French Court Convicts

62 in Pedophilia Case

ANGERS, France -- A court convicted 62 defendants Wednesday in a mass pedophilia trial and sentenced some of them to up to 28 years in prison for their roles in a network that subjected children in western France to systematic rape and prostitution.

In the harrowing case, prosecutors said 45 children between the ages of 6 months and 14 years were raped and abused in a working-class neighborhood of Angers from 1999 to 2002 -- at times in exchange for small amounts of money, food, alcohol or cigarettes.

Three of the 65 defendants, who included the children's parents, grandparents and acquaintances, were acquitted.

About 10 of the young victims followed the proceedings in a nearby courtroom, with magistrates explaining. They were relieved by the verdict, said Alain Fouquet, an attorney for some of the children. "It's a fair verdict because it's severe," he said.


* KARLSRUHE, Germany -- Germany's top court limited the right of police to listen to the telephone calls of criminal suspects, saying wide-ranging powers granted to police in one federal state were unconstitutional.

The western state of Lower Saxony had allowed investigators since last year to tap telephones and monitor mobile phone, fax and e-mail messages of people they believe will commit serious crimes.

* PARIS -- The leaders of France and Israel put a row over anti-Semitism behind them and looked for ways to bring peace and security to the Middle East.

President Jacques Chirac gave Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon a warm welcome at a lunch meeting that both sides wanted to go well after ties were strained last year when Sharon urged French Jews to escape anti-Semitism by emigrating.


* VIENTIANE, Laos -- A major Asia-Pacific security forum suffered another serious setback when Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing said he would skip the meeting for a surprise trip to Burma.

His Indian counterpart, Natwar Singh, also pulled out of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations' annual meeting on Thursday and Friday, dealing yet another blow to a security institution already struggling for relevance after no-shows by top diplomats from Washington and Tokyo.

* BOMBAY -- India's financial capital was paralyzed by the strongest rains ever recorded in the nation, with torrential downpours marooning drivers, snapping communication lines and leaving at least 200 people dead statewide.

An additional 100 deaths are feared across Maharashtra state, of which Bombay is the capital.

* LAHORE, Pakistan -- The fugitive who set up the initial meeting between Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl and his kidnappers was arrested in a bus terminal, officials said.

Hashim Qadeer, listed among Pakistan's most wanted men in 2003, was captured in the eastern city of Gujranwala after being under police surveillance for three days, according to officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.

* ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- About 500 people have been detained in Pakistan in a week-long crackdown on Islamic clerics and bookshop owners accused of inciting hatred and suspected militants, a government minister said.

the Middle East

* CAIRO -- Police hunted at least 15 Islamic militants for allegedly aiding the bombings in Sharm el-Sheikh, and Egyptian officials said all were believed linked to a resort attack last fall while operating from a Sinai desert town.

* TEHRAN -- Iran said it would restart some nuclear activities as soon as August and announced it has developed solid-fuel technology for its ballistic missiles, increasing the accuracy of weapons already able to reach Israel and U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf.

the AMericas

* BOGOTA, Colombia -- Colombia has offered to meet Marxist rebels at a time and place of their own choosing to negotiate an exchange of about 70 hostages -- including a former presidential candidate and three Americans -- for guerrillas held in state prisons.

-- From News Services