Swiss Vote for Ban on

Gene-Altered Farming

ZURICH -- Swiss voters approved a five-year ban on the farming of genetically modified plants and animals on Sunday, putting in place some of the toughest restrictions in Europe.

The move, supported by farmers, ecologists and consumer groups, will force the government to impose a blanket ban on the cultivation of genetically modified crops and the import of animals whose genes have been modified in a laboratory.

The moratorium does not apply to research into genetic engineering, nor does it stop the import of genetically modified food.

But its supporters say the victory is a clear signal that Swiss consumers and farmers are in favor of GM-free food and produce, at a time when traditional Swiss farms are under threat from cuts in agricultural subsidies.

ASIA

* TOKYO -- Thousands of Tokyo residents were evacuated while authorities dug up an unexploded 550-pound bomb, believed to have been dropped by U.S. forces during World War II, a local official said.

The bomb, about 14 inches in diameter and 47 inches long, was detected earlier this month in a residential area in Tokyo's Katsushika ward by Self-Defense Forces investigators, said Takanori Kato, a Katsushika spokesman.

About 3,900 residents within a 985-foot radius of the site were evacuated while troops removed the bomb, Kato said.

THE MIDDLE EAST

* TEHRAN -- An earthquake with a magnitude of at least 5.9 shook a sparsely populated area of southern Iran, flattening seven villages, killing 10 people and injuring 70, officials and state-run television said. The quake was felt as far away as Oman and the United Arab Emirates.

Heidar Alishvandi, the governor of Qeshm, was quoted by state television as saying rescue teams had been deployed to the affected area and people in the wrecked villages had been quickly to safety.

* SANAA, Yemen -- A suspected al Qaeda ally was executed by a Yemeni firing squad after being convicted of killing a prominent politician and plotting a deadly attack on three American missionaries in 2002.

Ali Jarallah was blindfolded and shot in the courtyard of the central prison in the capital, Sanaa, in the presence of judiciary officials, several reporters and the victim's attorney.

Jarallah was convicted in 2003 of helping plot the attack on a Baptist charity hospital that killed William Koehn, 60, of Kansas; Kathleen A. Gariety, 53, of Wauwatosa, Wis.; and Martha Myers, 57, of Montgomery, Ala. He was also convicted of murdering Jarallah Omar, the Yemeni Socialist Party's deputy secretary general.

THE AMERICAS

* TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras -- Voters choosing a president were split between a hard-liner who promises to wipe out violent crime with the death penalty and a rival who vows to eliminate widespread corruption. Polls showed a tight race between Porfirio Lobo Sosa of the governing National Party and the Liberal Party candidate Manuel Zelaya.

Lobo Sosa, widely reported to have studied in a communist school in the former Soviet Union, is now a hard-line conservative. As congressional president, he helped current President Ricardo Maduro push through laws to criminalize gang membership.

Zelaya, a former congressman and bank director, insists the shortest road to prosperity for a country with a 70 percent poverty rate is to eliminate corruption, which he claims is rife in the government and the private sector.

* TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras -- Police recaptured a 16-year-old who had escaped five times in three years from a crumbling prison, an official said. Herlan Colindres, who is accused of killing a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent, was carrying a gun when he was caught in Tegucigalpa, the capital, Security Minister Armando Calidonio said.

Colindres and his 13-year-old bodyguard were arrested in July in the killing of Michael Timothy Markey, a DEA agent who was shot to death while visiting a temple dedicated to Honduras's patron saint outside Tegucigalpa.

* CARACAS, Venezuela -- President Hugo Chavez praised Spain for going ahead with a $1.56 billion sale of military ships and planes to his government despite U.S. concerns that it could destabilize the region. The deal involves four coastal patrol ships, four corvettes, 10 C-295 transport planes and two maritime surveillance aircraft.

Flush with cash from high oil prices, Venezuela has pursued arms deals with Russia, Brazil and Spain to modernize its armed forces. Russia is selling Caracas 100,000 Kalashnikov rifles and at least 10 military helicopters.

EUROPE

* KIEV, Ukraine -- Pirates freed a Ukrainian cargo ship seized nearly 40 days ago off the coast of Somalia, Ukraine's Foreign Ministry said. The Panahia's 22 crew members were safe after being freed late Saturday, and by noon Sunday the ship was 90 miles from Somalia's east coast, the ministry said.

It was not immediately clear whether the $700,000 ransom demanded by the pirates had been paid. The ship was carrying iron ore from South Africa to Turkey when it was seized on Oct. 18.

* VADUZ, Liechtenstein -- Voters in this tiny Alpine principality soundly rejected an initiative that critics said would have prevented abortion, birth control, assisted suicide and living wills. Fewer than 20 percent of voters cast ballots in favor of the constitutional amendment, supported by the country's Roman Catholic archbishop, seeking to protect human life from "conception to natural death."

Instead, nearly 80 percent ratified a government counterproposal, which legal experts say brings the country's legal framework for issues such as abortion and birth control into line with European standards.

AFRICA

* HARARE, Zimbabwe -- The ruling party of Zimbabwe swept an overwhelming majority of seats in a newly created Senate, according to partial results of an election marked by record low turnout and a deeply divided opposition. President Robert Mugabe's ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front appeared to win at least 47 of 66 seats in the Senate.

-- From News Services

Voters cast ballots near Grozny, Chechnya, in a parliamentary election seen as a key step in Russian President Vladimir Putin's effort to defeat separatist rebels by turning power over to pro-Moscow Chechens. The poster shows Akhmad Kadyrov, the Chechen president who was assassinated in May 2004.