World briefs 2/3/04

Tuesday, February 3, 2004

10-story building collapses in central Turkey; 3 dead

KONYA, Turkey -- A 10-story apartment building collapsed Monday in this city in central Turkey, killing at least three people and trapping dozens, rescue workers said. The cause was not immediately clear, with some officials citing shoddy construction and others suggesting a boiler explosion may have been to blame. When the air finally cleared, all that remained of the building was a heap of twisted metal and chunks of concrete. One rescuer carried a traumatized man out of the rubble, while a young girl helped an elderly woman walk away from the wreckage. A distressed middle-aged woman wandered around, calling out the names of her loved ones.

Major Iranian reform party to boycott elections

TEHRAN, Iran -- Iran's largest pro-reform party announced Monday it will boycott the Feb. 20 parliamentary elections, saying it no longer has hope for a free and fair vote. An emergency Cabinet meeting backed calls for a postponement of the balloting. Unless hard-liners in charge of the elections bend to the pressure to reinstate thousands of disqualified candidates quickly, they may be forced into the extraordinary position of requiring military help to hold the vote. In prior elections, senior military officials appointed by hard-liners supported them, while the bulk of military personnel voted for the reform camp.

Latest Chechen fighting kills 11 servicemen, police

VLADIKAVKAZ, Russia -- Rebel attacks and land mines killed at least 11 Russian servicemen and pro-Moscow Chechen police officers in Chechnya over a 24-hour period, an official in the region's Kremlin-backed administration said Monday. Four of the Russian soldiers were killed and five others were wounded in rebel attacks on Russian outposts across Chechnya, the official said on condition of anonymity. Three servicemen died in separate skirmishes with rebels in Chechnya's southern mountains, and two were killed Sunday when their fuel-laden truck hit a land mine and exploded in a giant fireball outside the village of Samashki.

Asia's bird flu death toll rises to 12; WHO worried

BANGKOK, Thailand -- A teenage boy in Vietnam and a woman in Thailand on Monday became the latest victims of the bird flu sweeping Asia as world health authorities sought to confirm the first possible case of human-to-human transmission. Bird flu has now killed 12 people in Asia and millions of chickens have been destroyed to prevent the spread of the virus. Also, doctors in Germany were awaiting test results on a woman who recently returned from Thailand complaining of nausea, dizziness and fever. Initial tests have not confirmed bird flu and the woman remains hospitalized, the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine in Hamburg, Germany, said Monday.

Four go to trial in al-Qaida Kenyan hotel bombing

NAIROBI, Kenya -- Four Kenyan men charged with murder in the car bombing of a Kenya coastal resort planned the attack with other al-Qaida operatives, a prosecutor told a Nairobi court Monday as the suspects' trial got underway after months of delays. In his opening statement, prosecutor Edwin Okello told the Nairobi High Court that the four men had connections with Osama bin Laden's terror network dating to January 2002. Al-Qaida has twice struck Kenya, and Monday's trial, along with another trial of three other al-Qaida suspects on lesser charges, are the first attempts by authorities in the East African country to seek convictions against alleged terrorists.

China announces plans to start astronaut training

BEIJING -- Less than four months after it first reached for the stars, China said Monday it would begin training astronauts in March for the nation's second manned spaceflight -- a mission that will likely include a crew of two, according to official media. The field of 14 astronauts will include Yang Liwei, who in October was catapulted into orbit as the lone astronaut aboard Shenzhou 5 for China's first manned space mission, the official Xinhua News Agency and the state-controlled Beijing Youth Daily reported.

-- From wire reports

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