World digest for July 20

Saturday, July 20, 2002

Morocco: No talks until troops withdraw

CEUTA, Spain -- Morocco will not negotiate with Spain over a disputed Mediterranean island until Spain withdraws its troops from there, Morocco's foreign minister said Friday.

Mohamed Benaissa said in Paris that Spain's show of force on the tiny rock outcrop -- called Isla Perejil, or Parsley Island, in Spanish -- was only making a compromise between the two countries more difficult.

There was no immediate response from Spain.

The island was virtually uninhabited for years until Morocco posted a small detachment of troops there last week, ostensibly for monitoring drug trafficking and illegal immigration.

Spanish troops escorted them off peacefully on Wednesday, but the diplomatic impasse remains.

Nigerian women take two oil workers hostage

ABITEYE, Nigeria -- Unarmed women occupying at least four ChevronTexaco flowstations in southeastern Nigeria took two oil workers hostage Friday in a bid to force company officials to come to them for negotiations.

The hostage-taking came as another group of women were leaving ChevronTexaco's main oil terminal, ending a peaceful 10-day protest that crippled the oil giant's Nigeria operations and won an unprecedented company pledge to build modern towns out of poor villages.

The women said they were angered by a message from ChevronTexaco asking them to send representatives to a meeting with company officials and tribal leaders in the southern city of Warri.

"They want us to meet the community leaders who are men, who live in Warri, and who don't know our suffering," said Josephine Ogoba, a protest leader. "If Chevron will not come here, we will not allow their staff to go."

U.S. planes hit military site in southern IraqBAGHDAD, Iraq -- U.S. and British warplanes destroyed a military communications facility in southern Iraq, the U.S. military said Friday. Iraq said the missile strike killed five people, including a couple and their children.

The Iraqi claim could not be independently verified.

The planes, patrolling the no-fly zone over southern Iraq, used precision-guided weapons to destroy the military site Thursday, U.S. Central Command said in a statement. The strikes came in response to continued Iraqi hostile actions toward coalition airplanes, it said.

Air Force Brig. Gen. John W. Rosa Jr. said Monday that Iraq had increased its challenges to coalition aircraft in the northern and southern no-fly zones. Iraq has never recognized the no-fly zones and frequently tries to shoot down planes patrolling them.

EU puts off retaliation decision in steel dispute

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- Welcoming "significant" concessions by Washington in the trans-Atlantic confrontation over steel trade, the European Union on Friday delayed until Sept. 30 any decision to impose retaliatory tariffs on imports of American goods.

At the EU head office, envoys of the 15 EU governments endorsed the recommendation to hold off on $380 million in duties on U.S. products as of Aug. 1, unless the United States exempted enough European steel products from tariffs it imposed early this year.

Officials said that would give Washington more time to review more than 1,200 applications for exemptions to the U.S. steel tariffs.

-- From wire reports

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