World briefs 05/17/03

Saturday, May 17, 2003

Palestinian negotiator submits resignation

JERUSALEM -- A top Palestinian negotiator resigned after being excluded from the first Israeli-Palestinian summit in three years this weekend in a move that could also signal growing tensions between Yasser Arafat and his new prime minister.

Saeb Erekat, who is close to Arafat, declined Friday to discuss his reasons for submitting a letter of resignation to Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas.

Last month, Erekat was only reluctantly included in Abbas' new Cabinet, as minister in charge of negotiations with Israel.

In a clear slight, Abbas has chosen not to take Erekat along to his meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on Saturday evening, the first top-level talks since Israeli-Palestinian violence broke out in September 2000.

Instead, Abbas will be accompanied by Palestinian Parliament Speaker Ahmed Qureia and his security chief, Mohammed Dahlan.

The Palestinian Cabinet will meet today, ahead of the summit, and there was some expectation that Erekat would be persuaded to withdraw his resignation. Erekat, who has played a prominent role in peace talks in the past decade, has threatened before to step down over disagreements but ended up not following through.

More than 80 Somalis, Ethiopians feared dead

MOGADISHU, Somalia -- More than 80 Somalis and Ethiopians were feared dead after a wooden boat in which they were traveling from Somalia to Yemen was seen floating in pieces in the Gulf of Aden, a Somali diplomat said Friday.

Passengers of another boat making the same journey said they saw 17 bodies, including two they recognized as crew members, said Hussein Hajji Ahmed Mohamud, acting consul at the Somali Embassy in Yemen.

Pieces of wood and water barrels from the vessel also had been spotted.

Mohamud said he had spoken to passengers of the second vessel, which made it safely to Yemen.

Residents in the northeastern Somali port of Bossaso said the dhow, a wooden boat, that had broken up had left Mareg village, near Bossaso on Monday with 85 passengers, including 40 Somalis and 45 Ethiopians.

Poles to join pope for his 83rd birthday

VATICAN CITY -- Pope John Paul II marks his 83rd birthday Sunday in his favorite way, joined by his fellow Poles as he celebrates a Mass and proclaims four more saints of the Roman Catholic Church.

It is one of a series of milestones for John Paul, who recently became the fourth longest-serving pope in history.

A visit to Croatia next month will be his 100th foreign tour, while the Church is already gearing up to mark his 25th anniversary as pontiff on Oct. 16.

In connection with the anniversary, the Italian Foreign Ministry recently cited the Polish-born pope as "the principal ambassador of the Italian language in the world."

Thousands of Poles, including the country's president, Aleksander Kwasniewski, are expected in St. Peter's Square for the canonization Mass.

-- From wire reports

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