World digest 04/24/02

Wednesday, April 24, 2002

10 Marines injured in brawl near strip club

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Bouncers kicked a group of U.S. Marines out of a strip club in San Juan, sparking a brawl that left 10 of the servicemen with injuries ranging from broken bones to cuts and scrapes, police said Tuesday.

The U.S. military told a different story earlier, saying the Marines were attacked by a mob armed with bats and pipes outside the Hard Rock Cafe in San Juan's quaint colonial section.

But Wanda Rivera, commander of state police in San Juan, said the brawl erupted in front of the strip club, in a seedy neighborhood of erotic dance clubs and gambling shacks about a mile away, after bouncers threw the Marines out. She said several passers-by joined in on the side of the bouncers.

Ten Marines received medical attention, but all had been released from the hospital by Tuesday. It wasn't clear if anyone was hurt on the other sides.

Officials working hard to clinch arms control deal

MOSCOW -- U.S. and Russian negotiators are working as hard as they can to produce an agreement on nuclear arms cuts before President Bush visits Russia next month, a top U.S. official said Tuesday.

"The relationship between the United States and Russia has fundamentally changed. And I think that the summit will reflect that change in relationship regardless of what documents we have to sign," U.S. Undersecretary of State John Bolton said.

Bolton and a delegation of U.S. negotiators met Monday and Tuesday with Russian counterparts.

Bush has promised to cut the U.S. arsenal to 1,700 to 2,200 strategic nuclear warheads, while Russian President Vladimir Putin has said Russia could go even lower, to 1,500 warheads from the current 6,000 that each country is currently allowed under the 1991 START I treaty.

Argentine economy minister resigns

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina -- Argentina's economy minister presented his resignation Tuesday, touching off a new crisis over how to steer Argentina out of a deep downturn, a government official said.

Jorge Remes Lenicov's resignation means this South American nation of 36 million would now be seeking its seventh economy minister since the beginning of last year.

Remes Lenicov is resigning amid rising challenges to his plan to rescue Argentina from a four-year recession, said an Economy ministry official, who spoke on condition of not being identified further.

The development sparked renewed uncertainty about the government's ability to surmount an economic collapse.

Annan to meet with Iraqi foreign minister

UNITED NATIONS -- U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan will meet Iraq's foreign minister in early May for talks expected to focus on the return of U.N. weapons inspectors to the oil-rich Middle East nation, a U.N. spokesman said Tuesday.

The talks had been set for mid-April but Iraq sought a delay, saying it didn't want to distract attention from the crisis in the Middle East.

U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard said the talks would be held from May 1 to 3.

Inspectors left Iraq before the United States and Britain carried out airstrikes in 1998 to punish Iraq for not cooperating with the inspection program. Saddam Hussein's government has barred the inspectors from returning.

Strike called by rebels paralyzes life in Nepal

KATMANDU, Nepal -- Streets were deserted and businesses were shut across Nepal on Tuesday, the first day of a five-day nationwide strike called by communist rebels.

The strike is part of an attempt by the rebels -- who have had a powerful influence in Nepal's villages since 1996 -- to extend their influence to the capital and main cities in this Himalayan kingdom.

Buses and trucks kept off highways and businesses remained closed in all the major cities, despite assurances by the government that it would provide security to people defying the strike.

The government has warned that anyone trying to enforce the strike would be shot.

-- From wire reports

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