Sharon Orders Pullback

Of Forces in Gaza Strip

JERUSALEM -- Prime Minister Ariel Sharon late Thursday ordered a troop pullout from the Jabalya refugee camp, Israeli defense officials said, signaling an easing of the two-week offensive in the northern Gaza Strip that has killed more than 100 Palestinians.

The move came hours after Sharon announced that all 8,200 Jewish settlers would be pulled out of Gaza starting next summer in an operation lasting 12 weeks.

Sharon and Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz ordered a redeployment in northern Gaza, which Army Radio said would amount to a pullout after the largest operation in Gaza in four years of fighting. However, officials said the army would react quickly if Palestinian militants resume rocket fire at Israeli towns.

The offensive was launched after two Israeli children were killed Sept. 29 in a rocket attack. Since then, more than 100 Palestinians, three Israelis and a Thai farm worker have been killed.

Early Thursday, Israeli tanks and bulldozers pulled back from the Palestinian town of Beit Lahiya after tearing up roads, flattening greenhouses and knocking down dozens of houses.

THE AMERICAS

* As many as 28 U.S. soldiers face possible criminal charges in connection with the deaths of two prisoners at a U.S.-run prison in Afghanistan in December 2000, the Army announced in a statement. The most serious potential charges recommended by the Army's Criminal Investigation Division include involuntary manslaughter and maiming.

So far only one person, a military police reservist, has been charged in the case. For the 27 others, their commanding officers will make the final call on whether they face a court-martial, administrative discipline or no disciplinary action.

* HALIFAX, Nova Scotia -- A Boeing 747 cargo jet bound for Spain crashed in a fireball after its tail section apparently broke off during takeoff at Halifax International Airport, killing all seven crew members aboard. The MK Airlines jet, loaded with lawn tractors and 58 tons of lobster and fish, crashed shortly before 4 a.m. local time into a largely wooded area near an industrial park north of the Canadian city, said a spokesman for the Ghana-based carrier.

ASIA

* PHNOM PENH, Cambodia -- King Norodom Sihanouk's son, a former ballet dancer and U.N. cultural ambassador, was officially confirmed to succeed his father on the throne, assuring the continuation of the ancient monarchy.

Prince Norodom Sihamoni, who has spent much of his life abroad, was unanimously approved by a nine-member Throne Council, according to a statement signed by the panel's chairman. The meeting was triggered by the 81-year-old Sihanouk's surprise abdication Oct. 7 for health reasons.

* BAIKONUR, Kazakhstan -- A Russian-U.S. crew headed to the international space station aboard a Soyuz spacecraft that none of the three astronauts has piloted before.

The Soyuzes have been the only manned vehicles able to reach the orbiting research lab since the U.S. space shuttle fleet was grounded 20 months ago after the Columbia burned up on reentry.

AFRICA

ABUJA, Nigeria -- Nigerian unions called off a general strike that had jeopardized oil supplies from the world's seventh-largest exporter for four days, but threatened more action within weeks unless the government cut local fuel prices. The strike paralyzed business across the country but did not harm the oil industry.

* NAIROBI -- Somalia's new president, Abdullahi Yusuf, called on the world to send peacekeepers to disarm the militias that rule the anarchic country. He also pledged to help fight international terrorism.

After a swearing-in ceremony in the capital of neighboring Kenya, the former warlord vowed to reach out to his rivals and reunify the country after more than a decade of strife.

-- From News Services