Israel Plans to Build

Barrier Off Gaza Coast

JERUSALEM -- The Israeli navy plans to build a sea barrier off the coast of northern Gaza to keep out potential attackers after Israel pulls out of the coastal strip this summer, military officials said.

The navy decided the barrier, stretching 950 yards into the sea, was necessary because surveillance systems would be lost in the planned pullout, military officials told an Israeli reporter in Gaza, requesting that their names not be used because the project is still being discussed.

A Palestinian official reacted angrily to the report.

"I hope the Israeli mentality of barriers will end," said Saeb Erekat, the Palestinians' chief negotiator with Israel. "Now they have land barriers and tomorrow sea barriers and the day after sky barriers and what else? Will they put a barrier around each Palestinian individual or house?"

EUROPE

* SHEFFIELD, England -- The U.S. attorney general defended the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, saying the U.S. government would evaluate the detention center but had no immediate plans to shut it down.

Alberto R. Gonzales spoke on the final day of a summit that drew interior ministers from the Group of Eight industrialized nations.

"We have Guantanamo because there are people that are captured on the battlefield, and we need to hold them somewhere so they do not go back and fight against American soldiers or the soldiers of our allies fighting in Afghanistan," Gonzales said.

* MOSCOW -- Authorities failed to contain a spill of heavy fuel from a derailed train and it flowed into waterways that supply Moscow with drinking water, officials said.

About 770 tons of thick, tar-like fuel spilled from more than a dozen tanker cars that went off the tracks Wednesday about 100 miles northwest of Moscow, according to Pavel Plat, a senior official with the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry, who spoke to NTV television.

ASIA

* BANGKOK -- Burma opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi will celebrate another birthday under house arrest Sunday while pro-democracy activists around the world stage protests against the military junta.

The Nobel laureate turns 60, but even though the milestone bears little extra significance in Burmese culture, lobbyists from the United States to Asia to Europe are using the date as a rallying point against Burma's generals.

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan issued yet another call for the release of Suu Kyi, who has spent nine of the past 16 years behind bars or under house arrest for demanding the army honor the results of 1990 elections.

THE AMERICAS

* SAN ANTONIO SENAHU, Guatemala -- After washing thick black mud from their dead, Maya Indians huddled at a makeshift morgue in this Guatemalan highlands town to bury the 22 victims of a huge mudslide. Nearly 100 homes, many of them tin or cinderblock shacks, were flattened and cars were buried in the mudslide Wednesday night.

* ORANJESTAD, Aruba -- A disc jockey on an Aruban tourist party boat was detained in the disappearance of Alabama teenager Natalee Holloway, making him the fourth person held by police since the honors student vanished last month.

* MEXICO CITY -- President Vicente Fox condemned "the terrible bubble" of killings and violence at the U.S.-Mexico border on the same day that another killing occurred in the troubled border town of Nuevo Laredo.

AFRICA

* LAGOS, Nigeria -- The United States closed its consulate in the Nigerian city of Lagos after receiving a "terrorist threat" by telephone, a U.S. military official said. The move prompted Britain, Germany, Italy and Russia to close their nearby diplomatic missions. The closure of the American mission began Thursday afternoon.

THE MIDDLE EAST

* BEIRUT -- The head of a United Nations probe into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri indicated his team would question Syrian officials who were in charge of security. Detlev Mehlis was asked at a news conference whether his team would be able to question Syrian officials and intelligence, whom many Lebanese hold at least indirectly responsible for the Feb. 14 attack.

-- From News Services