War Crimes Trial Begins

For 3 Kosovo Albanians

THE HAGUE -- U.N. prosecutors on Monday opened their war crimes case against three members of the Kosovo Liberation Army militia, promising to call on witnesses to prove charges against the first ethnic Albanians to face The Hague tribunal for actions during the Kosovo war.

Prosecutors accused Fatmir Limaj, Haradin Bala and Isak Musliu of murder, torture and imprisonment of Serb civilians, as well as being "perceived Albanian collaborators," during the 1998-99 conflict. All have pleaded not guilty.

Their arrest in February 2003 set off protests in Kosovo's capital, Pristina, where many ethnic Albanians view them as heroes in a war for independence.

The proceeding may help stem Serb criticism of the U.N. court. Many Serbs have accused the court of being prejudiced against them, saying few Muslims have been indicted for alleged crimes in the wars during the disintegration of Yugoslavia.

The Kosovo Liberation Army was formed as a movement of resistance against Serb dominance in the province. The war broke out in 1998, when then-Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic responded to reports of KLA killings of Serb police by sending troops into Kosovo.

Kosovo has been administered by the United Nations and NATO since June 1999, when a U.S.-led bombing campaign forced Milosevic to withdraw his troops.

Europe

* BUDAPEST -- The Hungarian parliament rejected a government proposal to extend the stay of 300 noncombat troops in Iraq by three months until March 31. The transport contingent has served since mid-2003 in Hilla, about 60 miles south of Baghdad.

ASIA

* KABUL, Afghanistan -- Afghan militants repeated a threat to kill three U.N. hostages and rejected government talk of a ransom offer, saying they were sticking to their demand for the release of Taliban prisoners.

* KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia -- Malaysian rebel politician Anwar Ibrahim met Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi at a reception marking the end of Ramadan, a move analysts say may presage cooperation between Anwar and the government.

The former deputy prime minister, once positioned to be Malaysia's next leader before an acrimonious fallout with former leader Mahathir Mohamad, was freed in September after almost six years in jail on what he called trumped-up charges.

"There was no discussion of politics," an official of the Keadilan political party, formed to protest Anwar's imprisonment, said about the meeting. "It's just to show a new form of political culture where political differences need not come in the way of political relationships."

THE AMERICAS

* CALLAO, Peru -- The first public trial of Abimael Guzman, the Shining Path rebel leader, fell apart as the second of the three judges presiding over the case stepped down, citing a conflict of interest.

Three new judges must now be named for a new trial of Guzman, 69, who masterminded a struggle to impose his vision of Maoism on Peru until his capture in 1992.

Guzman and 17 other defendants, including two still at large, were charged with using a preparatory school for aspiring college students to help finance the insurgency.

Guzman faces numerous trials for planning peasant massacres and political assassinations.

The case was set aside after Judge Jose de Vinatea recused himself, saying he had represented accused terrorists in court previously. Another judge, Carlos Manrique, stepped down Friday.

* HAVANA -- The value of a dollar in Cuba dropped to 90 cents as a surcharge on the American greenback took effect, the latest step in the island nation's conversion from an economy based on U.S. currency to one using the new convertible peso.

Cubans and tourists lined up to change dollars into pesos over the weekend. As of last week, U.S. currency no longer was accepted at Cuban stores, restaurants, hotels or other businesses, and the new 10 percent surcharge is meant to further discourage people from bringing in currency from the United States.

President Fidel Castro has said the widespread use of the American money was being halted to guarantee Cuba's economic independence.

-- From News Services