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Sunday, May 8, 2005; Page A19

Longtime Exile, Foe of Syria Returns to Cheers in Beirut

BEIRUT -- Lebanon's most prominent anti-Syria Christian leader returned to a hero's welcome in Beirut on Saturday, ending more than a decade in exile.

Michel Aoun, a former general, addressed tens of thousands of ecstatic supporters in Beirut's Martyrs' Square after arriving in Lebanon from France. His return came 11 days after the last Syrian soldier withdrew from the country.

Aoun has said members of his Free Patriotic Movement would contest parliamentary elections starting May 29. He has also indicated he might seek to become president.

On the eve of his return, a bomb ripped through a commercial district in the Christian port town of Jounieh, north of Beirut, wounding 28 people and damaging shops, houses and a church.

the pacific

CANBERRA, Australia -- An airplane carrying 15 people slammed into a hillside in remote northeastern Australia, killing everyone on board in the country's worst civil aviation disaster since 1968.

A recovery operation was underway Sunday on a rugged hillside in Queensland state where the twin-propeller plane went down in rainy conditions and burst into flames

"We've just had a police officer winched in who has confirmed there are no signs of life," state police spokeswoman Kirsten Roos said.

THe middle east

CAIRO -- A jailed leader of the banned Muslim Brotherhood will challenge Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in the September election, his attorney said Saturday, but the powerful political Islamic group said it had not endorsed the challenger.

Essam Erian and three other leaders of the group were arrested and rounded up with 200 others Friday during nationwide protests for political reform.

THE Americas

BUENOS AIRES -- Five former municipal officials have been charged with manslaughter in connection with a nightclub fire here that claimed 193 lives last year.

Judge Marcelo Lucini handed down the charges Friday against a city official, Fabiana Fiszbin, and four others who had oversight of the city's nightclubs at the time of the Dec. 30 fire at the Republica Cromagnon club in downtown Buenos Aires.


MADRID -- About 700,000 illegal immigrants will have emerged from the shadows of Spain's underground economy by the time a three-month amnesty ends, Labor Minister Jesus Caldera said.

Thousands of illegal immigrants waited in line across the country to apply for the amnesty, desperate to get the crucial paperwork done in the last few hours before the deadline.

Spain offered the amnesty to those who could provide proof of employment and of residency, along with a clean legal record.

-- From News Services

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