the americas

Pact Reached on Abuse Claims

OTTAWA -- The Canadian government and the Anglican Church announced a pioneering agreement yesterday to divide liability for abuse claims by native Indians who attended church-run residential schools.

The deal, reached in an effort to speed a resolution of the long-running and widening charges of abuse, caps the liability of the Anglican Church of Canada at $16 million so that it does not become insolvent.

"The agreement preserves the financial integrity of the Anglican Church," said Ralph Goodale, the federal official responsible for resolving the residential school claims.

Twelve thousand Indians, more than one in seven of the 90,000 former residential school students who are still alive, have launched abuse claims against Ottawa and various churches. The schools were funded by the government but run by the Anglican, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian and United churches.

New claims are pouring in at 120 to 130 a month.

The boarding schools were set up to try to provide education for native children in areas with sparse populations, but natives have alleged there was systematic physical and mental abuse at the schools. Most of the schools were shut down by the mid-1970s and the last closed in 1996.

The Anglican Church is involved in 18 percent of the cases. The Roman Catholic Church, which ran most of the schools, is involved in 73 percent of the cases, the United Church 8 percent and the Presbyterian Church of Canada about 1 percent.


Blast Kills 5 at Base in Ecuador

QUITO, Ecuador -- An explosion tore through an ammunition depot at Ecuador's largest military base, killing five people and injuring about 300, officials said.

Army Gen. Luis Aguas, a brigade commander in Quito, said ammunition apparently detonated at the Galapagos Mechanized Base and caused a second, larger explosion.

He said it was not known what caused the explosion, and communication was cut off with the base in the city of Riobamba, 100 miles south of Quito.

Army spokesman Col. Arturo Cadena told Television Channel 4 that five people -- three civilians and two soldiers -- were killed.

The majority of Ecuador's tank units are at the Riobamba base, which CRE radio reported is the home to about 1,500 soldiers.

Associated Press


Putin Asked to Veto Media Limits

MOSCOW -- Russian journalists appealed to President Vladimir Putin to veto changes to a law imposing tough restrictions on reporters covering crises like last month's Moscow theater siege in which more than 100 hostages died.

The appeal, signed by journalists at nearly all major state and independent media outlets, said the changes would produce less objective reporting.

Their unease is certain to add to concerns since Putin's election in 2000 that the Kremlin is determined to maintain a firm hand on the news media.

Signatories recognized that journalists had committed errors during the occupation of the theater by Chechen guerrillas, but said many of the mistakes were linked to problems in working with security forces organizing a rescue operation. Journalists, the statement said, were trying to adopt their own new rules.

The appeal said authorities were trying to draw up new laws without taking account of the news media's experience. It said this would hinder the journalistic community's own reforms.

"We therefore appeal to you . . . to use your right of veto and propose all concerned in this process work out a consolidated position and a unified set of rules for covering emergencies."


9/11 Witnesses Alter Testimony

HAMBURG -- Two witnesses in the trial of a Moroccan charged with assisting in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks were accused of deceiving a German court after they retracted testimony that they had seen plotters in Afghanistan.

Bekim Ademi and Ibrahim Diab told the court they learned to shoot and fire rockets at an al Qaeda camp in Afghanistan in September 2001, but denied seeing alleged Sept. 11 conspirators Ramzi Binalshibh, Said Bahaji and Zakariya Essabar there.

Prosecutors say the three and Mounir Motassadeq, the first accused plotter to stand trial, belonged to a Hamburg-based cell that planned the Sept. 11 attacks and whose leader, Mohamed Atta, crashed the first plane into the World Trade Center.

The witnesses' evidence in court contradicted their signed testimony to investigators and prompted the judge to threaten jail terms for lying.



U.S. Soldier Acquitted in Deaths

DONGDUCHEON, South Korea -- A U.S. soldier was acquitted of negligent homicide charges in a traffic accident that killed two South Korean girls. Outraged activists said they would hold demonstrations to protest the verdict.

A U.S. military jury cleared Sgt. Fernando Nino in a three-day court-martial. If convicted, he would have faced up to six years in a U.S. prison for the deaths of the 14-year-old girls on June 13 near the border with North Korea.

Col. Kurt Stein, one of the seven members of the jury, announced the verdict after three hours of deliberations. The prosecutor cannot appeal. Nino's driver, Sgt. Mark Walker, will be tried on the same charges beginning today.

South Koreans had earlier held protests to demand that the two men be tried in a South Korean court, saying the legal code that governs the 37,000 U.S. soldiers in South Korea allows many crimes to go unpunished.

Associated Press