World briefs 01/21/03

Tuesday, January 21, 2003

Seven U.S. skiers killed by avalanche in Canada

REVELSTOKE, British Columbia -- Eight back-country skiers from the United States were killed and two were injured when an avalanche crashed down a mountainside Monday in eastern British Columbia, officials said.

The snow slide occurred near the Durrand Glacier, 20 miles northeast of the town of Revelstoke in the Canadian Rockies.

Regional coroner Ian McKichan said eight people died and two were injured. The victims' names and hometowns were not immediately released. Earlier reports said there had been 20 skiers.

The party of skiers from the United States had traveled by helicopter to a remote camp in the Rocky Mountains, using that as a base for ski touring, said Bob Pearce, a spokesman for the B.C. Ambulance Service.

The survivors were transported to a Revelstoke hospital. Pearce said that at least one was in stable condition but the status of the other was not known.

Palestinian constitution draft creates premier

JERUSALEM -- A proposed Palestinian constitution cedes some power from the president to a prime minister and declares Islam the official religion, according to a partial draft obtained Monday by The Associated Press. An Israeli official rejected the document as an effort to preserve Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's rule.

Meanwhile, with Israeli elections a week away, polls showed Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's Likud Party widening its lead over the more dovish Labor Party.

A new constitution is a key element of a U.S.-backed peace plan, considered a "road map" to Palestinian statehood by 2005. The completion of the constitution is supposed to coincide with the formation of a provisional Palestinian state.

Those parts of the draft Palestinian constitution made available by Palestinian officials to the AP do not address some key issues, including the borders with Israel and a solution for Palestinian refugees.

Another key element of the constitution is the declaration of Islam as the official Palestinian religion. The state would guarantee the sanctity of places of worship and respect other religions, according to the draft.

Top U.S. general meets Turkish military leaders

ANKARA, Turkey -- The top U.S. general met with Turkish military leaders Monday and played down reports that Washington is angry with Turkey over its reticence to host large numbers of U.S. troops for a war on neighboring Iraq.

Gen. Richard Myers did not comment on reports that the United States is scaling back its plans for a massive northern thrust against Iraq due to Turkish opposition. However, a Turkish general, speaking on condition of anonymity, said any U.S. troop presence in Turkey would be "limited."

"Turkey has been a very cooperative partner," Myers, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said after talking with top military leaders in Ankara. "I would expect them to be in the future as well."

The United States wants to put 80,000 troops in northern Turkey but Turkey has been reluctant to go along because most Turks oppose a war against Iraq.

-- From wire reports

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