EUROPE

Suspected Assassin Arrested

BELGRADE -- A suspect in the killing of Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic two weeks ago has been arrested, the slain premier's successor said yesterday.

Prime Minister Zoran Zivkovic identified the suspect in custody as Zvezdan Jovanovic, a former deputy commander of a special unit of police troops under former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic.

Zivkovic said police found a German-made sniper rifle suspected of being the murder weapon. Another man, identified as Sasa Pejakovic, was arrested for allegedly aiding the sniper, he said.

Djindjic, Serbia's leading pro-Western politician, was killed by a sniper March 12 as he stepped out of an armored car in front of government headquarters in downtown Belgrade.

Authorities accused an organized crime ring known as the Zemun clan of plotting the slaying and carrying it out. They imposed a state of emergency, launching a major hunt for leading crime figures and their associates in the judiciary, police and other state services.

Dusan Maricic, the current commander of the elite police group known as the Unit for Special Operations, was fired, Zivkovic said.

Associated Press

Serb Enters Plea of Not Guilty

THE HAGUE -- A Serbian ultranationalist and former ally of Yugoslav ex-president Slobodan Milosevic pleaded not guilty to war crimes charges that paramilitary troops under his control murdered and tortured non-Serbs during the Balkan wars.

Vojislav Seselj, 48, entered his plea at the Yugoslav tribunal a month after surrendering to the U.N. court, vowing to make a circus of proceedings he says are biased against Serbs.

Seselj, the leader of the Serbian Radical Party, came in second in recent presidential elections in Serbia and Montenegro with nearly a third of the vote. U.N. prosecutors have accused him of 14 counts of crimes against humanity and violations of the laws and customs of war during conflicts in the early 1990s.

Associated Press

Ex-EU Official Accused of Fraud

BRUSSELS -- Belgium authorities have filed fraud charges against former French prime minister Edith Cresson relating to her time as a senior European Union official in the late 1990s, the prosecutor's office said.

Investigators said they believe they have evidence that Cresson and seven EU officials working for her drew up false contracts, said Jos Colpin, spokesman for the Brussels state prosecutor's office.

Cresson has denied the charges.

Allegations of cronyism and misuse of funds against Cresson when she was European research commissioner forced the EU's 20-member executive office to resign in 1999.

Associated Press

Pope to Visit Spain in May

VATICAN CITY -- Pope John Paul II will resume his international travels after a nine-month pause by making a two-day trip to Spain in May, the Vatican said. The pope will travel to Madrid May 3-4 for a trip whose centerpiece is a ceremony to declare five new saints of the Roman Catholic Church, it said.

The pope, whose last trip was to his native Poland in August, is also expected to visit Bosnia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Mongolia this year.

Reuters

ASIA

Korean Victims' Appeal Denied

TOKYO -- Japan's top court rejected an appeal from a group of South Korean women seeking compensation for having been forced to provide sex to Japanese soldiers during World War II.

The decision is a setback for other groups of women suing Tokyo for being forced into sexual servitude during the war.

In the ruling, the Supreme Court upheld a 2001 appeals court decision overturning a lower court order for the government to compensate the women, court spokesman Mitsuhiro Miyamoto said.

The women appealing the case had argued that refusing to pay redress went against the Japanese constitution's outline for a moral country, but Justice Toyozo Ueda of the top court's third petty bench said there was no legal basis for their appeal, Kyodo News reported.

Hiroshi Momose, a history professor at Hiroshima City University, said the ruling may serve as a precedent for other cases.

Associated Press

Africa

42 Civilians Killed in Ivory Coast

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast -- Ivory Coast's army said rebels had killed 42 civilians in a western village, but the insurgents blamed forces loyal to the government, accusing them of attacking their positions in the increasingly anarchic west.

The allegations came after weeks of political stalemate in the former French colony as rebels hold back on entering a government of national reconciliation meant to bring former enemies together and end a six-month civil war.

Army spokesman N'Goran Aka said on state television that drunk and drugged rebels attacked the village of Dah north of the western government-held town of Duekoue on Sunday.

Reuters