a state governor and a former defense minister have been killed by their rebel captors, the daughter of the slain minister said.

The killings of Antioquia state Gov. Guillermo Gaviria and former Defense Minister Gilberto Echeverri outraged Colombians.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as FARC, kidnapped the two men on April 21, 2002. FARC is holding dozens of people they hope to exchange for jailed rebels.

-- From wire reports

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