World digest 01/27/04

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Cairo building collapses, trapping 16, injuring 33

CAIRO, Egypt -- A 12-story building that had drawn police attention for allegedly illegal renovations collapsed in a Cairo suburb during a fire Monday night, trapping up to 16 people inside and injuring 33, police said. All but two of the trapped were firefighters and policemen dispatched to put out the blaze, officials said on condition of anonymity. Hundreds of people lived in the building, but most had evacuated by the time it collapsed three hours after the fire began in a home appliances store. The owner of the building had illegally added four floors 12 years ago and ignored an order to tear them down, police said.

Israelis exhume militants before prisoner swap

JERUSALEM -- Covered in mud and rain, Israeli soldiers unearthed the bodies of Lebanese militants Monday from graves marked only with numbers, bringing Israel and the Hezbollah guerrilla group closer to a long-awaited swap of prisoners and slain fighters. In the exchange Thursday, Israel will turn over 59 bodies of Lebanese militants and release 436 prisoners. Hezbollah, in turn, will give up a captive Israeli businessman and three soldiers who were captured along the border with Lebanon in 2000 and are believed dead.

Chirac: Taiwan making mistake with referendum

PARIS -- France's president, in a strong show of support for the visiting leader of China, warned Taiwan on Monday that it will be committing a "grave error" that could destabilize that region by holding a referendum in March. Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian plans to ask voters whether the island that China claims as part of its territory should beef up its anti-missile defenses -- if Beijing refuses to withdraw the hundreds of missiles it has pointed at Taiwan. But French President Jacques Chirac also pressed for human rights improvements from China, urging Hu to lead his country of 1.3 billion people "resolutely down the track of democracy and of liberties," to match its impressive economic transformation.

Annan calls for new U.N. genocide commission

STOCKHOLM, Sweden -- Warning massacres like those carried out in Rwanda and Bosnia could happen again, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Monday proposed an international committee to help prevent genocide. Annan made the proposal at the opening of a three-day conference in Stockholm. Annan suggested forming a U.N. committee on preventing genocide and having a "special rapporteur" who would report directly to the Security Council to monitor "massive and systematic violations of human rights and threats to international peace and security." The event is the first major intergovernmental conference on the issue since the United Nations adopted its Convention Against Genocide in 1948.

Prosecutors seek life in prison for cannibal

KASSEL, Germany -- A German who confessed to killing, dismembering and eating another man who allegedly agreed to the arrangement over the Internet should spend the rest of his life in prison for murder, prosecutors said Monday. In closing arguments, prosecutor Marcus Koehler said Armin Meiwes, 42, acted simply to "satisfy a sexual impulse" and filmed himself dismembering the victim before he ate him so he could "admire himself." Defense attorney Harald Ermel argued that the slaying was a "homicide on demand" -- a form of mercy killing -- because the victim gave his consent. A verdict is expected Friday.

European Mars probe Beagle 2 remains silent

LONDON -- As Europe's first Mars probe remained silent, British scientists announced a "last resort" plan Monday of switching off the missing Beagle 2's computer system for an overhaul. Beagle 2 has not been heard from since it separated from the mother ship in mid-December. The British-built lander was due to put down on the Red Planet on Christmas Day. Colin Pillinger, lead scientist on the Beagle 2 program, said his team would ask NASA to send a command from its Mars Odyssey orbiter today to tell Beagle 2 to switch off its own computer and reload its software. "It's pretty much a last resort," he said.

-- From wire reports

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