The Americas

Chavez Takes Control of Caracas Police

CARACAS, Venezuela -- President Hugo Chavez's government yesterday took control of the Caracas city police from the capital's anti-Chavez mayor in a move opponents condemned as an illegal abuse of power.

Interior Minister Diosdado Cabello ordered the 8,000-member autonomous city police, which was involved in deadly clashes this month with the president's supporters, to report directly to Chavez's government instead of Caracas Mayor Alfredo Pena, a die-hard foe of the populist president.

Opposition leaders said the move was unconstitutional and could disrupt peace talks aimed at ending a long-running political feud with Chavez.



Famine Threatens Millions in N. Korea

BEIJING -- North Korea's harvests are recovering from famine levels, but millions could still starve as donors such as the United States withhold food aid amid rising political tensions, the U.N. World Food Program said.

None of the agency's three biggest donors to North Korea -- the United States, Japan and South Korea -- has stepped forward to offer any support for next year, said Executive Director James T. Morris.

He blamed a combination of "political and administrative reasons" for the cutoff.

Associated Press


Britain Arrests 3 on Terrorism Charges

LONDON -- British police said they had charged three men with terrorism offenses but declined to comment on a newspaper report that the suspects had planned to release cyanide gas in London's Underground rail system.

Scotland Yard said the men had been charged under the Terrorism Act with "possession of articles for the preparation, instigation and commission of terrorism acts."

It identified them as Rabah Chekat-Bais, 21, Karim Kadouri, 33, and Rabah Kadris, in his mid-30s. All were unemployed and living in Britain.


The Middle East

Syria Pardons Leading Dissident

DAMASCUS, Syria -- President Bashar Assad pardoned for "humanitarian reasons" a leading political dissident who has been in jail for the past 14 months, the state-run SANA news agency said.

The agency reported that Riad Turk, the 72-year-old head of the banned Syrian Communist Party's politburo, was freed from jail by presidential order.

Turk, who suffers from a heart condition, spent nearly 18 years in solitary confinement without trial before being freed in 1998, only to be imprisoned again late last year in a crackdown on critics of Syria's authoritarian regime.



Zimbabwe's government announced sweeping price freezes on everything from food and fuel to farm machinery and light bulbs in a bid to curb soaring prices in the midst of an economic crisis. . . . Police in Kyrgyzstan detained about 100 opposition protesters demanding the resignation of the president, as authorities warned that the country could be heading for toward civil war.