World briefs 11/5/04

Friday, November 5, 2004

Palestinian power shifts; Arafat's condition worse

CLAMART, France -- Yasser Arafat was reportedly fighting for his life Thursday at a French military hospital after losing consciousness, as anxious Palestinian officials transferred some of their 75-year-old leader's powers to Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia. Doctors at Percy Military Training Hospital outside Paris, where Arafat was airlifted last Friday after more than two years of confinement in the West Bank, quashed a swirl of reports that he had died. But the French doctors would not say much else, and confusion ruled as Palestinians issued conflicting reports about Arafat's condition and how close to death he was.

Militants say talks over U.N. hostages foundering

KABUL, Afghanistan -- Militants claiming to hold three U.N. hostages said Thursday that talks on their demands, including the release of Taliban prisoners, had broken down, and they would decide today whether to kill the trio. The Jaish-al Muslimeen, a shadowy Taliban splinter group, said Irish-British hostage Annetta Flanigan was "seriously ill" because of the strain of her captivity, and all three were sickened by a diet of little more than cookies.

Nine Buddhists killed in southern Thailand

BANGKOK, Thailand -- Nine Buddhists, including two policemen, were killed in a series of shootings in southern Thailand's bloodiest 24 hours since a government crackdown on a riot last week left 85 Muslims dead. The slayings heightened anxiety Thursday among Buddhists over apparent revenge attacks in the mainly Islamic region, including the beheading this week of a local official.

U.N. envoy warns of anarchy in Sudan

UNITED NATIONS -- The top U.N. envoy to Sudan warned the Security Council Thursday that the vast region of Darfur could easily descend into anarchy with warlords in control unless African Union troops deploy quickly and peace negotiations speed up. The 20-month conflict in the western region is changing in character, with the government not fully in control of its forces and a leadership crisis within the rebel movements, Jan Pronk said. The envoy accused both sides of violating an April cease-fire agreement and seeking more territory in Darfur, which is about the size of France.

Europe's leaders consider bigger role in Iraq recovery

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- European Union leaders on Thursday considered taking on a bigger role in rebuilding Iraq and forging stronger ties with re-elected President Bush. At the opening of a two-day summit, incoming European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said he put together a new executive team, signaling the prospect of an early end to problems surrounding his original lineup. The EU leaders considered ways to get Washington to work more closely with Europe in finding a solution in Iraq.

Ivory Coast warplanes bomb town held by rebels

BOUAKE, Ivory Coast -- Ivory Coast warplanes bombed the largest city of the rebel-held north in wave after wave of attacks Thursday, breaking a more than year-old cease-fire in the civil war that split West Africa's one-time economic powerhouse. The government's Russian-made Sukhoi jets attacked at dawn and swept back in for at least three more raids by nightfall, targeting rebel military and civilian headquarters and television in surprise attacks that left civilians cowering in their homes.

Member of pro-Kremlin party assails Putin policy

MOSCOW -- In a rare show of dissent in the Kremlin-controlled parliament, a former KGB officer-turned-lawmaker launched a scathing attack on President Vladimir Putin's electoral reform, saying Thursday it was pushing the nation back to its authoritarian past. Anatoly Yermolin, a member of the Kremlin-directed United Russia party, also accused Putin's administration of browbeating deputies to vote for its legislation.

-- From wire reports

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