World briefs 8/26/03

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Iranian agents charged in journalist's deathTEHRAN, Iran -- A judge has charged two Iranian intelligence agents with involvement in the death of a photojournalist from Canada, who died while in custody last month, Tehran's prosecutor's office said Monday.

Judge Javad Esmaeili called Zahra Kazemi's death a "semi-premeditated murder," according to a statement read to The Associated Press by a prosecution official.

An Intelligence Ministry official criticized the charges, calling the claims that the agents, both interrogators, were involved in the July 10 death "sheer lies," Iran's official Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

The charges against the agents are expected to intensify the fierce power struggle between President Mohammad Khatami and his reformist allies, whose control over the Intelligence Ministry has long been curbed by hard-liners who have been blamed for Kazemi's death.

N.Korean ship fails smuggling inspection

NIIGATA, Japan -- Japan barred a North Korean ferry suspected of smuggling missile parts and illicit funds from leaving port Monday after the controversial ship failed increased safety inspections.

The white-hulled Mangyongbong-92, with North Korea's red star emblazoned on its funnel, has long been a focus of suspicion during its regular visits to the northern Japanese port of Niigata. But tensions have peaked amid new allegations the boat is a conduit for communist espionage.

The visit, the first in seven months, tested already icy relations between Japan and North Korea just days before top diplomats from the neighboring nations meet at six-nation talks in Beijing on Pyongyang's suspected nuclear weapons programs.

After safety and customs inspections, Japanese authorities said there was a problem with five points, and that the ship couldn't leave for its home port of Wonsan, North Korea, until they were fixed. The ship had been scheduled to leave this morning.

Genocide stage of Milosevic trial begins

THE HAGUE, Netherlands -- A former Bosnian Serb soldier who confessed to executing at least 100 Muslims from Srebrenica in 1995 testified at Slobodan Milosevic's war crimes trial Monday that the massacres must have been ordered by higher ranking military officials.

The former Yugoslav president denied involvement in the killings and blamed mercenaries who he said had been paid in gold for work allegedly commissioned by the French intelligence.

"Neither Serbia nor I have anything to do with these events in Srebrenica," Milosevic said.

Former soldier Drazen Erdemovic, 31, took the stand as prosecutors entered a final, critical stage of their case, in which they will try to prove allegations that Milosevic orchestrated the most heinous crime of the Balkan wars -- genocide in Bosnia.

Bangladesh police clash with protesters

KHULNA, Bangladesh -- Police fired tear gas Monday to disperse thousands of protesters who attacked government buildings in this southwestern city following the killing of an opposition politician.

The protesters took to the streets after gunmen killed Manzurul Imam, a leader of Bangladesh's opposition Awami League, police and witnesses said.

Imam, 65, was riding in a rickshaw when he was attacked outside his house in Khulna, 85 miles southwest of Bangladesh's capital, Dhaka, said local police chief A.B.M. Bazlur Rahman. The rickshaw driver was also killed.

Police said they detained seven suspects for questioning.

Several thousand Awami League members rampaged through the city attacking government buildings and vandalizing dozens of shops, witnesses said.

Police used tear gas and batons to disperse the protesters, injuring several people.

-- From wire reports

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