Political Leaders Renounce Ivory Coast Peace Accord

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast -- Leading political figures yesterday renounced a days-old peace plan for Ivory Coast and hundreds of French nationals fled the country, fearing more violence.

In Paris, French authorities said they were ready for a full-scale evacuation of their citizens, targeted by pro-government rioters who say the French-brokered plan to end civil war gives too much power to rebels.

French business executives were sending home their families on flights chartered by French companies based in Ivory Coast, the world's foremost cocoa producer and West Africa's economic hub.

President Laurent Gbagbo has yet to say whether he will stick to the peace plan reached Friday in Paris to end the four-month conflict, which calls for the government and rebels to share power until elections in 2005.

Government supporters and the army oppose provisions in the accord that reportedly give rebels control of the interior and defense ministries, which oversee the military and paramilitary police.

The concession sparked days of loyalist riots in Abidjan. Mobs attacked France's embassy and military base, looted other French enterprises and beat foreigners.

Associated Press


French Court Overturns Conviction of Ex-Official

PARIS -- A corruption case that enthralled France with tales of sex, bribery and betrayal ended for its star defendant, former foreign minister Roland Dumas, when an appeals court overturned his conviction.

The former Resistance fighter, who served as foreign minister from 1988 to 1995, smiled and appeared relieved on hearing the decision striking down his 21/2-year jail sentence. Dumas, 80, was convicted in May 2001 of receiving gifts and cash from the former state-owned oil company Elf Aquitaine while serving as foreign minister.

The dapper, silver-haired former statesman was one of seven defendants to stand trial in a multimillion-dollar corruption scandal that captivated the public with lurid tales. Three co-defendants lost their appeals -- including Dumas' former mistress, Christine Deviers-Joncour. Her tell-all book, "Whore of the Republic," helped open the case.

Dumas was accused of arranging a high-paying job at Elf for Deviers-Joncour; of knowing that expensive gifts she gave him were bought with company funds; and of using her luxury apartment, paid for by Elf, for their trysts.

Associated Press


Iran Lifts House Arrest

On Dissident Ayatollah

QOM, Iran -- Authorities freed Iran's foremost clerical dissident from five years of house arrest as fears mounted about his health, his son said. Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, once successor-in-waiting to the founder of the Islamic republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, was put under house arrest in 1997 for challenging supreme clerical rule.

"I was officially told by security officials that the house arrest was lifted," said Montazeri's son, Ahmad. He said visitors would be allowed into the house today.

Montazeri, 80, has been Iran's most prominent dissident since Khomeini, Iran's former supreme leader, dismissed him as his designated heir in 1989 for criticizing the execution of political prisoners and human rights abuses. Despite being isolated from public life over the past five years, Montazeri's religious and revolutionary credentials have helped him remain an influential figure in the country.

Some conservative newspapers said Montazeri had promised to refrain from political activity in return for his freedom. But the cleric denounced the reports as "baseless lies." "Neither I nor my children have asked for clemency, and will not ask for that," he told the BBC.



North Korean Leader to Consider South's Proposal

SEOUL -- The North Korean leader, Kim Jong Il, has agreed to consider South Korea's plea to end the crisis over the north's nuclear weapons program, a South Korean envoy said.

Lim Dong Won spent three days in the north's capital, Pyongyang, but was not allowed to meet with Kim. But he said that the communist leader had accepted a letter from South Korean President Kim Dae Jung.

North Korea's reclusive leader relayed a message through his officials promising to reply after considering South Korea's call to reverse moves that triggered the second Korean nuclear crisis since 1994, Lim told a news conference in Seoul shortly after returning.



Officials in Honduras said they believe they have located the remains of an American Jesuit priest, James Carney of St. Louis, who disappeared during the government's campaign against leftists in the early 1980s.