World digest 06/01/02

Saturday, June 1, 2002

Bulgaria, U.S. sign deal to destroy missiles

SOFIA, Bulgaria -- Bulgaria and the United States signed an agreement Friday to destroy the Balkan country's Cold War-era missiles.

Bulgaria, which hopes to join NATO, agreed to scrap more than 100 Soviet-made SS-23, Scud and FROG missiles, U.S. Ambassador James Pardew said after signing the accord with Defense Minister Nikolai Svinarov.

The U.S. government will pay for the destruction, likely to cost several million dollars, Pardew said.

Bulgaria hopes for an invitation to join NATO during an alliance summit later this year in Prague, the Czech capital.

The destruction of the missiles is expected to be completed by November, Boucher said Friday in Washington.

'N Sync's Lance Bass cleared for space flight

MOSCOW -- The world's next would-be space tourist, Lance Bass of boy band 'N Sync, said Friday that Russian space doctors have cleared him for a flight to the International Space Station aboard a Russian rocket, a journey he hopes to make this fall.

Bass, 23, shrugged off questions about the dangers of space flight. "I like to be positive, I'm an optimist," he told reporters in Moscow.

The Russian Aerospace Agency said earlier this week that it hadn't yet received commercial proposals from Bass or his representatives and warned that there is little chance he can complete training in time for the next Soyuz rocket launch in October.

Bass did not comment on financial details of his bid. The world's second space tourist, South African Mark Shuttleworth, returned to Earth last month after a weeklong trip that cost him $20 million.

New U.N.-Iraq talks will be held next month

UNITED NATIONS -- A new round of U.N.-Iraq talks seeking the return of U.N. weapons inspectors to the Mideast nation will be held in Vienna on July 4-5, a U.N. spokesman said Friday.

Since March, Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan have held two rounds of talks at U.N. headquarters in New York on the return of the inspectors, who left Baghdad before U.S.-British strikes in December 1998 and have been barred from going back.

U.N. sanctions imposed by the Security Council against Iraq after its 1990 invasion of Kuwait cannot be lifted until U.N. inspectors certify that Iraq's programs to build nuclear, chemical and biological weapons have been dismantled, along with the missiles to deliver them.

Congolese rebels expel U.N. human rights chief

KIGALI, Rwanda -- Congolese rebels have expelled the U.N. human rights chief in the city of Kisangani, accusing him of refusing to respect rebel authority in Congo's third-largest city, a rebel spokesman said Friday.

Belgian national Luc Hattenbreck has been given 48 hours to leave Kisangani, scene of the May 14 uprising in which dozens of people were killed, said Jean Pierre Lola Kisanga, spokesman for the rebel Congolese Rally for Democracy.

Madnodje Mounoubai, a U.N. spokesman, said Hattenbreck had been recalled to the Congolese capital, Kinshasa, for consultations.

The U.N. mission's human rights offices are a key part of the agency's efforts to protect human rights in many parts of the war-divided Congo, where other human rights organizations have no presence after nearly four-year civil war.

Report: Ailing pope delays visit to Croatia

ZAGREB, Croatia -- Pope John Paul II has postponed a third visit to Croatia until spring 2003, the Catholic news agency IKA reported Friday. The visit had been tentatively planned for September.

The pontiff, who turned 82 on May 18, recently returned from a five-day trip to Azerbaijan and Bulgaria. The Vatican has suggested that future trips might have to be curtailed because of his poor health.

On his Sept. 14-15 visit, the pope had intended to beatify Croatian Catholic laymen Ivan Merz and Ivana Petkovic. Beatification is the last step before possible sainthood.

-- From wire reports

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