War Crimes Tribunal Acquits

Officer for Kosovo Rebels

THE HAGUE -- The Yugoslav war crimes tribunal acquitted a senior officer of the Kosovo Albanian rebels Wednesday of torturing and murdering ethnic Serb and Albanian civilians at a prison camp during the 1998-99 war.

Dozens of family members and supporters applauded in approval as Fatmir Limaj's acquittal was announced.

A second defendant, Isak Musliu, was also acquitted, while the third, Haradin Bala, was sentenced to 13 years in prison for executing nine prisoners in July 1998. All three had pleaded not guilty.

It was the first trial of members of the NATO-backed Kosovo Liberation Army, which fought for independence from the Serbian state led by President Slobodan Milosevic.

In Kosovo, where Limaj is considered a hero, celebratory gunfire echoed through the province's capital, Pristina. President Ibrahim Rugova hailed the decision, saying it proved "the righteousness of the war for liberation."

Serb leaders in Kosovo criticized the ruling, saying it will further undermine Serb trust in the international community.

EUROPE

* LONDON -- To the beat of African drums, Ugandan-born John Sentamu took his throne as the first black archbishop in the Church of England, declaring his hope of inspiring the shrinking church with the confident faith of his homeland.

Sentamu, 56, recalling that one of his predecessors had dreamed of a black person taking the church's second-highest position, told an applauding congregation in York: "Well, here I am!"

Sentamu, who moved to Britain in 1974 after clashing with Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, was installed as the 97th archbishop of York in a ceremony featuring dancers in leopard skin-print outfits and feathers.

* BERLIN -- Signaling a change in style, Chancellor Angela Merkel pledged to put aside past differences between Germany and the United States even as she pressed for the Bush administration to take seriously European concerns about alleged CIA prisons in Europe.

"Let the battles of the past lie -- those battles have been fought," Merkel said in her first speech to Parliament as chancellor. "As far as the future is concerned, the new government will work with all its strength for a close, honest, open and trusting relationship in the trans-Atlantic partnership."

Merkel also promised to stand firm in her first crisis abroad -- the kidnapping of a German woman in Iraq.

* MADRID -- Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero defended his decision to sell $2 billion in ships and aircraft to Venezuela despite U.S. opposition, saying Madrid would not bow to U.S. policies.

Responding to a TV interviewer's question about whether the deal would create trouble with Washington, Zapatero, who withdrew Spanish troops from Iraq after he was elected in 2004, said: "I don't think it puts us in any trouble."

Venezuela has gone on a military spending spree that has stirred concern among U.S. officials, who are increasingly at odds with its president, Hugo Chavez.

* LONDONDERRY, Northern Ireland -- Police freed Sinn Fein politician Francie Brolly and three other people arrested on suspicion of involvement in one of the Irish Republican Army's most notorious atrocities -- a 1972 triple car-bomb attack on the mostly Protestant village of Claudy. The three men and a woman, arrested Tuesday, were released without charge.

THE MIDDLE EAST

* RIYADH, Saudi Arabia -- Two businesswomen have become Saudi Arabia's first female elected officials, a historic step in a deeply conservative country where women are largely barred from public life.

Officials said Lama Sulaiman and Nashwa Taher had won election to the board of Jiddah's chamber of commerce. The weekend elections for the chamber were the first polls in Saudi Arabia in which women were allowed to run and to vote.

* CAIRO -- Egyptian police rounded up almost 600 Muslim Brotherhood activists in the two days before the final stage of legislative elections in what the opposition group said was an attempt to disrupt its campaign.

The Brotherhood, fielding independent candidates because the authorities refuse to let it form a party, has shaken up Egyptian politics by winning 76 of the 444 elected seats in parliament two-thirds of the way through the process.

The first day of voting for the final 136 seats is Thursday.

ASIA

* TASHKENT, Uzbekistan -- Uzbekistan has barred access by foreign monitors to new trials related to an uprising in May, New York-based Human Rights Watch said, calling it a fresh official attempt to cover up the truth about killings that occurred. Uzbekistan's highest court sentenced 15 Uzbek men to between 14 and 20 years in prison this month for their role in the unrest in which witnesses say hundreds of people died when government forces shot into a crowd of protesters in the town of Andijan.

* MAE SOT, Thailand -- Burmese troops have launched attacks on rebel villages near the Thai-Burmese border, setting fire to homes and forcing 1,000 civilians to flee, a rebel leader said.

Government forces raided six villages in Karen and Kaya states over the weekend, burning 100 homes and rice barns, said Mhan Shar La Pan of the Karen National Union. The raids began a week before the junta's constitution-drafting National Convention was set to resume Monday.

THE AMERICAS

* TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras -- Honduras's presidential election remained too close to call, with the opposition candidate who was proclaimed victor three days ago leading by more than a percentage point.

With 53.5 percent of the ballots tallied, opposition Liberal Party candidate Manuel Zelaya had 48.8 percent, compared with 47.2 for Porfirio Lobo Sosa of the governing National Party, the nation's Supreme Electoral Tribunal said.

-- From News Services

Archbishop John Sentamu, right, gathers with other Church of England clerics after his inauguration as Britain's first black archbishop at a ceremony in York, northern England. As archbishop of York, Sentamu now holds the second-highest post in the church.