Nigerian President Acts

To Curb Religious Violence

ABUJA, Nigeria -- Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo on Tuesday declared a state of emergency in the violence-torn central state of Plateau, saying recent killings there threatened to plunge the country into crisis.

Obasanjo said he had suspended the governor, Joshua Dariye, for six months and had also suspended the state assembly. He said Dariye was "weak and incompetent" and accused him of fomenting the violence.

About 1,000 people have been killed in two weeks of fighting between Christians and Muslims, which began in Plateau as a land dispute but turned into a religious conflict as it spread north to Nigeria's second-largest city, Kano.

Obasanjo appointed retired Gen. Chris Alli, army chief of staff under the late dictator Sani Abacha, as Plateau's interim leader.


* PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- Police used tear gas and fired assault rifles into the air to break up a peaceful march by about 10,000 supporters of the ousted president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide. One demonstrator was killed by gunfire, but it was unclear who fired the fatal shot.

Thousands of people poured out of the slums to demand Aristide's return, making it one of the largest demonstrations of support since he was driven into exile on Feb. 29 by an armed revolt and U.S. pressure.

* SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras -- Survivors of a prison fire asserted that the blaze, which killed more than 100 gang members, was intentionally set by fellow inmates. Officials had blamed the fire on a short circuit.

Auxiliary Bishop Romulo Emiliani, who has mediated between gangs and the government, said "considerable negligence on the part of authorities" was partly to blame.

* HAVANA -- Three Cuban dissidents were sentenced to three years in prison in the third trial of government opponents in a month, a human rights group said. Orlando Zapata, Raul Arencibia and Virgilio Marante were convicted of contempt for authority, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, the Cuban Human Rights Commission said.

The three men were arrested on Dec. 6, 2002, when they gathered in a Havana suburb to study the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Leading dissident Oscar Elias Biscet, arrested in the same incident, was sentenced last year to 25 years in prison.


* BEIJING -- China has contained its latest SARS outbreak, which was linked to a Beijing research laboratory, the World Health Organization said Wednesday. It urged continued vigilance in labs around the world where workers handle the virus that causes severe acute respiratory syndrome.


* MOSCOW -- Russia said Tuesday it was expelling a Slovakian diplomat one week after authorities in Slovakia, a new member of NATO and the European Union, ousted a Russian diplomat. A Russian Foreign Ministry statement said Slovakia's diplomat had been conducting "activities incompatible with his status," a euphemism for spying.

* VLADIKAVKAZ, Russia -- Rebels ambushed two military vehicles in forested mountains in Chechnya, killing at least 12 Russian servicemen, officials said.

-- From News Services