Foreign Digest

FOREIGN DIGEST

March 28, 2003

JERUSALEM — 2 Palestinian policemen killed in Israeli attack

JERUSALEM - An Israeli attack helicopter fired a pair of missiles that killed two Palestinian policemen before dawn yesterday during a raid aimed at suspected militants in the northern Gaza Strip, officials and witnesses said.

Early yesterday, about 10 Israeli tanks stormed into Beit Hanoun and came under fire from two directions, including a Palestinian police post on the edge of the town, the army and Palestinian witnesses said. An Israeli helicopter monitoring the operation then fired missiles at the police post, the army said.

Palestinians said two security force members, Iyad Fayyad, 30, and Ihab Jarras, 21, were killed, and several Palestinians were wounded. The army arrested three suspects in the area.

Putin asks Chechens to prepare amnesty law

MOSCOW - Russian President Vladimir V. Putin called on officials in Chechnya yesterday to draft an amnesty law for rebels and to lay the groundwork for providing a wide degree of autonomy, the latest move in the Kremlin's push to re-exert control over the war-battered republic.

It was unclear what the amnesty terms would be, but it apparently would go beyond what Russia already offers to rebels who lay down their weapons and who have not participated in terrorism.

Putin requested the moves in a meeting with Chechen administration head Akhmad Kadyrov, held four days after a referendum in which Chechens approved a draft constitution placing the republic under the Russian federal government.

Asylum granted to leader of Venezuelan opposition

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica - An opposition leader charged with treason for directing a two-month strike against Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez arrived here yesterday after being granted asylum.

Carlos Ortega declined to comment at the international airport in San Jose, and he immediately met with Foreign Minister Roberto Tovar.

Ortega, president of the million-member Venezuelan Labor Confederation, had taken refuge in the Costa Rican embassy in the Venezuelan capital of Caracas to avoid arrest. Venezuelan authorities agreed to grant him safe passage out of the country, and Costa Rica granted him diplomatic asylum for humanitarian reasons.

At least 19 are killed in Kyrgyzstan bus fire

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan - A double-decker bus heading to China crashed and caught fire in southeastern Kyrgyzstan yesterday, killing 19 people, officials said.

Russia's Interfax news agency, citing the Kyrgyz Interior Ministry, reported that 40 were killed and 10 injured. But Baktybek Nuraliyev, a duty officer at the Emergencies Ministry, said the bus was carrying 19 people and all were confirmed dead.

Blast at explosives plant kills 3 in northern France

ARRAS, France - A blast at an explosives factory in northern France yesterday killed at least three people and damaged nearby shops and homes. A fourth person was believed missing.

Local officials said the cause appeared to be accidental. The explosion originated in a workshop where cartridges containing flammable material were made, they said.

The plant, Nitrochimie, employs 90 people and produces highly flammable chemicals such as ammonium nitrate and nitroglycerine.

Explosion kills 1, injures 3 in Myanmar capital

YANGON, Myanmar - A bomb exploded in front of a state telecommunications office in Myanmar's capital yesterday, killing at least one person and wounding three as the country marked Armed Forces Day.

Another bomb, which did not have a detonator, was found in the nearby Mahabandula Park, which faces the U.S. Embassy, police officials said on condition of anonymity.

No one immediately claimed responsibility, and it was not clear if the blast was linked to the day's celebrations several miles away.

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