Nation/world briefs 7/30/04

Friday, July 30, 2004

Iranian, EU officials meet amid nuclear concerns

PARIS -- European Union officials met with a high-level Iranian envoy on Thursday to press Tehran for guarantees that its nuclear program is peaceful, the French Foreign Ministry said. The talks in Paris follow new allegations by diplomats this week that Iran has resumed clandestine work linked to uranium enrichment, testing equipment and producing a gas that can be used to make nuclear warheads.

Man sought as witness in ricin baby food case

IRVINE, Calif. -- Poison found in two jars of baby food purchased at the same store was not in a deadly form and the two infants who ate small of amounts of the banana yogurt dessert did not even fall ill, officials said. The contamination of the Gerber brand food was disclosed Wednesday by police, who are searching for a man they believe may have witnessed the tampering. Charles Dewey Cage, 47, of Irvine, was "in the area at a relevant time," said Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas.

Up to 13 inches of rain drench Dallas area

DALLAS -- Fierce overnight storms dropped up to 13 inches of rain in the Dallas area, flooding highways and homes, knocking out power to thousands and collapsing the roof of a 911 call center. Authorities had more than 80 calls for high-water rescues, and rain washed out the dirt beneath a stretch of railroad track. One man died when his pickup knocked over a utility pole, sending live power lines down onto his vehicle.

Britain may send more troops to Afghanistan

LONDON -- A British parliamentary committee called for more troops and resources to be sent to Afghanistan, warning the country could "implode" if its fragile situation is not shored up. In a wide-ranging report on the war against terrorism, the Foreign Affairs Select Committee said warlord violence and the struggle between U.S.-led troops and insurgents threatens security in Afghanistan.-- From wire reports

African countries agree on polio vaccination

ABUJA, Nigeria -- Seven west African nations agreed Thursday to coordinate future immunizations against a polio outbreak that originated in northern Nigeria. Meeting in Nigeria's capital, Abuja, health ministers from the polio-affected nations of Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Togo joined hosts Nigeria in agreeing to hold three rounds of vaccinations on the same days between September and November.

Woman arrested, cuffed for candy bar

WASHINGTON -- A government scientist finishing a candy bar on her way into a subway station where eating is prohibited was arrested, handcuffed and detained for three hours by transit police. Stephanie Willett said she was eating a PayDay bar on an escalator descending into a station July 16 when an officer warned her to finish it before entering the station. Both Willett and police agree that she nodded and put the last bit into her mouth before throwing the wrapper into a trash can.

Ex-Rwandan banker arrested for 1994 massacres

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- A former Rwandan banker accused of participating in the country's 1994 genocide has been arrested in Brussels, prosecutors said Thursday. Ephrem Nkezabera, 52, was arrested June 21 and is being held on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity, said Lieve Pellens, a spokeswoman for the federal prosecutor's office. Investigating Judge Damien Vandermeersch confirmed his detention for another month at a pretrial hearing Wednesday.

Worms discovered living on whale bones

WASHINGTON -- Two strange new species of worms, without eyes or stomachs or even mouths, have been discovered living on the bones of dead whales in California's Monterey Bay. The unexpected discovery was made about 9,400 feet below the surface of the ocean. The Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in Moss Landing, Calif., said the worms, ranging from 1-inch to 2 1/2-inches long, have colorful, feathery plumes that serve as gills and green "roots" that work their way into the bones of dead whales. Bacteria living in the worms digest the fats and oils in the whalebone.

Monitors say militias burned villagers alive in Sudan

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia -- Arab militias chained civilians together and set them on fire in Sudan's western Darfur region, where tens of thousands have been killed in a 17-month conflict, according to a report by an African Union monitoring team. The immolation came during a July 3 attack on the village of Suleia by the pro-government militias known as the Janjaweed, the monitoring team said in its report.

Co-discoverer of DNA structure dies at 88

SAN DIEGO -- Nobel Prize-winning scientist Francis Crick, who co-discovered the spiral, "double-helix" structure of DNA in 1953 and opened the way for everything from gene-spliced crops and medicines to DNA fingerprinting and the genetic detection of diseases, has died. He was 88. Crick died Wednesday after a battle with colon cancer, according to the Salk Institute, the research body where Crick worked in recent years.

Ag commissioner indicted in cockfighting ring

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- South Carolina's agriculture commissioner was arrested Thursday on charges of taking at least $20,000 in payoffs to protect a cockfighting ring from the law. Charles Sharpe, 65, was indicted on federal charges including extortion and money laundering. He was accused of accepting the money from an organization involved in breeding and raising birds for cockfighting in exchange for helping the group avoid legal trouble. Cockfighting is illegal in South Carolina.

Minister: Israel's barrier will jut into West Bank

JERUSALEM -- A new route for Israel's West Bank barrier will bring it closer to the 1967 boundary, but the structure will still jut deep into the occupied territory in some areas, a Defense Ministry official said Thursday. Nezah Mashiah, head of the barrier project in the Defense Ministry, told Israel Radio the new route would put the Jewish settlement bloc of Gush Etzion on the "Israeli side" of the contentious barrier. Gush Etzion -- home to 40,000 Israelis -- is about 6 miles southeast of Jerusalem.

L.A.-area ports to add 3,000 dockworkers

LOS ANGELES -- Shipping companies and union leaders agreed Thursday to add 3,000 new dockworkers to the Los Angeles port complex, the nation's largest, in a bid to stem a growing backlog of cargo traffic. The agreement comes after weeks of negotiations between the International Longshore & Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association, which represents shipping companies. The talks ultimately yielded a plan both sides hope will help alleviate delays at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach caused by a boom in cargo shipping from China.

Statement threatens 'waterfalls of blood' in Europe

CAIRO, Egypt -- A statement purportedly from an al-Qaida-linked group threatens "waterfalls of blood" in European cities because the continent didn't respond to Osama bin Laden's demand that they leave Iraq and Afghanistan within three months. The statement, dated Wednesday, was posted on an Islamic Web Site known for its extremist content. It was written in the name of the Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades, which has made similar threats in the past.

Conn. company pays fine for arms sale to Iran

NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- A company paid a $500,000 fine and agreed to federally monitored inspections Thursday for illegally selling helicopter gun mounts that ended up in Iran. Bridgeport-based Rotair Industries pleaded guilty in May to violating the Arms Export Control Act and other international arms trafficking regulations for exporting the gun mounts and other items. Prosecutors said Rotair sold the gun mounts to a buyer in Hong Kong in 1998 without the proper permits, who then sold them through a third party to a buyer in Iran.

Socialist accuses ex-leaders of lying about train bombing

MADRID, Spain -- A top Socialist official claimed on Thursday that Spain's former conservative government withheld early information of an Islamic link to the Madrid train bombings and blamed Basque separatists in a bid to win national elections three days later. At issue in the testimony to a parliamentary commission is whether the government of then-Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar told Spaniards the March 11 terror attack was probably carried out by Islamic militants -- not Basque separatists -- as soon as evidence pointed that way.

Sniper slips out of waist chain during hearing

FAIRFAX, Va. -- A court hearing for sniper mastermind John Allen Muhammad was delayed briefly Thursday after Muhammad wriggled out of a chain strapped around his waist. Muhammad was placed back into full restraints without incident, but for a few minutes he was in the courtroom with a lengthy chain gathered in his hands that authorities said was a potential weapon. He lost a bid in court to bar prosecution for a second attack in the sniper spree.

-- From wire reports

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