Saudis Offer Militants

A Limited Amnesty

JIDDAH, Saudi Arabia -- Saudi Arabia offered Islamic militants a limited amnesty on Wednesday, saying their lives would be spared if they surrendered but that they would face the "full might" of state wrath if they did not.

The ultimatum, issued in the name of King Fahd, called on militants to turn themselves in within a month, suggesting the kingdom was paving the way for a stepped-up campaign against fighters linked to al Qaeda who have shaken the country with a series of deadly attacks.

The ultimatum was read by Crown Prince Abdullah, the king's half-brother and the country's de facto ruler, using some of the fiercest language yet against the militants.

Abdullah said the offer was open to anyone who has not yet been "arrested for carrying out terrorist acts."

"We are opening the door of amnesty . . . to everyone who deviated from the path of right and committed a crime in the name of religion," the crown prince said.

"We swear by God that nothing will prevent us from striking with our full might, which we derive from relying on God," Abdullah said.

Under the amnesty, only those who committed acts that hurt others would be prosecuted, and no one who turned himself in would face the death penalty.

The Middle East

* TEHRAN -- Iran is no longer holding eight British troops in custody, but they haven't been handed over to Britain, the Iranian Foreign Ministry said.

A ministry spokeswoman did not say where the six Royal Marines and two British sailors were located but insisted they were "free to leave."

In a day of confusing statements by the two countries, Britain said that the troops were still in Iranian custody and expressed confidence that they would be released soon. The troops were detained Monday after their boats apparently strayed into Iranian territorial waters in the Shatt al Arab waterway that runs along the southern border of Iran and Iraq.

* CAIRO -- President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt is undergoing physical therapy in Germany for a herniated disk before doctors resort to surgery, Egypt's minister of health said.

It is very rare for state media to report on the health of the 76-year-old president, and the broadcast appeared designed to counter rumors that Mubarak was seriously ill.

* AMMAN, Jordan -- Jordan's military court upheld its guilty verdict for 10 men convicted in a foiled terror conspiracy that targeted Americans and Israelis in the kingdom during millennium celebrations.

The verdict came a year after the appeals court asked military judges to reexamine their decision in September 2000 in light of a 1999 general amnesty issued by King Abdullah under which the charges may have been dismissed.


* HARARE, Zimbabwe -- Seventy alleged mercenaries detained in Zimbabwe on charges of plotting to topple the government of oil-rich Equatorial Guinea will go on trial July 19, state prosecutors said.

The men, all South African citizens, were arrested in March after their plane landed in Harare en route to what Zimbabwean officials said was a mission to oust the small West African state's leader, President Teodoro Obiang Nguema.

The suspects have denied the charges, saying they were heading to Congo to guard mining operations.

* KHARTOUM, Sudan -- Sudan's president, Lt. Gen. Omar Hassan Bashir, said Africa's largest country had agreed with neighboring Chad to disarm militias on both sides of the border, a semiofficial news service reported.

The Americas

* HAVANA -- Cuba released another ailing dissident from prison, the fifth freed for health reasons in recent months out of the 75 who were sentenced in a harsh crackdown on dissent last year.

Roberto de Miranda, 62, an academic, had been sentenced to 20 years. He was hospitalized while in prison.


* LONDON -- The BBC said it was adopting new journalism guidelines in response to strong criticism of its reporting standards from a judicial inquiry.

The broadcaster will immediately impose stricter rules on live reports, the use of anonymous sources and note taking, based on the recommendations of an internal review, Mark Thompson, the BBC director general, said.

-- From News Services