THE AMERICAS

Cuba Holds Activists, Restricts U.S. Envoys

HAVANA -- Cuba rounded up several dozen dissidents and confirmed new restrictions on U.S. diplomats, the government said late yesterday, as relations deteriorated between the two countries.

An official statement on state television accused the chief of Washington's diplomatic mission, James Cason, of trying "to foment the internal counterrevolution."

The statement added: "No nation, no matter how powerful, has the right to organize, finance and serve as a center for subverting the constitutional order."

Offices at the U.S. Interests Section were closed and attempts to reach American diplomats were unsuccessful.

Havana's actions are the latest in an increasingly bitter exchange of words between the two governments, which have not had regular diplomatic relations for more than four decades.

The announcement said several dozen government opponents had been detained but did not elaborate or say if any charges were pending.

Associated Press

Colombian Journalist Killed at Radio Station

BOGOTA, Colombia -- Gunmen killed a Colombian journalist as he entered a radio station in a violent city near where U.S. Special Forces are providing anti-guerrilla training, police said.

Luis Eduardo Alfonso, 27, who also worked as a correspondent for national daily El Tiempo, was shot as he arrived at work at the Meridiano 70 radio station in the northeastern Colombian city of Arauca.

Alfonso was the first working reporter killed this year in Colombia.

News Services

Mexico Steps Up

Security on Border

MEXICO CITY -- Mexico said it had deployed about 18,000 troops to increase security on its border with the United States and protect strategic installations against terrorism as war in Iraq looms.

Interior Minister Santiago Creel said officials in northern border states had formed working groups to prevent any terrorist infiltration into the United States if, as expected, U.S.-led forces attack Iraq.

Immigration controls at airports, ports and land border crossings have been tightened, he said.

Security at strategic points such as electricity installations and water plants has also been stepped up.

Reuters

EUROPE

German Court Rejects Ban on Rightist Party

KARLSRUHE, Germany -- Germany's highest court rejected the government's bid to outlaw a far-right party accused of inciting racist violence and spreading neo-Nazi propaganda, delivering a defeat to Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's government.

Schroeder's administration invested considerable political capital in the drive to outlaw the National Democratic Party after a wave of hate crimes in 2000 attributed to neo-Nazis, with the government and both houses of parliament petitioning for the ban.

"The proceedings have been dismissed," presiding judge Winfried Hassemer services said. "The sentence most often heard from the judges' bench was: 'We have problems with the facts -- how can we arrive at the truth?"

In its split decision, the court refused to hear the case because the government cited as evidence inflammatory statements and writings by party members who were later unmasked as paid informers for state authorities.

Associated Press

FOR THE RECORD

Serbia's parliament selected reformer Zoran Zivkovic as new prime minister in a move likely to allay fears of a power vacuum in the volatile Balkans after last week's killing of Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic. . . . An Israeli soldier and two leaders of the militant group Hamas were killed in separate clashes in the West Bank, military officials said. Israeli soldiers in the West Bank village of Baka al-Hatab, near Qalqilyah, shot and killed Nasser Asida, 27, a commander of Hamas's military wing, the army said. . . . Suspected Muslim rebels in the Philippines ambushed a minibus, killing at least six passengers. In separate attacks, a bomb exploded outside a church, injuring five people, and nine separatists died in a clash with soldiers.