World digest 08/31/02

Saturday, August 31, 2002

Japan's prime minister plans trip to North Korea

TOKYO -- Japan's prime minister announced Friday he will go to North Korea next month for an unprecedented meeting with its reclusive leader, Kim Jong Il, in a surprise gesture aimed at soothing bitterness that endures from colonial times and the Cold War.

Junichiro Koizumi's visit would be the first to the reclusive communist nation by a Japanese leader and a rare visit by a major head of state, coming months after President Bush singled out Pyongyang as part of an "axis of evil" that fosters international terrorism.

Planned for Sept. 17, the one-day trip to the North Korean capital of Pyongyang has a limited scope -- laying groundwork for further talks.

Swedish police say man planned to hijack plane

STOCKHOLM, Sweden -- Police on Friday accused a man of planning to hijack a plane after a handgun was found in his carryon luggage as he prepared to board a flight from Sweden to England.

The suspect, a 29-year-old Swedish citizen, was in a group of people headed to an Islamic conference in Birmingham, England, according to police in Vaesteraas, 60 miles northwest of the capital, Stockholm.

Security officers found the weapon in a toiletries bag when they scanned the man's hand luggage on Thursday, police spokesman Ulf Palm said.

Palm earlier said the man was a native of Tunisia, but police determined that he was born in Sweden to parents believed to be from the North African nation.

Minister: Missile downed helicopter in Chechnya

MOSCOW -- Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said Friday there were "no doubts" that a missile fired from a portable launcher brought down a helicopter in Chechnya, killing 118 people, Russian news agencies reported Friday.

But Ivanov also laid blame for the death toll on military officers, saying in sharply worded comments that personnel who organized the flight violated orders and ignored safety regulations.

The Mi-26 helicopter was carrying 147 people when it crashed. It can normally hold about 80 combat-equipped soldiers or as much as 22 tons of cargo. Military officials have denied the helicopter was overloaded.

The Aug. 19 crash was the worst military aviation catastrophe in Russian history and the largest single loss of life among the troops fighting rebels in Chechnya.

Canadian officials think three have West Nile

TORONTO -- Ontario health officials said Friday they believe three people sick in the province have the West Nile virus, which would be Canada's first human cases of the mosquito-born illness that has killed 24 people in the United States this year.

Colin D'Cunha, the Ontario chief medical officer, said final confirmation would take another two weeks.

Ontario is Canada's most populous province, and is across the border from U.S. states where the virus has been reported.

If the three have the virus, it would document the continuing spread of West Nile throughout North America. Several U.S. states -- including North Dakota, Iowa, Arkansas and South Carolina -- reported their first human cases this week.

Searchers find wreckage of missing Russian plane

MOSCOW -- Search teams found the bodies of all 16 people who were on board a small plane that crashed on its approach to an airport in Russia's Far East, an official said.

The bodies of the 14 passengers and two crew members were found Friday about 2 miles southwest of the coastal village of Ayan, where the An-28 plane was to land.

They also found wreckage from the plane, including pieces of fuselage and a wheel, said Viktor Beltsov, a spokesman for Russia's Emergency Situations Ministry. There were no survivors.

The crash was caused by poor visibility and pilot error, Russian television stations reported.

-- From wire reports

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: