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Briefly

- - Sunday, January 15, 2012

SPAIN

3 ETA suspects arrested in France

MADRID | French police acting alongside Spanish counterparts arrested three men at a railway station in France on suspicion of belonging to Basque separatist group ETA, the Interior Ministry said Sunday.

One of those arrested in Joigny, 93 miles southeast of Paris, was identified as 33-year-old Jon Echeverria Oyarbide, for whom there is an international arrest warrant. Police said he was in possession of bomb-making materials.

The others were identified as Ruben Rivero Campo, who is wanted for "an election offense," and Inigo Sancho Marco, who is not on a wanted list, the ministry said in a statement, adding the arrests took place Saturday afternoon.

The statement said officers had spotted Mr. Echeverria at Bercy railway station in Paris and tailed him covertly to Joigny, where an apparent rendezvous with the other men took place.

The men were armed, and police found a car with false license plates in the station parking lot in Joigny.

The arrests occurred a day after Spanish Interior Minister Jorge Fernandez had insisted that, as long as ETA exists, its members would be hunted down.

RUSSIA

Space probe crashes into Pacific Ocean

MOSCOW | A failed Russian space probe crashed in the Pacific Ocean on Sunday, showering fragments south of Chile's coast in a fiery plunge, the Russian military said in a statement.

The fragments of the Phobos-Ground landed in water 775 miles west of Wellington Island, off the southern coast of Chile, according to a statement from the military Space Forces carried by Russian news agencies.

Space Forces spokesman Col. Alexei Zolotukhin said Russian tracking facilities were monitoring the probe's crash.

The Phobos-Ground was designed to travel to one of Mars' two moons, Phobos, collect soil samples and fly them back to Earth in 2014 in one of the most daunting interplanetary missions ever. It got stranded in Earth's orbit after its Nov. 9 launch, and efforts by Russian and European Space Agency experts to bring it back to life have failed.

The $170 million probe was one of the heaviest and most toxic pieces of space junk ever to crash to Earth, but space officials and experts said the risks posed were minimal because its toxic rocket fuel and most of the craft's structure would burn up in the atmosphere anyway.

It was Russia's most expensive and the most ambitious space mission since Soviet times.

UNITED KINGDOM

Scottish leader agrees to talks on referendum

LONDON | Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond has agreed to an invitation by the British government to hold talks this week in a bid to resolve a row over an independence referendum, his spokesman said Sunday.

Michael Moore, the British minister for Scotland in the United Kingdom's London-based government, asked to meet Mr. Salmond to discuss the clash over the vote, which could dissolve a 305-year union.

Mr. Salmond's spokesman said the talks would have to wait until after Wednesday, when the semiautonomous Edinburgh government is set to publish a consultation document on the referendum.

The spokesman also accused British Prime Minister David Cameron of being "uncomfortable" and of trying to avoid having talks with Mr. Salmond.

A constitutional clash erupted Tuesday after Mr. Cameron's government announced that only the parliament in London had the legal power to set the terms for a referendum, and said the vote should be held as soon as possible.

Mr. Salmond hit back hours after the announcement, saying the devolved Scottish government would hold an independence referendum in autumn 2014 and on its own terms.

There is also disagreement about whether there should be a single question - London's favored option - asking Scottish voters if they want to be "in or out," and about Mr. Salmond's wish to lower the voting age from 18 to 16.