Antiwar American Soldier

Requests Asylum in Canada

VANCOUVER, B.C. -- A U.S. soldier who deserted his Iraq-bound unit and sought asylum in Canada said Wednesday that the war in Iraq was illegal and accused the United States of committing war crimes.

Pfc. Jeremy Hinzman, 25, left his unit with the 82nd Airborne Division on Jan. 2, about two weeks after learning he would be deployed to Iraq. He fled to Toronto with his wife and child. He is believed to be the first U.S. soldier to apply for refugee status in Canada after refusing combat duty in Iraq.

Hinzman had applied for conscientious objector status before his unit was sent to Afghanistan in 2002, but the Army told him it had lost his application. The Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board is to start hearings on the case in July.

AFRICA

* UNITED NATIONS -- The U.N. mission in Congo is investigating 30 allegations that peacekeepers sexually abused minors in the northeastern town of Bunia, U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard said.

THE MIDDLE EAST

* JERUSALEM -- Israeli police arrested a British journalist who in 1986 detailed Israel's nuclear weapons arsenal after interviewing whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu, an Israeli newspaper said. The Yedioth Aharonoth Web site said Peter Hounam was in the custody of the Shin Bet domestic intelligence service and being questioned on suspicion of committing "security offenses." A gag order prevented publication of details.

Hounam's article in the Sunday Times led analysts to conclude that Israel had stockpiled as many as 400 nuclear weapons. Israeli agents abducted Vanunu at an apartment in Rome and jailed him for 18 years.

* GAZA CITY -- The United Nations denied Israeli accusations that Palestinian gunmen used U.N. ambulances to spirit away the remains of Israeli soldiers killed during a raid in the Gaza Strip this month. Peter Hansen, commissioner general of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, said he had demanded an apology from Israel's defense minister for what he called "damaging and baseless allegations."

EUROPE

* GAZALKENT, Uzbekistan -- U.S. and Canadian experts will observe an autopsy Thursday of a man allegedly tortured to death in police custody. A U.N. report last year found that torture was "systematic" in Uzbek prisons. Human Rights Watch said the death of Andrei Shelkavenko was the fifth in police custody it had documented since May 2003.

* LONDON -- Guy Harrison, 36, acknowledged in a hearing that he had tossed condoms filled with purple corn starch at Tony Blair on May 19 as the prime minister spoke in the House of Commons. He was fined more than $1,000. The British Parliament has since restricted access to the galleries.

THE AMERICAS

* BOGOTA, Colombia -- A court found that Colombian air force pilots recklessly dropped a U.S.-made cluster bomb in 1998 that killed 18 civilians, including eight children, in Arauca province. It ordered compensation for victims' families. Colombia's former air force chief, Gen. Hector Fabio Velasco, resigned last year under U.S. pressure.

-- From News Services