- The Washington Times - Monday, August 4, 2003

BAHAMAS

Captain says crash was unavoidable

NASSAU — The captain of a ferry boat that collided with a cargo ship said Sunday that he didn’t see the ship in the dark until it slammed into his port side. Four persons were killed and at least 25 were injured.

Ferry captain and owner Allen Russell said he saw no navigational lights and that there was nothing he could have done to avoid Saturday’s crash.

Mr. Russell’s 98-foot Sea Hauler ferry was carrying 194 passengers and seven crew members when it left the Bahamian capital of Nassau in calm waters Friday night, officials said.

It collided about 1 a.m. Saturday with the United Star, a 178-foot cargo ship carrying 11 persons, and cars and cargo.

Four persons aboard the ferry died after being pinned under its toppled loading crane. Two were said to be sisters, and witnesses said a third sister survived.

COLOMBIA

Paramilitary dissidents open to talks

BOGOTA — A small but strategically important group of paramilitary gunmen that has refused to negotiate an end to its war against Colombian rebels says it wants to open talks with the government.

In an interview with the newspaper El Tiempo published yesterday, the commander of the Medellin-based Metro Bloc said he had sent a letter to the government’s chief peace negotiator asking to explain “our point of view about peace.”

The warlord has been the most outspoken critic of peace negotiations aimed at disarming by 2005 the 13,000-member United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, the country’s largest paramilitary army.

ARGENTINA

Ex-junta members detained in probe

MADRID — Argentina has formally confirmed the detention of 24 members of the country’s former military junta being sought for extradition by a Spanish judge, legal sources said yesterday.

The 24 are among 44 suspects being investigated by Spain’s Judge Baltasar Garzon on suspicions of human rights abuses committed under the Argentine military dictatorship of 1976-1983.

Among those being held are retired Gen. Antonio Bussi, an elected mayor from the northern city of Tucuman, as well as former senior military figures Alfredo Astiz and Jorge Olivera.

The formal confirmation of their detention is a first step toward extradition to Spain.

ECUADOR

Labor head becomes interior minister

QUITO — Ecuador’s labor minister took over as the country’s interior minister yesterday, pledging to improve relations with opposition lawmakers as the government strives to push International Monetary Fund-required labor reforms through Congress.

President Lucio Gutierrez tapped Felipe Mantilla to lead the Interior Ministry, in charge of making alliances to push bills through Congress and halting strikes, after banker Mario Canessa quit Friday.

Mr. Mantilla, a lawyer from the port city of Guayaquil, had served as labor minister since Mr. Gutierrez took office in January and is part of the president’s Patriotic Society party.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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