Chile Approves Troops

For Haiti Peacekeeping

SANTIAGO, Chile -- Chile's Senate agreed Wednesday to send 650 troops to Haiti as part of a U.N. peacekeeping mission that will take over the task of restoring stability from a U.S.-led multinational force on June 1.

Chile, a member of the U.N. Security Council, deployed 130 troops in March after President Jean-Bertrand Aristide fled Haiti under international pressure as an armed rebellion threatened the capital, Port-au-Prince.

That Chilean deployment is due to end in June. The new contingent, approved by a vote of 27 to 0 with 15 abstentions, adds to that military presence and includes 38 members from the national police force.

The Security Council unanimously approved on April 30 the new mission of up to 5,700 U.N. troops and as many as 1,622 police officers.

Chile has become one of Washington's closest allies in Latin America since signing a free- trade agreement that went into effect this year. President Ricardo Lagos, whose government opposed the U.S. attack on Iraq in the Security Council last year, was quick to respond to requests for help in restoring order to Haiti.

Argentina has pledged to send 500 troops to Haiti; Brazil will lead the force with 1,470 troops.

THE AMERICAS

* BOGOTA, Colombia -- Warplanes forced down and destroyed a single-engine aircraft suspected of carrying drugs, the third such operation in less than a week, authorities said.

The Colombian air force said the Cessna 210 aircraft crossed the Amazon jungle border from Brazil. Colombian authorities did not say whether the United States provided support for the operation. In 2003, the United States resumed assistance with drug-interception flights over Colombia. Under the program, U.S. intelligence and equipment help Colombian planes track and sometimes force down aircraft suspected of carrying drugs.

The program was suspended for more than two years following an April 2001 incident in which a Peruvian air force plane shot down a small aircraft carrying a missionary family after mistaking their plane for a drug-smuggling flight. A woman and her daughter were killed.

* BRASILIA -- The Brazilian government has lost hundreds of millions of dollars in fraudulent blood purchases that date back to the early 1990s, the Justice Ministry said. A ring led by senior Health Ministry officials stole the equivalent of $637 million between 1990 and 2003 by overcharging on blood purchases for hemophiliacs, the ministry said.

ASIA

* BEIJING -- A gas explosion killed 20 miners and trapped 13 others in China's northern province of Shanxi, the latest in a string of disasters in the mining industry, state television said. The blast happened in an illegal mine in the city of Luliang on Tuesday evening, China Central Television said.

EUROPE

* LONDON -- A protester in a VIP gallery threw purple powder on Prime Minister Tony Blair in the House of Commons, forcing an evacuation and an urgent review of security.

The powder was only cornstarch, but legislators were shaken by the thought that the incident could have been a terrorist attack.

It was considered a major security breach in the House of Commons, which recently installed a bulletproof, transparent screen to protect members from possible attacks from the public gallery.

Blair flinched as the powder landed on his left shoulder. Lawmakers behind him dusted the powder off his back before he left the chamber.

Fathers 4 Justice, a group that campaigns on child custody issues, claimed responsibility and said Ron Davies, 44, of Worthing, England, had thrown the cornstarch.

* ZURICH -- The Swiss air traffic control firm Skyguide said it accepted full responsibility for errors that contributed to the midair collision of two planes in 2002 that killed dozens of Russian schoolchildren.

Skyguide said it was dismayed by weaknesses in its systems that were partially blamed for the crash. The disaster killed 71 people and provoked a bereaved Russian to avenge the death of family members by killing one of the controllers on duty when the planes collided.

* ROME -- A Mafia hit man who strangled a young boy and dissolved his body in acid has been released and put under house arrest after five years in prison.

The decision, made because the killer, Giuseppe Monticciolo, cooperated with investigations that led to dozens of arrests, was met with disbelief and resignation.

Monticciolo and two other hit men killed 13-year-old Giuseppe Di Matteo in 1996 and dissolved his body in an acid bath in revenge against the boy's father, who had implicated mob bosses in the killing of a judge. Monticciolo confessed to the crime. He escaped to Kenya during the trial, but police persuaded him to return to Italy, where he was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

-- From News Services