Israel to Offer Settlers

Cash to Leave Gaza

JERUSALEM -- The Israeli government plans to offer financial incentives, including cash advances, to Israeli settlers who leave the Gaza Strip voluntarily, officials said, in a sign that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon wants to complete much of the pullout well before a September 2005 deadline.

Officials said many of Gaza's 7,500 settlers are interested in leaving the volatile area, a claim denied by settler representatives who said they would fight against a withdrawal.

Meanwhile, Israeli soldiers shot and killed a 13-year-old boy during a patrol in the West Bank city of Nablus, Palestinians said. Israeli soldiers also killed another Palestinian youth in a village near Bethlehem.

In both cases, the military said, soldiers fired at Palestinians throwing firebombs.

Sharon wants to dismantle all 21 Israeli settlements in Gaza as well as four in the West Bank by 2005. Earlier this week, the cabinet approved the plan in principle, but in a compromise with hard-liners, Sharon agreed to hold a separate vote before taking down settlements.

However, a proposed withdrawal timetable showed that most preparations for dismantling settlements would be completed well before the next cabinet vote, set for February.

Starting in August, settlers could begin leaving their homes voluntarily and sign up for compensation. "We agreed that those who want to leave voluntarily will receive advances as part of compensation," Finance Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Thursday.

He would not say how much money was being offered.

The Middle East

* VIENNA -- Iran told a black-market supplier it was interested in tens of thousands of parts for its covert nuclear program, diplomats said, as the U.N. atomic watchdog prepared to rebuke Tehran for hindering an agency probe of its activities.

The diplomats, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the revelation about Iran's offer was made at a closed-door meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

An IAEA report leaked last week mentioned that Iran had acknowledged inquiring about 4,000 magnets needed for uranium enrichment equipment with a European black-market supplier and had dangled the possibility of buying a higher number of such magnets.


* MOSCOW -- A Russian court acquitted all six defendants in the 1994 killing of an investigative journalist who exposed corruption in the military.

The Moscow District Military Court cited lack of evidence in its decision to acquit the six men charged in the slaying of Dmitri Kholodov, whose death in a suitcase-bomb blast shocked the nation.

Prosecutor Irina Alyoshina charged the verdict ran "contrary to the law" and said her office would appeal.

Kholodov, a reporter with the outspoken daily Moskovsky Komsomolets who investigated military corruption, died when a briefcase he had picked up at a Moscow train station following an anonymous call blew up in his office. He had been told it contained evidence, colleagues said.

* ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia -- Authorities announced the detention of two suspects in last month's killing of Kremlin-backed Chechen President Akhmad Kadyrov.

The two suspects "participated in preparing and carrying out the explosion" that killed Kadyrov and five other people at a stadium in Chechnya's capital of Grozny on May 9, said Deputy Prosecutor General Sergei Fridinsky.

He said the suspects, residents of Chechnya aged 28 and 22, had admitted involvement in the bombing, the Interfax news agency reported. An aide to Fridinsky, Vladimir Rudyak, confirmed the detentions.

* COLOGNE, Germany -- A bomb attack Wednesday in Cologne that injured 22 people likely was the work of criminals and not a terrorist group, Germany's top security official said on Thursday.

"Indications are that it was not terrorists, but the criminal underworld," Interior Minister Otto Schily told reporters after meeting with his French counterpart, Dominique de Villepin, in a German border city to discuss security issues.


* KINSHASA, Congo -- Renegade presidential guards seized control of Congo's state radio early Friday, but troops loyal to the government retook the station soon afterwards, the government said.

"The situation is now calm," government spokesman Vital Kamerhe said. He did not specify if there had been a battle for the radio station. "Some officers in the presidential guard took control of the state radio at 2:30 this morning, but loyalist soldiers retook control two and a half hours later," he said.

* LAGOS, Nigeria -- At least 37 people were killed and more than 100 injured in clashes between suspected mobs of Christians and Muslims in the northeastern Nigerian state of Adamawa, the Red Cross said on Thursday.

The violence was sparked Tuesday by disagreements over the rebuilding of a minaret in the riverside town of Numan, a year after the mosque was razed in similar sectarian violence that killed eight, police and government officials said.

An Adamawa government spokesman said earlier that scores of people may have died in the six hours of mayhem but that it was difficult to give an exact death toll.

-- From News Services