Rancher takes over Argentine government

Saturday, December 22, 2001

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina -- Argentines traded the deeply unpopular for the largely unknown Friday as a wealty rancher took over as caretaker leader from Fernando De la Rua, driven out of power half way through his presidency when the people took to the streets and looted stores to protest failed economic plans.

Ramon Puerta, 50, a wealthy rancher and Peronist Party senator from the verdant jungle province of Misiones in northeastern Argentina, was appointed acting president by Congress.

"My mission is clear. I'm going to fill the power vacuum that now exists," said Puerta.

WHO says Ebola outbreak has peaked

LIBREVILLE, Gabon -- The World Health Organization believes an outbreak of the deadly Ebola disease in two Central African countries has peaked and is now contained, officials said Friday as the death toll rose to 17.

A student nurse died Thursday in Gabon, bringing the death toll there to 13, health officials said. At least four people have died just across the border in Republic of Congo, the WHO said.

The U.N. health organization believes the outbreak in the two countries was "at its peak," and is now under control, WHO spokesman Iain Simpson said Friday.

The first death was recorded Dec. 2.

Seven die in stampede to get into disco

SOFIA, Bulgaria -- At least seven young people died and 10 were seriously injured Friday on an icy stairway as hundreds of teens rushed the entrance of a downtown disco, police said.

About 1,500 teen-agers were trying to get into the Indigo disco, said Nikolai Madzharov, a security official at the dance hall.

Police spokeswoman Stefka Ivanopva said there was a melee as the young people began slipping on the stairs.

Sri Lanka agrees to monthlong cease-fire

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka -- Sri Lanka's new government said Friday that it will cooperate with Tamil Tiger rebels in a monthlong cease-fire starting Christmas Eve.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, who have fought for 18 years for a separate homeland in Sri Lanka's north and east, had declared Wednesday they would cease fire from Dec. 24-Jan. 24.

"As a goodwill measure to facilitate peace, we will observe a cessation of hostilities," said a letter released by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe's office.

Two car bombs kill three in Bolivian city

LA PAZ, Bolivia -- Two car bombs exploded outside police headquarters and a bank in the eastern Bolivian city of Santa Cruz on Friday, killing three people and wounding two dozen others, police said.

In what the government called the first car blasts in memory, the explosions detonated shortly after 2 p.m. as pedestrians and cars traveled through downtown. Police said two police officers and a young woman were killed.

No group claimed responsibility, but police cast suspicion on still at-large members of a criminal gang that was recently rounded up.

-- From wire reports

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