Japan to Ease Ban

On U.S., Canadian Beef

TOKYO -- Japan agreed Monday to ease its ban on the import of U.S. and Canadian beef, resolving a bitter trans-Pacific trade dispute two years after the first case of mad cow disease was discovered in the U.S. herd.

The move would allow meat from cows under 21 months old into Japan, which had been the most lucrative overseas market for American beef, worth $1.4 billion in 2003. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns said he believed U.S. beef could arrive in Japan within 10 days.

A survey last week by the Kyodo news agency found that 75 percent of Japanese are unwilling to eat U.S. beef because of mad cow concerns, and American ranchers say a series of new safety requirements imposed by Tokyo could keep many U.S. producers from tapping the Japanese market anyway.

Japan, which has reported 21 cases of mad cow disease since 2001, confirmed another case over the weekend. Eating beef from cattle infected with mad cow disease can cause a fatal brain disorder in humans.

THE AMERICAS

* GEORGETOWN, Guyana -- The body of an American consultant for the U.S. Agency for International Development who was apparently beaten, was found in his hotel room in the capital, police said.

Hotel staff found the body of Hubert Daniel Thompson, 55, of Staunton, Va., late Saturday, Police Chief Winston Felix said. "What we know is that his head was bashed in and he was found on a mattress on the ground," Felix said.

AFRICA

* PORT HARCOURT, Nigeria -- Four of seven people died after they were pulled from the burning wreckage of a Nigerian jetliner that crashed while landing in a storm, state television reported Sunday, raising the number killed to 107, most of them schoolchildren coming home for Christmas. The victims included an American aid worker.

Airport officials directed frantic family members to morgues in this southern oil center as a Catholic cleric in Abuja said 71 children from that city's Jesuit school died in Saturday's crash of the Sosoliso Airlines DC-9. At one overwhelmed hospital, bodies were piled together because of a lack of room.

* UNITED NATIONS -- Sudanese President Omar Hassan Bashir and 20 other government, military and Janjaweed militia members should be investigated for ordering, condoning or carrying out atrocities in the Darfur region, the New York-based Human Rights Watch said in a report.

"The Sudanese government at the highest levels is responsible for widespread and systematic abuses in Darfur," the report said, citing witness accounts, government papers and the group's investigations since mid-2003.

THE MIDDLE EAST

* TEHRAN -- Iran's parliament approved Kazem Vaziri Mahaneh for the key post of oil minister after rejecting three previous candidates put forward by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Mahaneh had been acting minister.

The rejection of three previous choices was a major embarrassment for the new president, who has also been under international pressure for his verbal attacks on Israel.

* ABUD, West Bank -- The top Roman Catholic official in the Holy Land planted an olive tree on the planned route of Israel's separation barrier in a West Bank village and prayed for the wall's removal, saying it serves no purpose.

Michel Sabbah, the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, visited the barrier, which Israel says it needs to keep Palestinian attackers out. The wall is only partially built.

"This position and the confiscation of lands have no reason at all. [The wall] doesn't benefit the security of either Israel or anybody else," Sabbah told about 1,000 people who traveled with him to the site.

-- From News Services