Turkey Takes Steps

Toward Kurdish Rights

ANKARA, Turkey -- Turkey freed four jailed Kurdish lawmakers and aired the first TV and radio broadcasts in the Kurdish language Wednesday, key steps aimed at improving its human rights record and boosting its bid to join the European Union. The lawmakers, including Nobel Peace Prize nominee Leyla Zana, were freed after serving 10 years of 15-year sentences.

Zana became a symbol to many Kurds and Europeans for advocating nonviolent tactics to demand rights for Turkish Kurds.

State-run TRT aired its first-ever Kurdish broadcast, a 30-minute news and music program on television and radio. Broadcasts in Kurdish were banned until 2002, when parliament legalized limited programming to meet EU membership requirements. About 20 percent of Turkey's 68 million people are Kurds, although they are still not officially recognized as a minority.

EUROPE

* COLOGNE, Germany -- A bomb packed with nails exploded in a Turkish area of family shops and residential buildings, injuring 22 people, police said. They said they had no suspects or motive for the blast.

AFRICA

* BUKAVU, Congo -- Government forces retook control of this strategic city from renegade troops, appearing to halt a military crisis in eastern Congo that threatened to derail a tenuous peace process. Thousands of residents greeted soldiers as they marched into Bukavu.

ASIA

* SEOUL -- A U.S. Army major was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter for killing his wife and dumping her body off a bridge, and was sentenced to 26 years in prison, the U.S. military said. Maj. Richard Keith Hart, 45, of Orlando, was tried in a court-martial in the Aug. 12 killing of his wife, Patricia Ann Hart, 53.

* PESHAWAR, Pakistan -- Government forces clashed with heavily armed foreign fighters, killing more than 20 people near the Afghan border, officials and a tribal elder said. The bloodshed followed weeks of failed efforts to get the fighters in South Waziristan to surrender after an army offensive in March that left more than 120 people dead.

* BEIJING -- Ten Chinese workers were killed Thursday in the Afghan province of Kunduz when gunmen opened fire at a construction site, China's government said.

* BEIJING -- An explosion Wednesday at a fireworks factory in Jiangxi killed 16 female workers, the New China News Agency reported.

THE MIDDLE EAST

* JERUSALEM -- An Israeli court said a son of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon should not be charged with contempt for failing to turn over documents in a corruption probe of his father. Police sought a court order last year to compel Gilad Sharon to provide documents related to his contract with Israeli businessman David Appel for consulting services for a Greek tourism project.

THE AMERICAS

* HAVANA -- Cuba has released five dissidents, including four who were held for 27 months without trial, opposition sources said. Leonardo Bruzon, Emilio Leyva, Lazaro Rodriguez and journalist Carlos Alberto Dominguez were arrested Feb. 22, 2002, for inciting public disorder. Another dissident, Miguel Valdes Tamayo, was also freed.

Separately, Kendry Morales, considered Cuba's most promising baseball player, defected to the United States to pursue a major league career, his family said. The 20-year-old had been suspended earlier this year by Cuba's baseball commission.

-- From News Services