Digging along border of Mexico-U.S. ends after 9 bodies...

Foreign Digest

January 21, 2000

Digging along border of Mexico-U.S. ends after 9 bodies found

MEXICO CITY -- Mexican and U.S. officials have ended excavations of mass grave sites along the countries' border after turning up nine bodies, Mexican prosecutors announced yesterday.

Officials began digging at four ranches near Ciudad Juarez, just across the border from El Paso, Texas, this fall. At the time, one official cited an informant as saying drug smugglers might have buried as many as 100 bodies at the ranches.

9 Russian diplomats ejected from Poland for spying

WARSAW, Poland -- Poland ordered nine Russian diplomats out of the country for spying yesterday, a blow to already uneasy relations between countries that once were Cold War allies.

The chief of the Polish parliament's security services committee, Jozef Gruszka, told the domestic news agency PAP the spying was directed not at military matters but at political and economic affairs.

Moscow called the expulsions an "explicitly unfriendly and provocative action" and warned that "appropriate response measures become inevitable." Foreign Ministry sources said they expected some Polish diplomats in Moscow would be expelled in retaliation.

Russia to use space station rockets to keep Mir in orbit

MOSCOW -- Russia decided yesterday to keep the troubled Mir space station in orbit by using rockets that had been intended for the international space station, but officials insisted the move won't further delay building the station.

Mir, in orbit for 14 years, has been empty for nearly six months. Yuri Koptev, the head of Russia's space agency, said a cargo ship with supplies will be launched to Mir Feb. 1 and a crew is set to blast off March 30 for a mission of 45-72 days. Mir would remain operational through August.

Koptev also said the delayed launch of the Russian-built living quarters for the international space station would take place at the end of July.

Iranian court releases German businessman

TEHRAN, Iran -- Ending a case that lasted two years, an Iranian court said yesterday that a German businessman once condemned to death was free to leave the country.

Helmut Hofer paid a $6,670 fine for insulting a police officer and prepared to leave, after three trials and almost a year after his death sentence for having sex with an Iranian woman was overturned.

Ecuador's military supports beleaguered president

QUITO, Ecuador -- Ecuador's armed forces came out in support of President Jamil Mahuad yesterday in the face of demands by thousands of protesting Indians that he resign for failing to improve their living standards.

"The president is part of the democratic system, the constitution. We Ecuadoreans and the military have sworn to uphold that," said Carlos Mendoza, chief of the armed forces joint command and interim defense minister.

Indigenous groups, who some say make up nearly half of Ecuador's 12.4 million population, say the government is corrupt and has mismanaged the economy to their detriment during the country's worst economic crisis in decades. They have demanded Mahuad, Congress and the Supreme Court step down.

Zimbabwe referendum grows more complicated

HARARE, Zimbabwe -- Zimbabweans will vote Feb. 12-13 on a referendum for a new constitution, which has become the subject of fresh controversy over the seizure of white-owned farms.

In a government notice yesterday setting the referendum dates, President Robert Mugabe added to the confusion over the draft by inserting clauses demanding compensation from Britain, the former colonial power, to pay for farmland his government seizes from descendants of British settlers.

Mugabe's notice said that if Britain failed to pay, Zimbabwe would not recompense white farmers whose farms were nationalized and handed over to landless blacks.

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