East Timor's Factions Ban Arms During Vote
DILI, Indonesia -- East Timor's pro-independence guerrillas and pro-Indonesian militias said today that they have reached a weapons-ban pact aimed at allowing Monday's vote on the territory's future to go ahead peacefully.
The groups agreed to order their forces not to carry weapons outside designated areas and put out a joint call today to the Indonesian police to arrest anyone seen carrying arms in public.
In a joint news conference at U.N. headquarters in Dili, representatives of the groups said the deal would allow the vote to proceed in peace.
The pact comes after several days of violent clashes in the territory in which at least a dozen people have died, triggering international condemnation.
"We have come together in reconciliation . . . so that we can ensure security and create a conducive atmosphere in East Timor so that there will be no need for acts of terror by either party," said Eurico Guterres, the commander of Dili's feared pro-Jakarta Aitarak (Thorn) militia.
THE MIDDLE EAST
U.S. Reports Strikes on Iraqi Missile Sites
BERLIN -- U.S. planes bombed two missile sites in northern Iraq yesterday after coming under antiaircraft fire while patrolling a Western-enforced "no-fly" zone, the U.S. European Command (EUCOM) said today.
A spokesman for EUCOM, based in Stuttgart, Germany, said Iraqi forces had fired antiaircraft artillery at the Western planes from two sites. He said that coalition forces had also received indications of surface-to-air (SAM) guidance, which they also fired upon.
The Western aircraft fired at sites north and northeast of Mosul, the spokesman said.
"The attacks took place during routine flights, the purpose of which are to enforce the no-fly zone," the spokesman said. "The coalition aircraft responded in self-defense."
U.S. Air Force aircraft also dropped precision-guided munitions on a military radar site south of Mosul. A high-speed anti-radiation missile was fired in response to the SAM guidance signal.
Car Bomb Kills at Least Two in Yemen
SANAA, Yemen -- A car bomb exploded outside a supermarket in an upscale diplomatic neighborhood yesterday, killing at least two people in the most serious blast in the capital since the 1994 civil war.
Several suspects were arrested, said an Interior Ministry statement. It added that initial indications were that the motive was not political.
Harsher Measures Threatened in Venezuela
CARACAS, Venezuela -- Supporters of Venezuela's president threatened to take even harsher steps against Congress, a day after lawmakers climbed over the Capitol's fence and challenged a constitutional assembly's attempt to prevent them from meeting.
Leaders of the constitutional assembly put in place by President Hugo Chavez said they preferred to negotiate a solution with lawmakers, but that they are considering stripping Congress of even more powers, or even dissolving it.
Alarmed by Chavez's moves to restrict the role of Congress and the judiciary, political opponents announced the formation of a new party.
Since its installation last month, the 131-member constitutional assembly has declared itself the supreme power in Venezuela and taken over most of the functions of Congress and the Supreme Court.
Colombia Sanctions Officers for Massacre
BOGOTA, Colombia -- The attorney general ordered dishonorable discharges for three military officers and suspensions for five policemen for failing to halt one of Colombia's most notorious mass killings in recent years, officials said.
The three middle level officers each commanded a military post in the north-central city of Barrancabermeja, where paramilitary gunmen killed seven people and hauled away 25 others in trucks at a street fair in May of last year. Paramilitary leaders later said they had executed the 24 men and one woman, whom they called rebels, and burned their bodies.
Holbrooke Returns to Yugoslavia
STARA CIKATOVA, Yugoslavia -- Richard C. Holbrooke, in Kosovo on his first trip abroad as Washington's new U.N. ambassador, toured a mass grave site and declared, "we need to remember what brought us here."
Holbrooke, who is to spend three days in the Serbian province of Kosovo before going to Bosnia and Albania, went to Stara Cikatova soon after his helicopter landed in Pristina, the provincial capital. The town, 12 miles west, has a mass grave believed to contain bodies of men, women and children killed by Serbs early this year.
The Boston-based Physicians for Human Rights began exhuming bodies more than a month ago, and has found about 130 at three separate sites. The group has had problems identifying the bodies because of their advanced state of decomposition.
IRA Assailed for Death Threats
BELFAST -- Politicians and police condemned the Irish Republican Army for issuing death threats against four young Catholics soon after the British government ruled that the IRA had not violated a truce.
The IRA threatened to kill the four males, ages 16 to 22, if they did not leave the town of Dungannon, 40 miles west of Belfast, by midnight. There was no indication why they were targeted.
The timing embarrassed Britain's governor for Northern Ireland, Marjorie Mowlam, who said Thursday she would take no punitive action against the IRA despite its links to at least one recent killing and an uncovered operation to smuggle arms from the United States.
France Halts Bank Takeover Attempt
PARIS -- Banque Nationale de Paris is likely to scrap its attempts to create Europe's biggest bank after French regulators killed its hostile bid for Societe Generale, ordering it to relinquish its stake in the bank.
BNP can appeal the order to France's highest administrative court, but it said in a statement that an appeal is "highly unlikely." BNP also said a new offer for Societe Generale was probably not in the cards. The ruling apparently ends France's most brutal takeover fight ever.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
"The root of the evil is the political situation."
-- Denis Rodionov, a Moscow investment banker, describing the cause of capital flight from Russia. -- Page A1