Nation/world briefs 4/5/04

Monday, April 5, 2004

Israeli ministers confront Sharon over withdrawal

JERUSALEM -- Prime Minister Ariel Sharon engaged in a heated argument Sunday with hardline Cabinet ministers opposed to his plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank, government officials said. The spat reflected the tough internal pressure that Sharon faces as he tries to move forward with his proposal to leave the areas -- removing troops and uprooting settlements in the process.

Slovenes vote against restoring rights of 'erased'

LJUBLJANA, Slovenia -- Slovenes overwhelmingly voted Sunday against restoring the rights of thousands of ethnic Bosnians, Croats and Serbs who were stripped of their citizenship when Slovenia broke away from Yugoslavia. More than 18,000 people were officially erased from state records after Slovenia declared its independence in 1991. The move effectively made them non-persons in the eyes of the government. Ninety-five percent of the voters denied restoring the rights to the ethnic minorities.

Low-cost airlines perform better than traditional

WASHINGTON -- Budget airlines generally provided better service in 2003 than traditional airlines, an annual study of aviation quality finds. Newer, cheaper carriers like JetBlue and Southwest were more likely to arrive on time, according to the report being released today. They were also less likely to mishandle baggage, bump passengers or generate complaints.

Senators question Iraq's readiness for sovereignty

WASHINGTON -- The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee raised the prospect Sunday of extending the Bush administration's June 30 deadline for turning over power in Iraq, questioning whether the country would be ready for self-rule. Sen. Dick Lugar said security is a shambles in some cities, and Iraqi police forces are not prepared to take over. The key, he said, is that "even as we're trying to get security, which we must, and Iraqis take on more security, there will be enough going there that, in fact, the democratic forces can have the constitution building, they can have the elections, can have the transition."

Pope dedicates attention on Palm Sunday to youth

VATICAN CITY -- Pope John Paul II celebrated Palm Sunday Mass in the company of thousands of young people who joyously waved fronds and olive branches and cheered encouragement as he began a heavy schedule of Holy Week ceremonies. The Vatican described the gathering of more than 40,000 faithful in front of the altar on the steps of St. Peter's Basilica as an "antidote" to the fears of terrorism and war.

German high-speed train hits metal slabs on tracks

DORTMUND, Germany -- A high-speed train carrying 200 passengers hit six metal slabs attached to tracks near this western German city, but it did not derail after the driver applied the brakes, authorities said Sunday. None of the InterCityExpress train's passengers were injured in the incident, which happened early Saturday. The 38-pound metal slabs had been screwed onto tracks between the towns of Kamen and Nordboegge on a line linking Cologne and Berlin.

Kerry returns to campaign trail after shoulder surgery

BOSTON -- John Kerry waved a palm with his left hand during Sunday church service as the Democratic presidential candidate made his first public appearance since having surgery on his right shoulder. Kerry, a Massachusetts senator, did not speak to the congregation at Charles Street AME Church, but the Rev. Gregory Groover recognized him from the pulpit as "the next president of the United States."

-- From wire reports

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