Foreign Digest

FOREIGN DIGEST

November 13, 2003|By FROM STAFF REPORTS

Armed forces chief is latest to resign in Colombian shake-up

BOGOTA, Colombia - The commander of Colombia's armed forces said yesterday that he is resigning, joining three Cabinet ministers who have stepped down in a shake-up marring President Alvaro Uribe's administration.

Gen. Jorge Enrique Mora, 58, a hard-nosed soldier with 42 years of army experience and an intense, vocal hatred of Marxist rebels, said in a nationally televised news conference that five years as the military's top commander was enough. Mora's resignation, which was accepted by Uribe, goes into effect Nov. 20.

Though top-ranking generals usually serve short stints, Mora's resignation raised suspicions because it came during a troublesome stretch for Uribe that began Oct. 25 when his efforts to win broader control over state spending was rejected in a national referendum.

Seven kidnapped tourists complain of hunger on tape

BOGOTA, Colombia - Seven tourists kidnapped two months ago by rebels in the jungles of northern Colombia looked worn and complained of being hungry in a video broadcast yesterday.

The video shows the National Liberation Army's red-and-black flag hanging in the background, with heavily armed rebels in camouflage uniforms watching over the captives. "We have had to walk a lot, in places we never imagined existed in Colombia," Asier Huegen Echeverria, a 29-year-old Spaniard, said in the video. "We have suffered cold and hunger, and been feeding ourselves from the land." It was not clear when the video was made.

Eight tourists - four Israelis, two Britons, a German and a Spaniard - were seized by the National Liberation Army, or ELN, from ancient jungle ruins in the Sierra Nevada on Sept. 12. One of them, a British teen-ager, escaped soon after the capture.

Model may help rebuild destroyed Afghan Buddha

GENEVA - Swiss-based scientists have created a model of a huge Buddha statue destroyed by the former Taliban regime in Afghanistan and said yesterday that they hope it will be used to rebuild the ancient figure.

The team used 30-year-old photographs and special software to build the three-dimensional model, which represents the larger of two standing Buddhas the hard-line Islamic group blew up with dynamite in March 2001. International outcry followed the destruction of the giant Buddhas, which were chiseled into the cliff more than 1,500 years ago in Bamiyan Valley on the Silk Route linking Europe and Central Asia.

The fundamentalist Taliban considered them "idolatrous" and against the tenets of Islam.

Aging U.S. oil tanker's arrival at shipyard jeered

HARTLEPOOL, England - The first ship of an aging U.S. Navy flotilla arrived yesterday at a dockyard to the jeers of protesters who don't want the vessels scrapped there.

The 58-year-old oil tanker Caloosahatchee, covered in flaking gray paint and mottled with rust, was pulled by three tugboats into the Able U.K. shipyard as a group of people demonstrated from a breakwater. The protesters say the Caloosahatchee and the Canisteo, a tanker that will dock today, are carrying asbestos, PCBs and other toxins to an already polluted area of northeastern England.

Able U.K., which was hired to scrap the vessels, disputes the environmental risk and says dismantling the ships will bring 200 new jobs to Hartlepool, a depressed former shipbuilding town at the mouth of the River Tees.

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