THE AMERICAS

Powell Aims to Reassure Canadians

OTTAWA -- Secretary of State Colin L. Powell made a lightning-fast visit to Canada yesterday to soothe bruised feelings over how the United States has implemented new border checks of Canadian citizens.

"We're doing everything we can to respect Canadian citizenship," Powell said at the end of the four-hour trip. He said border-crossing procedures would be adjusted as the system is perfected and announced a potential resolution of a border arrest that had received wide news coverage in Canada.

The new program, introduced on the anniversary of Sept. 11, requires citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Sudan to be photographed and fingerprinted as they enter the United States. But Canadians with dual citizenship and Canadians born in those five countries also appear to have been targeted, as have men from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Yemen.

The Canadian news media have avidly covered the dispute, including the arrests of Canadians who were deemed suspicious by U.S. authorities. Michel Jalbert, 32, of Quebec, was arrested Oct. 11 for crossing a few yards into Maine to buy gasoline, after U.S. officials spotted a hunting rifle in his car. A Syrian-born Canadian dual-citizen, Maher Arar of Montreal, was detained Sept. 26 by U.S. immigration agents as he tried to change planes in New York on his way to Ottawa, and he was deported to Syria and placed into detention.

Powell suggested the Jalbert case was near resolution, saying local prosecutors would not pursue it and immigration officials would conclude it in a day or two. The Syrian case is more problematic, from the U.S. perspective. "We had good reasons [to deport him] and the Canadians knew the reasons," a State Department official said.

Glenn Kessler

EUROPE

Red Cross Drivers Abducted in Chechnya

MOSCOW -- Two Russian men working as drivers for the Red Cross were forced out of their truck at gunpoint outside the Chechen capital and abducted, a Red Cross official said.

The abduction occurred Wednesday between the villages of Pobedinskoye and Goragorsky, said Vincent Lusser, a Red Cross spokesman in Moscow.

The men were returning to the Russian republic of Ingushetia after delivering a humanitarian shipment to Grozny, the Chechen capital. Masked assailants stopped their convoy -- which included two trucks and an SUV -- and forced two drivers out of their vehicle.

"We're extremely worried about their fate," Lusser said.

The Red Cross and other international organizations operating in the restive North Caucasus region of Russia have required foreign staff members to be accompanied by armed security guards. But Russians working for the Red Cross have not been subject to the requirement.

"We never had any indications that our national staff would be targeted," Lusser said.

Associated Press

Germany Sets Pact on Status of Jews

BERLIN -- In a historic demonstration of support, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder announced an agreement to give the Germany's Central Council of Jews the same legal standing as the country's predominant Roman Catholic and Lutheran churches.

The accord would recognize the importance of Jewish life in Germany and triple the council's annual allocation of government funds to $3 million, reflecting the surge in the Jewish community from 30,000 to 100,000 over the last decade.

The agreement will establish the first legal partnership between the Jewish community and the German government since World War II, in the spirit of similar pacts with the churches under which the state finances the costs of some institutions, such as schools.

Details must still be negotiated by Interior Minister Otto Schily, and parliament must approve the additional funds.

Associated Press

AFRICA

Ivory Coast Rebels Reject Peace Proposal

LOME, Togo -- Ivory Coast rebels rejected a draft peace plan seeking to end a nearly two-month-old uprising that has claimed hundreds of lives, and were preparing a counterproposal, a spokesman said.

The setback followed two weeks of talks meant to end a conflict that has split Ivory Coast in two, crippled its economy and raised fears of regional destabilization.

The draft accord was written by mediators and the Ivory Coast government, but a rebel spokesman, Sidiki Konate, said it did not address key rebel demands.

"We read the proposals. They are not good for us," Konate said after meeting Togolese President Gnassingbe Eyadema, who is hosting the talks in Togo's capital, Lome.

The rebels will continue negotiating, Konate said. They previously walked out of negotiations, accusing President Laurent Gbagbo's government of killing opposition figures and civilians.

Associated Press

S. Africa Belatedly Discloses Poaching

JOHANNESBURG -- South Africa said it did not deliberately withhold information about elephant poaching at one of its national parks from a U.N. organization deciding whether to allow sales of ivory stockpiles.

On Tuesday, the U.N. Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) voted to allow South Africa, Botswana and Namibia to stage one-time sales of ivory from their stockpiles in 2004 -- provided it did not lead to a surge in poaching by criminals hoping to launder fresh tusks among the legitimate sales.

Conservationists and several countries led by Kenya opposed the move, arguing it would cause the resumption of a bloodbath that halved Africa's elephant population to 600,000 in little over a decade. The ivory trade was outlawed in 1989.

South Africa said yesterday it discovered five elephants had been killed this year in Kruger National Park after it had prepared its submission to the CITES meeting in Chile.

In a statement, South African National Parks CEO Mavuso Msimang said, "The information gathered for purposes of reporting to CITES was collected . . . around July and at that point, no elephants had been killed [in the year to date]."

He said five elephants were subsequently found to have been poached in the northern part of the renowned game park. Msimang admitted the department failed to inform the relevant South African authorities, but denied that any information was deliberately withheld from CITES.

A U.N. spokesman said the information was unlikely to have affected the outcome of the vote.

Reuters

FOR THE RECORD

Israeli troops tracked down the suspected ringleader of a deadly Palestinian shooting spree at an Israeli kibbutz, forcing him to strip to his underwear and surrender in the West Bank town of Tulkarm. . . . The Church of England lifted its ban on divorced people remarrying in the church -- a move that could allow divorcees Prince Charles and his lover Camilla Parker Bowles to walk down the aisle . . . The families of 33 people who were aboard a Japanese fishing trawler sunk by a U.S. submarine off Hawaii agreed to a reported $13 million compensation package from the U.S. Navy.