World briefs 11/22/04

Monday, November 22, 2004

Plane crashes into lake in China, killing 54 people

BEIJING -- A passenger plane crashed in an ice-covered lake in northern China seconds after takeoff Sunday, killing all 53 people aboard and one person on the ground after an apparent midair explosion, the government said. There was no immediate word on the cause of the crash, which was the country's deadliest in more than two years.

Bahrain pardons activist charged with criticism

MANAMA, Bahrain -- Bahrain's king ordered the immediate release of a human rights activist Sunday who was convicted of inciting hatred of the government and sentenced to one year in prison in a case linked to criticism of the prime minister. The intervention by the king, Sheik Hamad, came hours after Abdul-Hadi al-Khawaja was sentenced in a courtroom where scores of his supporters chanted slogans against the prime minister.

Paris Club writing off 80 percent of Iraq debt

PARIS -- Major economic powers agreed on Sunday to write off billions of dollars of debt for Iraq in a deal that marked a significant step in U.S. efforts to help put the Iraqi economy back on its feet. Under the agreement, the Paris Club of 19 creditor nations will write off 80 percent of the $42 billion that Iraq owes them, the group's chairman, Jean-Pierre Jouyet, said. The Paris Club includes, the United States, Japan, Russia and European nations. Iraq owes another $80 billion to various Arab governments.

Blaze in mine kills 33, traps 28 in north China

BEIJING -- A fire at a complex of iron mines in northern China killed at least 33 miners and trapped another 28, state media reported today. Rescuers had pulled 45 miners to safety by late Sunday, the state-run newspaper China Daily cited local officials as saying. The blaze erupted Saturday morning after an electric cable caught fire at the mines in Shahe in Hebei province. The fire spread quickly to five connected mines, it said.

-- From wire reports

Ukraine leader ahead in vote count

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine's prime minister was leading the nation's run-off presidential election, according to partial vote tallies released today, but his Western-leaning challenger held the advantage in an exit poll funded partly by the United States. Both camps complained of voting problems. Also, a policeman guarding a polling station overnight was found dead of a head injury apparently inflicted by intruders, news reports said.

-- From wire reports

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