Lebanon Frees Ex-Lawmaker Held

In Connection With Hariri's Slaying

BEIRUT -- A former Lebanese lawmaker questioned in the assassination of former prime minister Rafiq Hariri was released early Wednesday. Investigators were expected to keep interrogating four pro-Syrian generals also detained in the case.

U.N. investigators leading the probe, aided by Lebanese forensic experts, also visited two Beirut apartments possibly used by those who planned the massive Feb. 14 bombing that killed Hariri and 20 others, said a security official who declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the case.

The former legislator, Nasser Qandil, a staunch defender of Syria's influence in Lebanon, surrendered Tuesday at the request of U.N. investigators. He would not comment on the investigation following his release.

But a newspaper and television station owned by the Hariri family reported that the five were wanted for questioning in connection with a letter Qandil allegedly sent to Syrian leaders, explaining the reasons for getting rid of Hariri.

Hariri "was heading for winning a guaranteed majority in parliament that would lead to the withdrawal of the Syrian army from Lebanon," al-Mustaqbal newspaper and Future Television quoted the letter as saying. The newspaper also alleged that the four Lebanese generals had held meetings to prepare for Hariri's assassination and that they inspected the bomb scene on the eve of the attack.

Hariri's death sparked mass protests that led to the April withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon and the ouster of Lebanon's pro-Syrian government.


* MANILA -- With the opposition boycotting, a congressional committee voted to quash all impeachment complaints against President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. The move appeared to be a death blow to the opposition's legal effort to oust Arroyo over allegations that she rigged last year's election.

Her critics, however, had threatened to launch the country's third "people power" revolt if the case against the U.S.-trained economist was halted without being heard.

* KABUL, Afghanistan -- Afghan and U.S. ground troops, backed by attack helicopters, raided a Taliban camp in the mountains of Uruzgan province Tuesday, killing nine suspected militants, officials said.


* GDANSK, Poland -- World leaders paid tribute to Solidarity, saying the labor movement launched 25 years ago in the Gdansk shipyards was a catalyst for profound changes in Europe, including the fall of the Berlin Wall, the end of the Cold War and democratic revolutions in Ukraine and Georgia.

Poland's triumph over communism "led to the unification of Europe, led to a united Germany," German President Horst Koehler said at a ceremony. "Poles freed not just themselves -- they launched a process which radiates until today."

During an outdoor Mass at the shipyard gates, the late, Polish-born Pope John Paul II was honored for his historic role in inspiring the birth of Solidarity. The movement's leader, Lech Walesa, has often noted John Paul's 1979 visit to his homeland, during which he subtly criticized the Communist government.

* PARIS -- A French judge has issued an international arrest warrant for a welder in connection with the 2000 Concorde crash that killed 113 people, a lawyer involved in the case said.

The man, identified as John Taylor, an employee of Continental Airlines, has ignored two summonses to appear before a French magistrate, the lawyer said. Taylor is wanted for questioning about the replacement of a titanium alloy strip that fell off a Continental DC-10 that took off from Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris shortly before the ill-fated Concorde.

* ROME -- Migrating birds, which could spread avian flu, pose a serious risk around the world, including in Western Europe, the U.N. food agency said, rekindling fears that European experts moved to quash last week.

The Food and Agriculture Organization said parts of Eastern Europe, Africa and South Asia were at risk of being infected by the virus in the near term. Western Europe could face such a risk next year, it said.


* DAKAR, Senegal -- Conservationists say the dreaded Ebola virus, along with decades of hunting and logging, are putting some ape species on the brink of extinction in Central Africa.

Ebola, which kills through massive internal bleeding, has long been known to infect primates in Africa. It was first identified in 1976 and has since killed about 1,000 people, some of whom are believed to have contracted the disease by consuming or handling infected meat from wild animals.

* LONDON -- Although fighting has diminished in Sudan's crisis-torn Darfur region, rampant banditry has taken its place and is hitting key humanitarian aid convoys, a U.N. official said. "Not a single day goes by without two, three or four attacks on aid convoys," Keith McKenzie, UNICEF's representative in Darfur since 2004, said at a new conference in London.

* ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast -- A U.N. peacekeeper was killed in a knife attack in a northern rebel stronghold of the war-divided country, the first violent death among U.N. troops in the West African nation.

-- From News Services

In the Thick of It

Revelers covered in tomato pulp enjoy the annual "Tomatina," or tomato fight, in the Mediterranean village of Bunyol, near Valencia, Spain.