Brazilian Says He Shot U.S. Nun in Self-Defense

BELEM, Brazil -- The man accused of killing the American nun and rain forest defender Dorothy Stang told a jury Friday that he acted in self-defense after mistaking her Bible for a gun.

Rayfran das Neves Sales is accused of killing Stang, 73, with six shots from a .38-caliber revolver on Feb. 12 on a muddy road in Para state, deep in the Amazon rain forest.

Sales testified that he and Stang had an argument over who owned the land he was working and that Stang threatened to "finish him off" with the help of some 150 people living on a sustainable development reserve she was trying to establish.

Prosecutors allege that Vitalmiro Moura, a rancher, offered Sales and co-defendant Clodoaldo Carlos Batista $25,000 to kill the nun, who had spent 30 years defending poor settlers in the rain forest.

THE MIDDLE EAST

* CHTOURA, Lebanon -- Lebanon's Hezbollah group accused Israel of carrying out a failed attempt to kill one of its officials and said it would do "what is necessary" to defend itself.

"We blame the Zionist enemy for planning and executing this attack," a Hezbollah statement said after a blast destroyed the official's car seconds after he had gotten out and gone into the house of a senior leader of the group in eastern Lebanon.

Israeli officials denied any Israeli military involvement.

EUROPE

* MADRID -- Police have arrested at least seven people suspected of financing and giving logistical support to an Islamic extremist group with links to al Qaeda, officials said. The arrests were made late Thursday and early Friday in the Costa del Sol region.

* MADRID -- Croatian war crimes suspect Ante Gotovina, arrested Wednesday in the Canary Islands after four years on the run, had used a false passport to travel widely, stopping in Argentina, China, Chile, Russia and Tahiti, officials said.

* SOFIA, Bulgaria -- Bulgaria will withdraw its 334-member light infantry battalion from Iraq by the end of the year and after Iraqi elections next week, Defense Minister Veselin Bliznakov said. The decision speeds up a pullout that was scheduled to take months.

* MOSCOW -- President Vladimir Putin sent lawmakers a list of proposals softening a bill that charities and pro-democracy groups had said would make it harder for them to operate in Russia. But Russian nongovernmental groups said the changes were superficial and that the main thrust of the law remained.

* DUBLIN -- More than 70,000 labor union members brought Irish cities to a standstill with demonstrations against a plan to replace ferry workers with low-paid Eastern Europeans.

ASIA

* BANGKOK -- A 5-year-old boy became Thailand's second bird flu fatality in two months, while China announced its fifth human case. The official New China News Agency reported that a farmer in the northeast had tested positive for the deadly H5N1 virus but recovered.

AFRICA

* HARARE, Zimbabwe -- In a personal attack, President Robert Mugabe called a U.N. envoy "a liar" for saying humanitarian conditions in Zimbabwe were nearing meltdown.

The U.N. emergency relief coordinator, Jan Egeland, who ended a three-day visit Wednesday, expressed alarm about food shortages and the country's AIDS epidemic, among other issues.

Mugabe also accused Egeland, who is Norwegian, of using poor English when the two met Tuesday in Harare, the capital.

-- From News Services