Annan Plans Sudan Visit

To Assess Darfur Crisis

KHARTOUM, Sudan -- U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan will visit Sudan to assess a conflict in the western Darfur region that has been described as the world's worst humanitarian crisis, officials in Sudan said Thursday.

Rebels launched a revolt in Darfur last year accusing the Khartoum government of neglect and arming Arab militias who loot and burn African villages. The government denies the charge.

The fighting has displaced more than 1 million people and forced more than 150,000 refugees to neighboring Chad.

"We understand, yes, he will be visiting Sudan in the near future. The date and the itinerary remain to be confirmed, but we look forward to his visit," said Kevin Kennedy, the United Nations' acting resident humanitarian coordinator for Sudan. He did not give a date for the visit.

Sudan's state minister for humanitarian affairs, Mohamed Yousif Abdalla said earlier that Annan would visit Sudan in July to assess the humanitarian and security situation in Darfur.

Annan told reporters at the United Nations that he plans to visit Sudan "sometime soon" but did not confirm a report in the country's al-Anbaa daily that he will travel to Darfur for a firsthand assessment of the conflict and the humanitarian crisis.

Africa

* ARUSHA, Tanzania -- A U.N. tribunal trying the alleged leaders of Rwanda's 1994 genocide convicted a former Rwandan mayor for his role in the slaughter, sentencing him to 30 years in prison.

Sylvestre Gacumbitsi, 57, was convicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda of genocide, extermination and rape for ordering the killings of minority Tutsis in the southeastern commune of Rusumo, where he was mayor.

"Under Gacumbitsi's instructions the killings took place. . . . He also facilitated the transport of attackers and weapons," presiding Judge Andresia Vaz said as the verdict was delivered.

The Middle East

* JERUSALEM -- Israel published a proposal for an 80-foot-deep, 400-foot-wide, 21/2-mile-long trench between Egypt and Gaza aimed at blocking arms smuggling after Israel completes a planned withdrawal from the coastal strip next year.

The trench would cost millions, and military officials said it remains unclear whether more Palestinian homes would have to be demolished to make room for it.

Palestinian officials denounced the trench plan, saying Israel is trying to choke Gaza on all sides. "Ditches and canals in Gaza, that's how you turn the Palestinians into prisoners in their own cities," said Palestinian cabinet minister Saeb Erekat. The plan still needs cabinet approval.

* VIENNA -- The U.N. nuclear watchdog agency has information that Iran may be engaging in a new nuclear coverup near a military facility outside Tehran, diplomats said as the agency's board prepared to rebuke Iran for hindering an international probe.

The agency was looking at intelligence that Iran was razing parts of a restricted area next to a military complex in a Tehran suburb, the diplomats said on condition of anonymity.

Satellite photos showed that several buildings had been destroyed and topsoil had been removed at Lavizan Shiyan, one diplomat said.

The diplomat said that to his knowledge the International Atomic Energy Agency had not visited that site, although agency officials told the Iranians they were concerned about the unexplained activities.

Europe

* PRISTINA, Serbia and Montenegro -- International prosecutors in Kosovo charged three ethnic Albanians and a Serb with serious crimes for their alleged roles in ethnic riots in March that left 19 people dead and more than 900 injured, an official said.

The charges, which range from leading and inciting the riots to arson, are the first indictments filed by the prosecutors in connection with the riots, said Neeraj Singh, a U.N. spokesman. The Serb was indicted for throwing a grenade at NATO-led peacekeepers, he said.

* BRUSSELS -- European Union leaders struggled to overcome differences at the opening of a two-day summit aimed at adopting a constitution for a united post-Cold War Europe.

During a working dinner, the 25 EU leaders made no progress in picking a president to head the European Commission, but they planned to reconvene later in the evening, Czech Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla said.

Earlier, Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, the summit chairman, said he was "not overly optimistic" an agreement would be reached soon.

But French President Jacques Chirac sounded more optimistic, telling reporters, "I have a feeling that a deal is possible."

* THE HAGUE -- Former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic wants to subpoena former president Bill Clinton, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder to testify in his war crimes trial.

The three were among nearly 1,400 witnesses the former Serbian leader said that he wants to call in his defense case, set to start on July 5.

U.N. judges at the tribunal for the former Yugoslavia did not immediately rule on the request and asked for justification for the subpoenas.

Asia

* HERAT, Afghanistan -- Forces of an Afghan factional commander took control of part of a remote provincial capital, forcing the governor to flee, in a fresh challenge to President Hamid Karzai's bid to disarm warlords.

The forces of Abdul Salaam overran parts of Chaghcharan, capital of the central province of Ghowr, after firing hundreds of rockets that landed in civilian areas, the provincial security commander said. He said he had no information on casualties.

-- From News Services