World briefs 8/19/03

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Three dead, many injured in Chinese earthquake

BEIJING -- The death toll from an earthquake that shook a swath of northern China over the weekend has risen to three and the number of injured has climbed to 1,100, the government said Monday as authorities worked to shelter people displaced by the tremor.

The magnitude-5.9 quake struck Saturday evening in eastern Inner Mongolia between the towns of Bairin Zuoqi and Ar Horqin qi, about 220 miles northeast of Beijing.

More than 7,900 houses collapsed and 83,000 more were damaged, the official Xinhua News Agency said, citing officials with the Ministry of Civil Affairs. CCTV showed footage of crumbled buildings and people crowded into emergency relief tents, saying thousands were displaced by the quake.

Government soldiers kill 17 rebels in Nepal

NEPALGUNJ, Nepal -- Government soldiers killed 17 rebels in a gunbattle, even as the two sides were engaged in peace talks to end a seven-year insurgency in Nepal, officials said Monday.

The soldiers were patrolling Sunday near the village of Doramba, 75 miles east of Katmandu, when they were fired on by the rebels, the defense ministry said in a statement.

The guerrillas were killed in a gunbattle that followed, it said. No army casualties were reported.

Soldiers recovered guns, ammunition and explosives from the site, the statement said.

The rebels, who say they're inspired by Chinese communist revolutionary leader Mao Zedong, began fighting in 1996 to abolish Nepal's constitutional monarchy and set up a socialist state. The insurgency has killed around 7,000 people.

Germany, Japan pledge to help rebuild Iraq

BERLIN -- Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder on Monday acknowledged their earlier differences over the war in Iraq, but pledged to work together to help rebuild the country and provide humanitarian aid.

Koizumi, who supported the U.S.-led attack on Iraq, said Japan is exploring how to aid postwar reconstruction. Schroeder, whose country opposed the war, repeated that Germany would not send troops but planned to help in other ways.

"Germany is involved with a considerable amount of humanitarian aid, it wants to help with rebuilding through materials, but military involvement is not up for debate," Schroeder said at a joint news conference.

French heat wave takes first political victim

PARIS -- A senior health official resigned Monday after France's health minister admitted that up to 5,000 people, many of them elderly and alone, might have died in the heat wave -- almost twice as many as previously estimated.

The departure of Lucien Abenhaim, director general of health, was expected to increase pressure for embattled Health Minister Jean-Francois Mattei to resign.

For days, French newspapers have questioned the authorities' response and asked why hospitals overflowed with victims as temperatures exceeded 104 degrees.

The left-leaning daily Liberation claimed Monday that the center-right government had not responded properly. Le Parisien topped its front page with the headline "Murderous Heat Wave: What didn't work."

-- From wire reports

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