World briefs 9/2/04

Thursday, September 2, 2004

N. Koreans break into school, seek asylum

BEIJING -- A group of 29 people claiming to be North Korean asylum-seekers forced their way into a Japanese school in Beijing on Wednesday. The 11 men, 15 women and three children broke in around 10:30 a.m., said a Beijing-based, Japanese official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. He said students were told to stay in their classrooms.

Nepal under curfew after Iraq kidnap riots

KATMANDU, Nepal -- Nepal's government imposed an indefinite curfew and appealed for calm Wednesday after thousands of demonstrators ransacked a mosque and clashed with police in the capital to protest the slaying of 12 Nepalese hostages by Iraqi militants. One demonstrator died late Wednesday after being wounded during the clashes, said doctors at the Bir Hospital in Katmandu.

Thatcher posts bail for embattled son

LONDON -- Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has posted bail for her son Mark, who is accused of involvement in a coup plot in Equatorial Guinea, an aide to Lady Thatcher said Wednesday. Sir Mark Thatcher was under house arrest at his residence in Cape Town, South Africa, pending the posting of a bond set at $300,000.

New Panama president calls for vote on canal

PANAMA CITY, Panama -- Martin Torrijos, the son of a former dictator, took office as Panama's president Wednesday promising jobs, better relations with Cuba and a referendum on a proposed $8 billion expansion of the Panama Canal. Torrijos said Panamanians should decide on the proposal to widen the canal for a new generation of bigger ships because of its high cost for this poor nation, where 40 percent of the people live in poverty.

French ban on head scarves gets first test

PARIS -- An already contentious ban on Muslim head scarves and other religious signs faced its first test in France's public schools today -- under the cloud of Islamic radicals holding two French hostages in Iraq to press their demand that the law be scrapped. The law forbids all conspicuous religious signs or apparel in public schools, including Jewish skull caps and large Christian crosses. But it is aimed at Islamic head scarves to counter what many fear is a rise in Muslim fundamentalism in schools.-- From wire reports

Accused U.S. deserter says he will surrender

TOKYO -- Alleged U.S. Army deserter Charles Robert Jenkins said Wednesday he would surrender to U.S. military authorities to face charges he deserted his post along the demilitarized zone dividing north and south Korea in the 1960s. Separately, in an interview published in the Hong Kong-based magazine Far Eastern Economic Review, Jenkins was quoted as saying he detested the North Korean government and tried to escape shortly after he arrived.

Israel blames Syria for Palestinian suicide attack

JERUSALEM -- Israeli leaders warned Syria on Wednesday that it bears the blame for a double suicide bombing by Hamas militants because it harbors the group's leadership, and they hinted at possible retaliation. In a first response to Tuesday's attack that killed 16 people in a southern Israeli city, Israeli troops blew up the home of one of the bombers and isolated the West Bank city of Hebron, where the attackers lived. However, Israel was looking farther afield to assign the blame.

Iran close to resuming uranium enrichment

VIENNA, Austria -- Iran plans to process tons of raw uranium and restart its centrifuges -- two activities that could be used to make nuclear warheads, the U.N. atomic watchdog agency and diplomats said Wednesday. Experts said the amount was enough for four or five warheads. The United States, which accuses the Tehran regime of running a weapons program in violation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, said the revelations provided further evidence that Iran's activities pose "a threat to international peace and security."

Mexico's president urges hope in democracy

MEXICO CITY -- Acknowledging the frustration of thousands of protesters, President Vicente Fox spent much of his fourth state-of-the-nation speech Wednesday urging Mexicans to not give up on democracy, saying its "inherent problems are not cause for discouragement." For the second year in a row, Fox acknowledged his government had fallen short of its goals. He promised to create jobs and clean up government, especially rampant crime and kidnappings. But many Mexicans likely remained unconvinced.

-- From wire reports

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