World briefs 12/31/02

Tuesday, December 31, 2002

Security Council approves controls on Iraqi importsUNITED NATIONS -- The Security Council approved tighter controls on Iraqi imports Monday, including limits on purchases of certain communications equipment, speed boats and antibiotics which the United States and Britain said could be used by the Iraqi military in a war.

Some diplomats, who spoke on condition of anonymity, saw the changes as another sign that Washington and London were preparing for the possible use of force in Iraq, but U.S. and British diplomats said the amendments to existing controls were routine and necessary.

Russia and Syria were the only abstentions in the 13-0 vote on the resolution which beefs up an existing list of items requiring U.N. approval before they can be purchased by Iraq.

Driven by economic interests, Russia didn't support the resolution because it failed to ease controls on sales of Russian-made heavy trucks which the United States and Britain say could be used by the Iraqi military.

Helicopter flies away from prison with five prisoners

PONCE, Puerto Rico -- A helicopter swooped down to a maximum security prison in this city in southern Puerto Rico and flew away with five "extremely dangerous" convicts on Monday, authorities said.

The charter helicopter later landed at Isla Grande airport in San Juan without the convicts and the pilot told investigators he had been kidnapped.

The pilot said two people hired him to fly from San Juan to Ponce, police Lt. Col. Jose Caldero said, without identifying the pilot.

During the flight both pointed guns at him and ordered him to fly to Las Cucharas prison, Caldero said.

"When they arrived at La Cucharas, the helicopter couldn't land and it flew over the roof. And the individuals were there, and they climbed on," Caldero said.

The pilot then was forced to drop off the prisoners in central Puerto Rico, said Miguel Pereira, the U.S. territory's corrections secretary.

After dropping off the prisoners, the pilot alerted authorities to the hijacking by activating a radio signal on an emergency frequency, said Miguel de Jesus, of the police force's air unit.

Israel bars Arab lawmaker from running for re-election

JERUSALEM -- Israel's Election Commission disqualified a leading Israeli Arab lawmaker Monday from running for re-election, endorsing charges he supports the Palestinians' violent conflict against Israel.

The committee voted 21 to 18 to bar Ahmed Tibi from the Jan. 28 parliamentary election but rejected a request from a Jewish nationalist legislator to disqualify his entire party, the Arab Movement for Renewal-Hadash.

Israeli Arabs account for more than 1 million of Israel's 6.5 million citizens. With few exceptions, they have not been involved in the current fighting, though they identify with the Palestinian goal of an independent state.

-- From wire reports

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