No Ransom Demand Yet For 'Scream' Painting

OSLO, Norway -- Police fielded tips but had no motive yesterday for the theft of "The Scream" and another Edvard Munch masterpiece by armed robbers who barged into a lightly guarded Oslo museum and ripped the paintings from the walls before the eyes of stunned visitors.

Police, who launched a nationwide hunt for the works, said there had been no word from the thieves, who were widely expected to demand a ransom. "The Scream," a 20th century icon of angst, is too well known for the thieves to try to sell, experts say.

THE middle east

* JERUSALEM -- Israel announced plans for 500 new housing units in the West Bank. The Palestinians oppose all Jewish settlement in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, lands where they hope to establish an independent state.

In the latest sign of trouble for Israel's contentious West Bank barrier, officials also said construction of a large section will be significantly delayed because of a court ruling highlighting the hardships the structure has imposed on Palestinians.


* DHAKA, Bangladesh -- Thousands of Bangladeshi opposition activists holding banners reading "Why the bombings, why the bloodshed?" protested against a grenade attack.

Supporters of the main opposition Awami League staged a peaceful but noisy protest in the capital over the attack on a rally addressed by party president Sheikh Hasina two days ago that killed at least 17 and wounded more than 150.

A two-day national strike to protest the attacks starts Tuesday.

The americas

* MEXICO CITY -- An alleged leader of a powerful drug gang was caught near the border with California, Mexican officials announced, calling it a blow to a syndicate that is smuggling nearly half the illegal drugs crossing the U.S.-Mexico frontier.

Gilberto Higuera Guerrero was arrested before dawn Sunday at a house in the border city of Mexicali, Attorney General Rafael Macedo de la Concha said at a news conference Monday.

He described Higuera as the "principal operator" for drug boss Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada.

* BOGOTA, Colombia -- Colombia's main rebel group criticized a government proposal to swap jailed guerrillas for kidnapped politicians, soldiers and three American contractors, saying that any deal should allow its freed comrades to return to the rebel ranks.

But the rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, said it hoped the two sides eventually could find common ground for some type of swap.

Colombian Vice President Francisco Santos said he was disappointed by the FARC's dismissal.


* ABUJA, Nigeria -- Sudan rejected a wider role for African peacekeepers in putting down violence and disarming militiamen in the Darfur region, as Sudanese and rebel officials opened peace talks. The African Union proposed ahead of the talks to send nearly 2,000 peacekeepers to Darfur, where a pro-government mostly Arab militia known as the Janjaweed is accused of killing tens of thousands of black Africans and pushing more than 1.2 million from their homes.

* MALABO, Equatorial Guinea -- Financiers in Europe and Africa were behind a plot to overthrow the government of Africa's No. 3 oil producer, an accused ringleader testified at the opening of Africa's biggest mercenary trial in decades.

The government of Equatorial Guinea accuses 89 alleged mercenaries of signing on to a $5 million plot to oust President Teodoro Obiang, who has ruled the isolated nation since executing his uncle in 1979.


* PARIS -- French investigators said they were skeptical about claims of responsibility for an arson attack on a Jewish community center by a previously unknown Islamic group, Jamaat Ansar Al-Jihad.

No one was hurt in the fire early Sunday in east Paris.

-- From News Services