NATO to Send New

Troops to Afghanistan

BRUSSELS -- NATO agreed Friday to send up to 2,000 Spanish and Italian troops to bolster security for Afghanistan's presidential elections, ending a standoff over whether to deploy the organization's new rapid-response force.

The alliance said in a statement that for eight weeks before and after the Oct. 9 election, a Spanish battalion would be deployed as a quick-reaction force and an Italian battalion would serve as an in-theater operational reserve force.

The Italian battalion is currently attached to the fledgling NATO Response Force (NRF), which will be made up of more than 20,000 highly trained crisis-management troops when it becomes fully operational in October 2006.

The United States and other allies pressed at a NATO summit last month for the force to be activated to counter threats of election-related violence in Afghanistan. But France argued against the elite force's deployment, saying it should not be used as a solution to troop shortages for routine operations.

One diplomat said a showdown at NATO's headquarters had been averted by formally removing the Italian battalion from the response force for the period of its deployment to Afghanistan.

"That way everyone is satisfied," said the diplomat, who requested anonymity. "Some people can claim this shows the NRF coming of age, and the French can say it hasn't been activated."

Asia

* PONTIANAK, Indonesia -- Indonesia's constitutional court raised fresh difficulties for the prosecution of radical cleric Abubakar Baasyir, accused of heading an underground movement linked to al Qaeda, by ruling that a recent anti-terrorism law could not be applied retroactively.

Prosecutors and police officials have said they were planning to charge Baasyir under the legislation with involvement in a series of bombings, most notably the October 2002 attack on a pair of Bali nightclubs. The law was adopted by parliament in the weeks following the Bali bombings.

Indonesian judges have already applied the law to convict 32 people in connection with the nightclub attacks. In its ruling, the constitutional court said its decision would not affect these verdicts. Still, lawyers for some defendants in the Bali bombing cases cheered the ruling, saying they planned to file new appeals.

-- Alan Sipress

* TOKYO -- Doctors treating an accused U.S. Army deserter said his condition was not serious and he did not need urgent medical care, though he will receive additional tests.

Charles Robert Jenkins, wanted by the United States for allegedly abandoning his platoon in 1965 and defecting to North Korea, has been hospitalized in Tokyo since arriving on Sunday. Japanese officials said Jenkins was suffering the aftereffects of an operation performed in North Korea.

Europe

* LONDON -- Lawyers acting for the U.S. government outlined terrorism charges against a radical Muslim cleric, including an alleged attempt to establish a jihad camp in Oregon, as they sought his extradition from Britain.

Abu Hamza Masri was also involved in a hostage-taking incident in Yemen and the funding of training for potential terrorists, said James Lewis, a lawyer acting for the U.S. government. U.S. authorities are seeking his extradition on 10 terror charges, Lewis said.

* SKOPJE, Macedonia -- Dozens of people were injured in clashes between Macedonian police and protesters when violence flared over plans to give the country's Albanian minority some local self-rule.

The rioting in the southern town of Struga, where Albanians outnumber Macedonians, was the most sign of ethnic tension since accords ended seven months of guerrilla conflict in 2001. Mobs stoned Albanian-owned shops and torched vehicles belonging to the coalition government that approved the measures.

The Americas

* BOGOTA, Colombia -- Colombian police have seized 5.5 tons of cocaine with a street value of $110 million in the biggest haul of the illegal drug in years, police said.

Officers seized the cocaine in two busts. In the biggest, they confiscated 4.5 tons in a rural area of the northern province of Antioquia under the control of far-right paramilitary outlaws, police said. The other ton was found near the city of Cali, hidden in a generator in a wooden case ready to be shipped to the United States.

The Middle East

* RIYADH, Saudi Arabia -- A sixth Islamic militant has surrendered to Saudi authorities under a one-month limited amnesty aimed mainly at al Qaeda supporters who have attacked foreigners, government targets and energy sites.

State media said that Fayez Khashman Dosari, wanted on unspecified security charges, gave himself up in the city of Taif.

-- From News Services