World briefs 5/5/06

Friday, May 5, 2006

Child labor declining worldwide for first time

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil -- The International Labor Organization announced Thursday that the number of children at work worldwide is declining for the first time. The number of laborers under age 18 fell by 11 percent between 2000 and 2004, from 246 million to 218 million, the Geneva-based ILO said. The most dramatic decline has been in Latin America and the Caribbean, where the number of working children has fallen by two-thirds in four years, the ILO said.

Rescuers make progress drilling for gold miners

BEACONSFIELD, Australia -- Rescuers made good progress drilling an escape tunnel for two miners trapped for more than a week in a tiny cage nearly 3,000 feet underground, officials said Thursday. Brant Webb, 37, and Todd Russell, 34, remained in "good health and in good spirits" as they entered their ninth day entombed underground, said Matthew Gill, manager of the century-old Beaconsfield Gold Mine in Tasmania state. The men have been trapped since April 25 when an earthquake caused tons of rocks to fall on the safety cage they were working in. Rescuers managed to reach the pair with a narrow pipe Monday and pumped in fresh water and food.

Nepal rebels agree to new round of peace talks

KATMANDU, Nepal -- Communist rebels agreed Thursday to a new round of peace talks with Nepal's government in an effort to end a decade-long insurgency that has killed 13,000 people. The offer was made a day earlier by the Himalayan country's new Cabinet. Both sides have declared cease-fires since protests forced King Gyanendra to yield power last week. The two sides have tried twice before to negotiate a peace deal, but the talks in 2001 and 2003 broke down after several months. The Cabinet also offered Wednesday to drop terrorism charges against the rebels.

Lawmakers approve new Israeli government

JERUSALEM -- Lawmakers approved a new Israeli government Thursday that pledges to draw the nation's border and withdraw from large parts of the West Bank within four years. Parliament voted confidence in Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's coalition government by a 65-49 vote.

Relatives of crash victims identify bodies

SOCHI, Russia -- Searchers combed the waters off a Russian resort city Thursday, looking for bodies and a flight recorder from an Armenian passenger jet that slammed into the Black Sea in bad weather and disintegrated, killing all 113 people on board. Anguished relatives and friends gathered at a central hotel and a city morgue, where many stared ashen-faced at grotesquely disfigured faces and bodies appearing in coroners' photographs. The photos were posted on a nearly 6-foot-high wooden board in the courtyard. Forensic authorities emerged from the building periodically asking if anyone had recognized a person in the photographs. Fifty-three bodies had been recovered so far, of which just 28 were identified, Transport Minister Igor Levitin said.

Revisions could bring agreement on Darfur

ABUJA, Nigeria -- Sudanese rebels cautiously welcomed U.S.-backed proposals to salvage a peace agreement for Darfur Thursday and the international community urged them to finally accept the deal aimed at resolving a crisis that has cost at least 180,000 lives. Four pages of last-ditch revisions to the 85-page peace plan drawn up by African Union mediators offered concessions to the rebels on integrating fighters into the Sudan armed forces, compensation for war victims and power-sharing. They were presented to the warring parties Thursday afternoon, hours before a deadline to reach agreement.

--From wire reports

Rebel negotiators, who rejected the initial deal but faced intense pressure from the European Union, Britain and the United States to compromise, were optimistic.

Vatican lashes out at China for defying pope

VATICAN CITY -- The Vatican lashed out Thursday at Beijing, announcing the excommunication of two bishops who were ordained by China's state-controlled church without Pope Benedict XVI's consent. Benedict's first major political clash since his election as pontiff a year ago dimmed hopes for any re-establishment soon of official ties between the Holy See and Beijing that ended after communists took control of China in 1949. Also automatically excommunicated for defying the pope were the bishops who performed the ordinations in separate ceremonies since Sunday, according to a provision of church law cited by Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls.

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