- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 17, 2008

COLOMBIA

Red Cross image used in rescue

BOGOTA | Colombia’s president said a Red Cross symbol was worn by a member of the military rescue mission that freed 15 hostages from leftist rebels.

President Alvaro Uribe said his government has apologized to the International Red Cross for the incident, which he said was not authorized.

A team of Colombian military intelligence agents posing as members of a fake international humanitarian group airlifted the hostages to safety July 2. Those rescued included French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt and three U.S. military contractors.

Mr. Uribe said in a speech Wednesday that a single member of the rescue team got nervous and affixed a cloth International Red Cross symbol on his vest.

A fleeting image of a portion of the cloth is visible in video taken of the operation by an agent posing as a cameraman that was officially released.

Use of the Red Cross symbol for a military operation violates the first Geneva Convention because it would damage the relief group’s image of neutrality in conflicts and could endanger medical personnel using the symbol.

NETHERLANDS

World Court orders review of sentence

THE HAGUE | The U.N.’s highest court ordered U.S. authorities on Wednesday to do everything possible to halt the executions of five Mexicans in Texas until their cases are reviewed.

The Bush administration has unsuccessfully tried to get Texas courts to review the cases and said it expected the World Court’s order to have little impact.

The World Court told U.S. authorities in 2004 to review the cases of 51 Mexicans sentenced to death by state courts after finding they had been denied the right to seek help from consular officials.

The World Court has no enforcement powers but President Bush issued a directive to the Texas courts to abide by the 2004 ruling. The state courts refused to review the cases and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 6-3 in March that the president cannot compel the state courts to comply.

Mexico turned again to the U.N. court in The Hague last month, arguing that the United States was defying the 2004 World Court order and asking the judges to issue an emergency injunction to stop the killings of five men whose executions were imminent.

NIGERIA

Gunmen attack naval houseboat

PORT HARCOURT | A band of suspected militants attacked a naval houseboat stationed in Nigeria’s restive, oil-rich south Wednesday, sparking a gunbattle that left five people dead, military officials said.

About 30 gunmen attacked a boat housing naval personnel assigned to protect strategic oil facilities just before 2 a.m., Rivers State army spokesman Sagir Musa said. An ensuing two-hour gun battle left three attackers, a naval officer and a civilian dead, Mr. Musa said. Several other attackers were shot but fled on stolen patrol boats, he said.

The houseboat was stationed near an oil piping station run by Shell Petroleum Development Co., a joint venture whose major owners are Royal Dutch Shell and the Nigerian government. The station was not targeted, and the attackers might have been after weapons on board the boat, Mr. Musa said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility Wednesday.

SUDAN

Another Darfur peacekeeper killed

UNITED NATIONS | U.N. officials say another peacekeeper with the United Nations-African Union force has been shot and killed.

The peacekeeper, believed to be a Nigerian company commander, died Wednesday while on patrol near a peacekeeping camp, officials said. His death comes a week after seven U.N.-AU peacekeepers were killed in Darfur during an ambush by about 200 gunmen on horseback and in sport utility vehicles.

The U.N. Security Council on Wednesday strongly condemned the July 8 attack, and suggested it could be considered a war crime. Council members also were expected to renew the Darfur peacekeeping mission for another year.

Their talks came days after a prosecutor announced he was seeking to arrest Sudan’s president on genocide charges.

ARGENTINA

Grain-export tax plan up for vote

BUENOS AIRES | Argentina’s President Cristina Fernandez faced one of her government’s biggest tests Wednesday: a tight Senate vote on grain-export taxes that have spawned nationwide farm strikes and scattered food shortages.

The narrow margin by which the measure is expected to pass reflects Mrs. Fernandez’s flagging popularity, which dipped to 20 percent in a recent poll amid the ongoing tax dispute. Her ruling coalition holds 40 of the Senate’s 72 seats, but will likely muster only a narrow win as many of the president’s one-time backers defect to oppose her controversial tax package.

Mrs. Fernandez decreed a more than 10 percent sliding-scale increase in export taxes on soy and other grains in March, in a bid to trap farm products on the Argentine market and drive down prices. Instead, farmers responded with widespread strikes, letting their produce sit in silos rather than sell on the president’s terms.

ITALY

Snacking banned near monuments

ROME | City Hall has banned snacking near its famous monuments in the historical center.

Officials say they want to preserve artistic treasures and decorum in a city that has millions of visitors every year.

The ordinance also bans the homeless from making makeshift beds and takes to task people who loiter in central areas at night, who, “often drunk, not only leave all manner of litter on public grounds and in the fountains, but also disturb the peace.”

The ban was passed July 10 and remains in effect until the end of October. Violators face an $80 fine.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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