Two Palestinian Militants

Killed in Airstrike in Gaza

GAZA CITY -- Two militants from the Islamic Resistance Movement were killed Monday in Gaza City when an explosion ripped through their vehicle during an Israeli airstrike, the second in as many days. Eight other people, including two children, were injured, hospital officials said.

Hamas, as the Palestinian group is known, threatened to retaliate with suicide bombings inside Israel.

As in previous days, Palestinians fired several rockets and mortar shells at Jewish settlements in Gaza and towns just outside the territory. No one was hurt.

The Israeli military released a statement saying the two Hamas militants it had killed "were on their way to launch Qassam rockets at Israeli targets." It said they were senior Hamas figures from central Gaza.

Palestinian security officials said the two dead were mid-level Hamas operatives from the southern Gaza Strip.

Also Monday, masked Palestinian gunmen killed a suspected collaborator in a public square in the West Bank, shooting the bound man before hundreds of onlookers, including schoolchildren, witnesses said. The body of a second alleged informer was found in a nearby rural area.

The al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a group with ties to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement, asserted responsibility for the killings. The group said the two men, who were kidnapped two weeks ago, had helped Israel kill three militants over the past year.

EUROPE

* ROME -- Britain's ambassador to Italy has called President Bush "the best recruiting sergeant" for al Qaeda, Italian media reported.

Ivor Roberts was quoted as telling an annual Anglo-Italian gathering in Tuscany, "If anyone is ready to celebrate the eventual reelection of Bush, it's al Qaeda."

The Corriere della Sera newspaper said Roberts also told the meeting of British and Italian policymakers, "Bush is al Qaeda's best recruiting sergeant."

The British Embassy in Rome said remarks made at the closed-door gathering should remain off the record. Roberts later issued a short statement via Britain's Foreign Office in London that said, "These remarks as reported do not reflect my personal views."

* BERLIN -- Berlin's local government banned a planned Islamic conference that security officials feared would give participants a forum in which to preach support for terrorism.

A state Interior Ministry spokeswoman said the city banned the Oct. 1-3 Arab Islamic Congress after concluding that the conference Web site condoned suicide attacks against Israel and the United States.

Even before the ban, German embassies and consulates had been told to refuse visas for anyone wanting to attend the conference, and Berlin authorities deported the main organizer to his native Lebanon on Saturday.

* MOSCOW -- Russia's embattled oil giant Yukos will halt supplies of crude to the Mazeikiu Nafta refinery in Lithuania until the end of the year, the Interfax news agency reported, hours after Yukos confirmed a similar move involving a Chinese company.

The company, struggling to pay off about $7 billion in back taxes for 2000 and 2001, has repeatedly warned that bankruptcy or a production stoppage are imminent.

Earlier, Yukos confirmed it was halting rail shipments to China National Petroleum Corp. The company denied that its decision was politically motivated, but analysts noted a planned visit Wednesday by China's prime minister.

THE AMERICAS

* BOGOTA, Colombia -- A paramilitary leader participating in peace talks with the government was shot dead by his own men, police said.

Miguel Arroyave and four of his bodyguards were killed Sunday in a gunfight with fellow members of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, or AUC, in the southern province of Meta.

Arroyave was a top AUC negotiator in peace talks the government hopes will lead to the disbanding of the outlaw force that has killed thousands of people in a war against Marxist rebels, sometimes in cooperation with the army. He was the third paramilitary leader killed by comrades this year.

AFRICA

* ARUSHA, Tanzania -- A Roman Catholic priest accused of ordering the slaughter of 2,000 people who sought refuge in his church during Rwanda's 1994 genocide refused to appear for the start of his trial at a U.N. tribunal.

The Rev. Athanase Seromba did not attend in protest against U.N. plans to transfer the trials of some genocide suspects from the Tanzania-based tribunal to Rwanda. The trial began without Seromba after prosecutors argued that his rights would not be violated as long as his attorneys were present, a tribunal spokesman said.

-- From News Services