S. Korea to Provide North With Rice

In Deal to Strengthen Economic Ties

SEOUL -- South Korea agreed Tuesday to provide the communist North with 500,000 tons of rice as the countries vowed to boost economic ties after North Korea announced it would end its boycott of international nuclear disarmament talks.

After negotiations lasting through the night, the two Koreas also agreed that the South would give the impoverished North raw materials to help it produce clothes, shoes and soap for internal consumption. In return, the South would be given investment rights in North Korean mining operations for zinc, magnesite and coal, the countries said in a joint statement.

The rice shipment would be the largest since 2000.


* BEIJING -- An explosion in a coal mine in China's far west killed at least 65 miners, and rescuers were searching for 18 others, the government said Tuesday.

The explosion tore through the Shenlong Coal Mine in the Xinjiang region early Monday.

China's coal mines are the world's deadliest, with explosions, floods and fires killing thousands of workers each year. Accidents often are blamed on lack of safety equipment and lax safety rules.

Accidents killed 1,113 coal miners in the first three months of this year -- up 20.8 percent from the same period of 2004, according to the government.

* BANGKOK -- Thailand discovered new cases of bird flu just as it was about to declare the country free of the disease, a livestock official said Monday.

Avian influenza has been found in fowl in villages in the central province of Suphanburi, 60 miles north of Bangkok, the capital, said Yukol Limlamthong, director general of the Agriculture Ministry's Livestock Department.

"The disease was found in 10 fighting cocks in the five villages where an outbreak hit last year," he said.


* AMSTERDAM -- The man accused of killing the Dutch film producer Theo van Gogh refused to answer questions about his possible motivation as his trial began and said he had no plans to fight the charges.

Mohammed Bouyeri, the only suspect on trial in van Gogh's killing, quoted Arabic prayers to judges and walked out of court holding a Koran above his head.

Prosecutors say Bouyeri, of Moroccan origin, attacked van Gogh on an Amsterdam street on Nov. 2, shooting him several times and then going on a rampage that targeted police officers. The killing was seen by some as an act of terrorism because van Gogh was a prominent critic of Islamic fundamentalism.

* MOSCOW -- A blaze raced through a store selling gas fireplaces in a northern Russian city, killing 19 people and injuring 17, emergency officials said. The cause of the fire in the city of Ukhta was not immediately clear.

* BELFAST -- Two gun attacks in Belfast left one man dead and another critically wounded on the eve of Northern Ireland's most tense day of the year -- the divisive "Twelfth" holiday of mass Protestant marches.

Although no group asserted responsibility, police and politicians blamed feuding between two outlawed Protestant groups -- the Ulster Volunteer Force and the Loyalist Volunteer Force -- for the bloodshed. Both groups run competing criminal rackets, including drug trafficking.

* MADRID -- Two men who have been together for 30 years got married in Spain, becoming the first couple to wed under the country's new law allowing same-sex marriages.

The ceremony took place in Tres Cantos, a town outside Madrid. The law took effect nine days ago, making Spain the third country in the world to grant full legal recognition to same-sex couples. The others are the Netherlands and Belgium. Similar legislation is pending in Canada.

* BERLIN -- A five-man independent commission of historians will investigate the Nazi past of Germany's Foreign Ministry, the government said.

In a statement, the Foreign Ministry said three historians from Germany and one each from the United States and Israel would examine the history of the ministry from 1933 to 1945.


* NAIROBI -- A new and ruthless cell with links to al Qaeda has grabbed a foothold in Somalia's capital, according to a report that dovetails with other analyses showing the lawless country could become a haven for international terrorists.

In its report, the International Crisis Group said the Mogadishu cell was led by a young Somali trained in Afghanistan, where al Qaeda was once based. The report said the group "announced its existence by murdering four foreign aid workers in the relatively secure territory of Somaliland between October 2003 and April 2004."

-- From News Services