World briefs 10/15/02

Tuesday, October 15, 2002

Princess Di's former butler on trial for theft

LONDON -- A former butler to the late Princess Diana -- the man she called "my rock" -- pleaded innocent Monday to stealing hundreds of items from her and others in the royal family.

Dressed in a dark suit, Paul Burrell nodded when asked to confirm his identity and answered "not guilty" to three charges of theft.

Burrell, 44, is accused of taking more than 300 items between Jan. 1, 1997 and June 30, 1998. The property allegedly included letters, photos, and compact discs, from Diana, Prince Charles and their son, Prince William, at Kensington Palace.

If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of seven years in prison. The trial in London's Old Bailey criminal court is expected to last six weeks.

U.N. diverts aircraft from Afghan capital

KABUL, Afghanistan -- Citing unspecified security threats, the United Nations said Monday it was diverting all U.N. humanitarian aircraft from the airport in Afghanistan's capital.

U.N. flights from Islamabad and Dubai were landing instead at Bagram Air Base, the headquarters of U.S. and coalition forces in the country. Bagram is an hour's drive north of Kabul.

The ban has also forced the cancellation of all internal U.N. flights because the three U.N. aircraft used for those routes are based in Kabul.

Three U.S. military bases attacked in Afghanistan

BAGRAM, Afghanistan -- Three U.S. bases were attacked with gunfire and rockets in eastern Afghanistan over the weekend, the U.S. military said Monday. There were no reports of casualties.

Helicopter pilots spotted tracer fire at an outpost near Lawara, 110 miles southwest of Kabul, while they were landing and taking off Saturday night, said Air Force Maj. Steve Clutter, deputy spokesman for the U.S. military in Afghanistan.

A patrol later discovered a rocket launcher aimed at the base, Clutter said. A demolition team destroyed the rocket.

Police: Finland bomb suspect discussed plans

HELSINKI, Finland -- A quiet college student suspected of planting a bomb that killed himself and six others in a crowded shopping mall chatted on the Internet about explosives days before the attack, authorities said Monday.

Petri Gerdt, 19, who is suspected of assembling the bomb with shotgun pellets and bits of metal shrapnel, participated in an Internet chat room called "bomb forum," on Oct. 8 -- three days before the explosion Friday in a shopping mall 10 miles north of Helsinki.

"Once I dreamed a police car pulled up at the explosion site," he allegedly wrote in his final posting on the Web site. "Luckily, I was already floating in the other direction."

The cryptic message emerged as authorities attempted to determine a possible motive for a bombing that shocked many in a country relatively free of violent crime.

Jimmy Carter to observe Jamaican elections

KINGSTON, Jamaica -- Jamaica's economic progress will depend on the safety and integrity of upcoming elections, former President Carter said Monday after arriving with a team of 59 observers.

Carter, who won the Nobel Peace Prize last week, monitored the Caribbean nation's 1997 parliamentary elections. Jamaica is currently struggling to cope with surging violence, but Carter said political violence had dissipated ahead of Wednesday's ballot.

"This is a country that historically has shown an inclination toward violence, and I believe the situation now is better, by far, than it was say 20 or 15 years ago," said Carter, flanked by fellow observer, former Costa Rican President Miguel Rodriguez.

Much of the violence has been concentrated in Kingston's outlying neighborhoods but Jamaica's steady crime, coupled with the affect of the Sept. 11 attacks, has pushed tourists away.

Nearly 50 people have been killed in the last two weeks alone, with two men's bullet-riddled bodies found Sunday night after an opposition party rally in the northeast resort town of Montego Bay.

-- From wire reports

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