World digest 11/16/03

Sunday, November 16, 2003

Two arrested trying to sell radioactive material

PRAGUE, Czech Republic -- Undercover Czech officers arrested two Slovaks who tried to sell them nearly seven pounds of radioactive material in a sting operation, police said Saturday.

The potential uses of the substance remained unclear pending an investigation, with experts differing on whether it could be used in a dirty bomb.

Police seized the suspects Friday as they counted the $700,000 they believed they had received for the sale.

Chinese police arrest suspect in serial murders

BEIJING -- An ex-convict dumped by his girlfriend has been arrested in the stabbing murders of 65 people in China, a newspaper reported Saturday.

The Beijing News said Yang Zhiya, who had served time in prison in the past for unspecified crimes, has been accused of killing people in the four provinces because he "desperately wanted to retaliate against society," the newspaper said.

Details of the victims' identities or the exact circumstances of their deaths were not immediately available. No further information on Yang was given.

Britain raises threat level of terrorist attack

LONDON -- Britain's security services have been placed on a higher level of alert because of intelligence that al-Qaida may be planning a new attack, the British Broadcasting Corp. reported Saturday.

Internal alerts for the police and military are not usually made public. The Home Office, which oversees the intelligence services, would not comment on the BBC report and said it never discussed alert levels unless there is a specific threat.

The BBC said the alert status had been raised to "severe general," the second-highest level, following intelligence about plans by al-Qaida supporters from North Africa to launch an attack.

French wine makers woo cautious motorists

PARIS -- The $18 billion-a-year French wine industry is fighting back against a government campaign to discourage drunken driving. It claims the government is scaring people away from ordering a glass when they go out and points to a 15 percent drop in wine sales at restaurants.

Wine makers have always promoted moderate drinking to comply with the country's blood-alcohol limit of .05. But they say the government is overreacting when it tells drivers that the safest way to stay out of trouble is not to drink at all.

Since taking office last year, the center-right government of French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin has made road safety a priority. Police have stepped up checks and toughened punishment.-- From wire reports

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