Sinn Fein Leaders Quit

IRA Posts, Official Says

BELFAST -- Leaders of Sinn Fein, the party linked to the Irish Republican Army, have stepped down from the IRA command in a probable prelude to a new peace move, the Irish government said Tuesday.

Justice Minister Michael McDowell said senior police officials had told him that Sinn Fein leaders Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, as well as Irish lawmaker Martin Ferris, recently were replaced in the IRA's seven-member command.

"That's my understanding," said McDowell, who in February became the first Irish government leader to identify the three as IRA commanders.

Adams has always denied membership in the IRA, but several authoritative histories of the Sinn Fein-IRA movement identify him as having been a senior commander of the outlawed group.

McGuinness has admitted to being an IRA commander and served two short prison terms in the mid-1970s for membership. Police in 1984 caught Ferris trying to smuggle a shipload of weapons from Boston to Ireland; he spent eight years in prison.

Europe

* AMSTERDAM -- Judges handed down a rare maximum life sentence with no possibility of parole to the Dutch-born Muslim who confessed to -- and expressed no regret for -- shooting, stabbing and nearly decapitating filmmaker Theo van Gogh.

Mohammed Bouyeri, 27, had mounted no defense at his two-day trial for the Nov. 2 slaying of van Gogh, whom he accused of insulting Islam, and told the court he would do it again if given the chance.

The Americas

* RIO DE JANEIRO -- Circumcising men can help protect them from the AIDS virus, researchers said after finishing the first study that tried using the procedure specifically to prevent infection.

But U.N. health officials cautioned that more trials were necessary before they would recommend circumcision as a method to protect against AIDS.

The circumcised men were 65 percent less likely to become infected with the deadly and incurable virus, the researchers told the International AIDS Society Conference in Rio de Janeiro.

* MEXICO CITY -- A judge refused to issue an arrest warrant for a former Mexican president and his interior minister, both accused of genocide in the 1971 killings of student protesters. The decision cannot be appealed, a special prosecutor said.

The ruling likely dooms the government's efforts to build a case against former president Luis Echeverria and his interior minister, Mario Moya, for their alleged role in the June 10, 1971, killings -- known as the Corpus Christi massacre -- in Mexico City.

* MEXICO CITY -- The State Department is renewing a travel advisory that warns American citizens of violence in Mexico, especially along the border, the U.S. ambassador said.

In a statement, Ambassador Tony Garza defended the advisory, the third he has requested this year. He said more than 100 violent deaths along the U.S. border since June and the killings of 18 policemen in Nuevo Laredo convinced him that the warning was still necessary.

Asia

* BOMBAY -- At least 200 people were feared trapped under collapsed houses and landslides triggered by two days of steady rain in western India, police and a relief official said.

"Rescue operations are on at different locations in the Konkan region, where several landslides have been reported," a police official in Bombay said of the region in the western state of Maharashtra.

* VIENTIANE, Laos -- Military-ruled Burma will skip its turn to chair the Association of South East Asian Nations in 2006, defusing a simmering disagreement between the Asian bloc and the West over the junta's lack of democratic reform and its detention of Aung San Suu Kyi, a democracy activist and Nobel Peace laureate.

* MANILA -- Philippine security forces are hunting 10 would-be suicide bombers and have already foiled a plot for a major attack, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's national security adviser said.

Norberto Gonzales said he was worried about possible attacks in Manila following the recent terror bombings in London and Egypt.

* JAKARTA, Indonesia -- An Indonesian court sentenced a man to four years in jail for his role in a suicide car bombing outside the Australian Embassy in Jakarta last year, the second conviction handed down in the attack.

Agus Ahmad, 31, was found guilty by the South Jakarta district court of helping alleged bombing organizer Azahari bin Husin prepare for the blast, which killed 10 people, all of them Indonesians.

-- From News Services