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SOUTH AFRICA

Apartheid official spared jail term

PRETORIA — A hard-line police minister in South Africa's apartheid era and four police officers received 10-year prison terms yesterday but will not be imprisoned provided no crime is committed in the next five years. He pleaded guilty to the attempted murder of a leading black activist in 1989.

Adriaan Vlok and his former police chief Johann van der Merwe were given 10-year sentences, suspended for five years, in a case that rekindled debate about justice and retribution in a country still dealing with the scars of white rule.

The accused tried to kill anti-apartheid activist and cleric Frank Chikane, now adviser to President Thabo Mbeki, by lacing his underwear with poison. The poison attacked his nervous system, making him violently ill.

EGYPT

Police detain Islamist officials

CAIRO — Police broke up a leadership meeting of the opposition Muslim Brotherhood yesterday and took away 20 senior members, including political department chief Essam el-Erian, a Brotherhood member said.

The Egyptian government calls the Muslim Brotherhood an illegal organization and regularly detains members without charge. But members of the group hold one-fifth of the seats in parliament.

Mohamed Habib, the deputy leader of the Brotherhood, said the crackdown was timed to harass the group as it prepares to announce on Sept. 1 the program of a political party that it would like to establish.

CHINA

Reporters barred from bridge crash

BEIJING — Communist authorities have banned most state press and television from reporting on the deadly collapse of a bridge in southern China, with local officials punching and chasing reporters from the scene, reporters said yesterday.

The harassment and the reporting ban, issued by the Central Propaganda Department, came Thursday while reporters swarmed the tourist town of Fenghuang to report Monday's accident.

The collapse of the bridge, which was under construction, left at least 41 persons dead, making it one of the worst building accidents in China in recent years.

INDONESIA

Jail terms shaved for Bali bombers

JAKARTA — Ten Islamist militants jailed for suicide bombings on Bali that killed more than 220 people — many of them foreign tourists — had several months shaved off their sentences yesterday to mark Indonesia's Independence Day.

It is a local tradition to cut jail terms on holidays, but the decision was likely to anger countries that lost citizens in the 2002 and 2005 attacks on the resort island's crowded nightclubs and restaurants.

Those who benefited from the remissions were serving between eight and 18 years. Six men involved in the Oct. 12, 2002, terror strikes that claimed 202 lives — 88 of them Australians — had their sentences cut by five months. Four others convicted in the 2005 attacks that left 20 persons dead received two-month reductions.

VENEZUELA

Oil official quits in cash scandal

CARACAS — The top official in Argentina for Venezuela's state oil company has resigned, a new casualty in a scandal over a suitcase of cash found with a passenger on a flight of Argentine and Venezuelan oil executives.

Petroleos de Venezuela yesterday said it accepted the resignation of Diego Uzcategui Matheus, the president of PDVSA's Argentine unit.

The executive's son, Daniel Uzcategui Spetch, and officials from PDVSA were aboard the government-chartered flight with a Venezuelan-American businessman who brought $800,000 undeclared cash into Argentina on Aug. 4 and abandoned it when customs officials found the money.

Local reports said Mr. Uzcategui Spetch several times accompanied the businessman, Alejandro Antonini Wilson, on trips around South America.

NORTH KOREA

U.S. gives $100,000 in flood aid

The United States said yesterday it will give $100,000 to buy blankets, shelter materials, water and other items for victims of floods in North Korea. The floods have killed hundreds of people and made more than 300,000 homeless.

The money will be distributed equally to U.S. aid groups Mercy Corps and Samaritan's Purse and "is intended to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in North Korea," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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