Sudan Army Surrounds

Darfur Camps, U.N. Says

KHARTOUM, Sudan -- Sudanese security forces surrounded several camps in the war-torn western region of Darfur on Tuesday, relocated refugees against their will and denied access to humanitarian groups, the United Nations said. Sudan denied closing off the camps, but said angry Arab tribesmen had gathered in the area.

The U.N. World Food Program said several camps were surrounded -- apparently in retaliation for the abduction of 18 Arabs by Darfur rebels -- and that the United Nations was forced to pull 88 relief workers from other areas where there had been an upsurge in violence in recent days.

The World Food Program fears the government may start forcing people from the camps back to their villages, where there is less protection from militiamen known as Janjaweed, who have been attacking towns, said a spokeswoman, Christiane Berthiaume.

The camps, located near the southern Darfur city of Nyala, were cut off "at 3 a.m. without any warning," she said. "Agencies have been denied access to these camps since this morning."

More than 1.5 million people have been driven from their homes in Darfur and at least 70,000 have died in the conflict.


* CAMP ZAMA, Japan -- Sgt. Charles Robert Jenkins pleaded guilty Wednesday to deserting the U.S. Army in 1965, saying that he wanted to avoid "hazardous" duty on the Korean Peninsula and Vietnam.

The plea was apparently part of a bargain to win him a lesser sentence. The North Carolina native vanished from his post and lived in North Korea for 39 years. Jenkins, 64, turned himself into U.S. military authorities on Sept. 11, two months after he left Pyongyang to seek medical treatment in Japan.

Japan has been urging the U.S. government to be lenient so Jenkins can live in Japan with his Japanese wife, who was abducted by North Korean agents in 1978, and their two daughters.

* KABUL, Afghanistan -- A group threatening to kill three foreign U.N. hostages said Tuesday there was "some flexibility" about their demands, which include the withdrawal of U.N. personnel from Afghanistan.

Government officials were optimistic that the abduction could end with the foreigners' release, but said they had no contact with the kidnappers one day before a deadline on the hostages' fate.

the middle east

* NABLUS, West Bank -- The Israeli army destroyed the home of a teenage suicide bomber despite his mother's public and impassioned criticism of the group that sent her son on the mission.

Israeli military officials acknowledged the woman's grief, but insisted the policy of demolishing bombers' houses was necessary to deter more attacks.

After the demolition, the bomber's mother, Samira Abdullah, backed off her criticism of the militant group, praising her son.

The army also destroyed the homes of two senior members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the PLO faction that asserted responsibility for the blast.

* PARIS -- French doctors said Yasser Arafat was responding to treatment and they ruled out leukemia, though aides said the Palestinian leader could remain in a French military hospital for several more weeks.

Arafat felt well enough to follow the U.S. presidential election and had taken calls from heads of state and senior Palestinian officials, said aides in the southwestern Paris suburb where he is being treated.


* MOSCOW -- A Russian atomic scientist gave police eight containers filled with arms-grade nuclear material he had kept in his garage for eight years, Russian media reported.

But an Atomic Ministry official denied the 14 ounces of plutonium-238 found by Leonid Grigorov in a rubbish heap at his laboratory was weapons-grade.

Interfax news agency said the lab, near Russia's border with Kazakhstan and looted after the Soviet collapse in 1991, was eventually closed.

* HAMBURG -- Osama bin Laden spoke months before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks of a strike against the United States and said there would be "thousands of dead," according to testimony by a Jordanian-born man who says he served briefly as the al Qaeda leader's bodyguard.

Shadi Abdellah, 28, took the stand at the retrial of Mounir Motassadeq, a Moroccan accused of helping several of the Sept. 11 hijackers when they lived and studied in Hamburg.

* KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine's opposition accused Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych and his allies of wholesale cheating in a landmark presidential election, foreshadowing a bitter run-off battle later this month.

In an unruly session of parliament, Yanukovych's allies rejected the criticism, declaring their candidate would defeat liberal challenger Viktor Yushchenko in the Nov. 21 contest.

the americas

* CARACAS, Venezuela -- Venezuela's government deployed troops in two opposition-controlled states where regional election results were delayed, and one governor accused President Hugo Chavez of trying to force him from office.

Two days after Sunday's vote, soldiers ringed the office of Gov. Eduardo Lapi in central Yaracuy state. Security was also reinforced in Carabobo state, whose governor, Henrique Salas Romer, is a prominent opponent of Chavez.

-- From News Services