World briefs 9/3/03

Wednesday, September 3, 2003

Ethnic Albanian fighters warn of new bloodshed

VAKSINCE, Macedonia -- Former ethnic Albanian fighters warned on Tuesday that they might take up arms again if Macedonian government forces hunting a fugitive militant push too far in the siege of a village.

The siege of Vaksince has raised fears of a return to 2001 clashes that shook this tiny Balkan nation, where tensions are high between the minority ethnic Albanians and the ethnic Slav majority.

Hundreds of residents have fled the mainly ethnic Albanian village since government troops and police, using helicopters, trucks and roadblocks, sealed it off in a hunt for Avdil Jakupi, leader of the self-styled Albanian National Army.

Naim Aliti, who identified himself as a former fighter, said villagers would not stop multiethnic units of the regular police from entering but warned against a push by special forces posted nearby.

Vivendi, GE agree to talks on merging assets, NBC

PARIS -- Vivendi Universal SA and General Electric Co. agreed Tuesday to enter exclusive negotiations to merge Vivendi's U.S. entertainment assets and GE's NBC division, the French media and utilities conglomerate said.

The new company, if formed, would be a major media player, with the NBC television network, cable networks like MSNBC and CNBC and movie-maker Universal Pictures.

Other components of the new firm would include the Universal television studios, which make NBC's "Law and Order" and "Jerry Springer," several theme parks and Universal's three cable channels, USA, Sci-Fi and Trio.

Vivendi said the company that would be formed if a final deal is reached would be 80 percent owned by Fairfield, Conn.-based GE and 20 percent by Vivendi. It would have revenue of $13 billion in 2003, Vivendi said in a statement.

Polisario Front releases 243 Moroccan prisoners

RABAT, Morocco -- A rebel group trying to win independence for the Western Sahara has released 243 Moroccan prisoners -- some of whom have been held for nearly three decades, Red Cross officials said Tuesday.

The International Committee of the Red Cross flew the prisoners from Polisario Front camps in southwest Algeria on Monday to a military base near the Moroccan coastal beach resort of Agadir, ICRC spokesman Florian Westphal said.

It was the first prisoner release since the U.N. Security Council voted unanimously in July to urge Morocco and the Polisario to accept a new plan to settle the long-running dispute over the Western Sahara.

More than half of them of the 948 Moroccan prisoners have been in captivity for 28 years, and are believed to be the longest serving prisoners of war in the world, Westphal said.

Pakistani gunmen kill 3 at political worker funeral

KARACHI, Pakistan -- Gunmen opened fire on a funeral for two political party workers slain earlier Tuesday, killing three people, police and witnesses said.

The assailants, who sped off in a vehicle, opened fire as mourners left a graveyard after burying two activists of the Mutahida Qami Movement, which represents Muslims who migrated from India.

Among the dead in the shooting at the funeral was Qari Yaqub Abdullah, a cleric of a Sunni Muslim mosque.

Tuesday's funeral was for Asif Jatan and Naveed Murtaza, who were shot and killed in a pre-dawn attack in this restive port city.

-- From wire reports

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