Colombia's top election candidate ready for war

Friday, May 24, 2002

BOGOTA, Colombia -- After a dispiriting try at peace talks, Colombians appear poised to elect a new president this weekend who would give war a chance as a way of ending decades of guerrilla bloodshed.

Alvaro Uribe -- a stern former governor pledging security through strength -- has dodged rebel assassins and charges of drug and paramilitary ties on the way to a commanding lead in opinion polls ahead of Sunday's vote.

The polls put Uribe close to the 50-percent-plus-one-vote majority he would need to win the presidency outright and avoid a June runoff with his main opponent, former Interior Minister Horacio Serpa, from the Liberal Party.

Well back in the pack are Luis Eduardo Garzon, a leftist labor leader who supports peace talks; Noemi Sanin, a former foreign minister who argues that men have failed to solve Colombia's problems; Ingrid Betancourt, a former senator who was kidnapped by rebels in February yet remains on the ballot; and Harold Bedoya, an ultraconservative former head of the armed forces.

Car bomb in Spain explodes; two injured

MADRID, Spain -- A car bomb blamed on the Basque separatist group ETA exploded Thursday in the northern city of Pamplona, injuring two people and sending a huge cloud of smoke billowing over the city center, authorities said.

The Ford Escort blew up in a parking lot behind the main administration building of the University of Navarra in Pamplona, 240 miles north of Madrid, said local security services spokesman Juan Antonio Martinez.

He said two people were treated on the scene by paramedics, but their injuries did not appear to be critical. Several university buildings were damaged.

Fire destroys Israeli embassy in Paris

PARIS -- An intense fire destroyed the stately Israeli embassy in Paris early Thursday, but officials doubted it was arson or related to a recent wave of anti-Semitic attacks in France.

The fire broke out around 2 a.m. in the five-story embassy, which was unoccupied at the time, police said. Eight firefighters were slightly injured during a five-hour battle to extinguish the blaze, and three were taken to a local hospital for treatment.

Dozens of people were evacuated from adjacent apartment buildings.

Four of the embassy's five floors were left in ruins, charred beyond repair, Paris Police Chief Jean-Paul Proust said.

--From wire reports

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