Sudan Orders Tribes

To Disarm Arab Militias

KHARTOUM, Sudan -- Sudan's president, Lt. Gen. Omar Hassan Bashir, ordered tribal leaders in the Darfur region to form security forces to disarm Arab militias blamed for violence that has killed as many as 50,000 people during an 18-month conflict.

The decision, announced late Thursday after two days of talks between government officials and Darfur tribal chiefs, comes amid intense international pressure to end the Darfur crisis, which has forced 1.5 million people from their homes.

The United Nations describes Darfur's plight as the world's worst humanitarian crisis. The European Union, United States and humanitarian groups accuse Bashir's government of backing the Arab militias, known as the Janjaweed, with vehicles, helicopters and airplanes -- a charge denied by Sudanese officials.

It was not clear how effective the government's move would be. Despite previous efforts to restore order, including the deployment of police to the troubled region, U.N. officials and aid groups say fighting and other violence continues.


* TBILISI, Georgia -- Negotiators agreed to a cease-fire after three nights of gun and mortar fire in breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia, a Georgian official said.

Meanwhile, Georgia's parliament called for suspending the mandate of Russian peacekeepers in the region, accusing Russia of taking sides as tensions have threatened to erupt into open conflict. Lawmakers want Western peacekeepers to replace the Russians.

Hours before the truce was reached, a convoy carrying Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania came under fire during a visit to ethnic Georgian villages in South Ossetia. No one was injured in the shooting.

* VIENNA -- A student priest was convicted of possessing child pornography in a sex scandal at a seminary that has rocked the Austrian Roman Catholic Church.

A court in St. Poelten, west of Vienna, found the 27-year-old Polish man guilty of downloading hundreds of images depicting child pornography from the Internet. He was given a six-month suspended sentence, a court spokeswoman said. He had faced up to two years in prison.


* SHANGHAI -- The most powerful typhoon to hit China in seven years roared inland after killing 115 people and injuring more than 1,800 others along the coast and leaving a path of destruction though farms, towns and fishing ports.

Typhoon Rananim weakened to a tropical storm after crossing into Jiangxi province, where it brought heavy rain to China's central lakes region, meteorologists said. Sixteen people were missing in Zhejiang province, just south of Shanghai, where the typhoon made landfall Thursday night with winds of more than 100 mph, China Central Television reported.

* MANILA -- A southern Philippines court sentenced 17 members of the al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf militant group to death for kidnapping nurses from a hospital three years ago.

Only 13 of the defendants were at the heavily guarded court house in Isabela, capital of the southern island of Basilan, where a clerk read the ruling describing a kidnapping spree that began with the mass abduction of more than 50 pupils, teachers and a priest in 2000 and continued with the seizure of 17 Filipino tourists and three Americans a year later. Two of the Americans died.

The four other convicts escaped from a Basilan provincial prison earlier this year and were sentenced in absentia.

* TOKYO -- A Japanese utility company said it would temporarily shut down all of its nuclear power facilities to conduct safety checks, following a deadly accident this week at one of its plants.

Kansai Electric Power Co., Japan's second-largest utility, reached its decision a day after being ordered by the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency to review inspection records of cooling pipes and check for signs of erosion at its 11 nuclear power plants. Six other utility companies were given similar orders.

* TOKYO -- A U.S. military helicopter crashed and burst into flames on the grounds of a university on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa, injuring three military personnel but no civilians.

The Middle East

* JERUSALEM -- Israel could give up all of the Golan Heights for peace with Syria without compromising security, the army chief said in an interview, undercutting the contention of successive governments that Israel needs to keep at least a slice of the plateau.

It was not clear whether Lt. Gen. Moshe Yaalon, an outspoken chief of staff who has caused controversy in the past, was expressing his personal view or whether Israel was sending out feelers to Syria. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's aides declined comment, and Syrian officials played down Yaalon's remarks.

In the West Bank, a Palestinian gunman killed the security chief of a Jewish settlement in a roadside ambush. Guards then shot and killed the gunman. The attacker was a Palestinian policeman, and the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a militant wing of Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement, claimed responsibility.


* ABUJA, Nigeria -- Investigators have found 33 more bodies in woodlands near where a secretive cult is believed to have carried out ritual killings, police said, raising the death toll in the case to 83.

In last week's initial raids on homes and two forests in southeastern Anambra state, police found 50 bodies -- some without heads -- and about 20 skulls. The bodies had been left unburied in caskets in what have been called the two "evil forests."

Police said 31 priests of the Alusi Okija cult have been arrested in connection with the killings.

-- From News Services