World digest 02/19/02

Tuesday, February 19, 2002

Torpedo used on Kursk removed from service

MOSCOW -- A practice torpedo powered by an unstable fuel may have sent the nuclear submarine Kursk to the bottom of the Barents Sea, the Russian navy chief said Monday, adding that he had ordered the weapon taken out of service.

Adm. Vladimir Kuroyedov stopped short of saying that sinking of the Kursk in August 2000 was caused by a flaw in the torpedo. He said investigators still were considering a collision with another vessel or a World War II mine as possible reasons for the disaster, which killed all 118 men aboard the submarine.

Yet Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov, who flanked Kuroyedov at a news conference to announce results of months of examination of the wrecked sub, said investigators had found no evidence of another vessel's presence near the Kursk at the time it sank.

Grocers lose fight to sell in pounds, ounces

LONDON -- England's "metric martyrs," five grocers who refused to sell bananas, pumpkins and sprouts in kilos and grams, didn't get an ounce of sympathy in court Monday.

Two High Court judges ruled that the men do not have the right to sell exclusively in pounds and ounces -- a decision their supporters said marked the "death of democracy."

The traders were ordered to pay the legal costs of the prosecution, estimated to be about $145,000.

Lawyers for the five had argued that England and Wales should be exempt from European Union rules requiring fruit and vegetables to be labeled in grams and kilograms.

The men's campaign attracted some high profile supporters, including musical actress Elaine Paige, actor Edward Fox and former Monty Python comedian John Cleese.

European Union imposes sanctions on Zimbabwe

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- The European Union, angered by Zimbabwe's refusal to let its observers freely monitor next month's presidential elections, imposed sanctions against the government of President Robert Mugabe on Monday and ordered its observers to come home.

At a meeting, the EU foreign ministers issued a statement saying Mugabe's government had "prevented the deployment of an EU election observation mission."

As a result "targeted sanctions" were to be imposed, officials said.

EU spokeswoman Emma Udwin said "all 15 EU governments agreed it was preferable to withdraw all the observers" and also impose economic sanctions.

Officials said the EU would cut off $110 million in development aid for the 2002-2007 period.

In Zimbabwe, presidential spokesman George Charamba did not immediately return a call from The Associated Press seeking comment.

Four guilty of planning huge diamond heist

LONDON -- Four men were convicted Monday of plotting to steal $285 million worth of diamonds from London's Millennium Dome -- a meticulously planned caper that led straight into a police trap.

The men were sentenced to between 15 and 18 years in prison for what judge Michael Coombe called "a wicked and highly professional crime."

Prosecutors told the court that the gang planned to steal the 203-carat Millennium Star diamond by smashing into the Dome with an earth-mover before escaping by speedboat across the River Thames in a heist reminiscent of a James Bond movie.

The robbery was carefully planned -- but police had been watching the gang for months.

Officers dressed as cleaners were waiting and arrested the men as they attempted to smash through the armored glass case holding the diamonds with a sledgehammer on Nov. 7, 2000.

The Millennium Star and accompanying 11 Millennium Blue diamonds had been replaced with crystal fakes as a precaution.

-- From wire reports

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