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Saturday, February 5, 2005; Page A16

Guatemala Court Pulls Plug On Historic War Crimes Trial

GUATEMALA CITY -- Guatemala's highest court has decided against proceeding with a landmark war crimes trial against soldiers accused of the mass killing of hundreds of civilians in a jungle village in 1982, court officials said Friday.

The Constitutional Court ruled that 16 soldiers accused of killing 226 unarmed civilians in the village of Dos Erres at the height of Guatemala's 36-year civil war should be exempt from prosecution.

Citing a 1996 amnesty law covering certain types of wartime political violence, the court ordered a judge to cancel arrest warrants against the accused, including an active army colonel, and to annul testimony given by witnesses.

Prosecutors rejected the ruling, saying the massacre of civilians could not be covered by the amnesty law.


VIENNA -- Winter storms and avalanches in parts of central and eastern Europe killed at least four people and left three missing, and authorities in Bulgaria declared a state of emergency.

Two men were killed northwest of Frankfurt, Germany, after their car slid out of control on an icy rural road and struck a school bus carrying 45 children, ages 12 to 16. Twenty-three children were injured, two of them seriously, police said.

In Albania, two people were found dead Thursday after an avalanche in the southern village of Zall Dardha, police said. Several villages were isolated by heavy snowfall, and attempts to get supplies to them with army and police helicopters have failed because of high winds.

KIEV, Ukraine -- Parliament confirmed Yulia Tymoshenko as Ukraine's new prime minister and gave the firebrand of the country's Orange Revolution protests the go-ahead to set the ex-Soviet republic on a new, westward course.

In unanimous votes, Tymoshenko won confirmation to her post and support for her government's program, which is aimed at fighting poverty, tackling corruption and preparing Ukraine for European Union membership.


JERUSALEM -- Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said wide-ranging peace talks aimed at ending the conflict with the Palestinians will not be renewed until their leaders take real action to prevent terror attacks on Israel.

Sharon's comments appeared aimed at dampening expectations ahead of a summit scheduled for Tuesday in Egypt that Palestinians hope will revive the peace process. Israelis want the summit to focus on more limited security issues.


BANDA ACEH, Indonesia -- Tens of thousands of Indonesian tsunami survivors will be given $4-a-day jobs cleaning up the disaster's debris, the United Nations said, offering temporary income to people whose livelihoods were swept away along with their homes in the Dec. 26 disaster.

SEOUL -- In its first reaction to President Bush's State of the Union address, North Korea said Bush had threatened to turn the world into a "sea of fire," South Korean media reported on Saturday citing a Pyongyang broadcast.


BOGOTA, Colombia -- The chief of the armed forces, Gen. Carlos Alberto Ospina, played down bloody attacks by Marxist guerrillas that killed 28 Colombian soldiers this week, saying the rebels were retreating from successful military operations.

-- From News Services

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