Africa

Train Collision Kills 40 in Zimbabwe

HARARE, Zimbabwe -- A crowded passenger train and a freight train collided and burst into flames yesterday in western Zimbabwe, killing 40 people and injuring about 60.

Transport Minister Witness Mangwende said a signal mistake sent the trains hurtling toward each other on the same track. The signals on the remote stretch of rail line had been reported faulty since November, according to state television.

The trains were traveling on a line linking the western resort town of Victoria Falls and the southern city of Bulawayo. The southbound freight train was carrying a flammable liquid, and the passenger train was headed toward Victoria Falls. They crashed near the coal mining center of Hwange, about 30 miles from Victoria Falls.

Some passengers may have been carrying cans of gasoline, state television reported. Acute shortages of fuel have led to black marketeering and hoarding.

Associated Press

Ivorians Step Up Protest Against Accord

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast -- Nearly 100,000 government loyalists marched through Ivory Coast's main city, burning French flags and calling for the death of the French president in the biggest protest yet against a French-brokered peace deal.

The demonstration by government supporters angered at the prospect of sharing power with rebels came as West African leaders met with President Laurent Gbagbo in Abidjan to try to salvage the accord.

Regional leaders have long worried that the four-month insurgency in Ivory Coast, once West Africa's most prosperous and stable nation, might erupt into full-scale civil war.

One day after a larger regional summit on the crisis, the presidents of Nigeria, Ghana and Togo spoke for more than two hours with Gbagbo but flew home without commenting or giving any sign of success.

French and other foreigners have been fleeing loyalist rampages in the former French colony ahead of Gbagbo's pronouncement on whether the peace deal would stand or fall. His remarks have been repeatedly delayed.

Associated Press

Liberian Troops Clash With Rebel Forces

MONROVIA, Liberia -- Fighting between government and rebel forces raged within 60 miles of Liberia's capital, authorities in the West African nation said.

Fighting near the northwestern diamond town of Bopolu was "very serious," an official close to the president said, speaking on condition of anonymity. There was no word on casualties.

Bopolu has traded hands frequently during the four-year civil war. Rebels based in the north are fighting to oust warlord-turned-president Charles Taylor.

Rebels opened the latest offensive on Bopolu on Friday and took the town after what authorities described as hours of fierce fighting.

Associated Press

THE AMERICAS

Venezuelan Strike Leaders to Ease Up

CARACAS, Venezuela -- Leaders of a two-month-old strike called to force President Hugo Chavez from power said they would ease the work stoppage next week to protect businesses against bankruptcy.

The decision on Friday was prompted by pressure from the "Group of Friends," a forum made up of the United States and five other nations who are supporting efforts by the Organization of American States to broker an end to Venezuela's bitter political stalemate.

The decision to ease the 62-day work stoppage will not affect striking workers at the state-run oil monopoly, Petroleos de Venezuela S.A.

The strike has stifled oil production in Venezuela, the world's fifth-largest exporter.

Associated Press

FOR THE RECORD

Seven people were killed in the second fatal avalanche to strike the mountains of western Canada in less than two weeks, officials said. . . . Three small explosions went off near a base housing international peacekeepers who patrol Kabul, the Afghan capital, an official said. There were no casualties. . . . British firefighters walked off the job for the fifth time in three months, starting a 48-hour strike in their bitter dispute over pay.