- The Washington Times - Monday, April 9, 2001

Social fund created to protect the poor

CARACAS, Venezuela Mexico, Colombia and Venezuela will create a $100 million social fund to protect the poor as Latin America dismantles its trade barriers, presidents of the three nations announced yesterday.

"It's an extraordinary idea [designed] to inject much more social content into the process of integration," Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said. "What do we do with the poor? Keep excluding them from all [trade] agreements? No. There can be no integration accord that excludes them because it won't work."

Mr. Chavez and his Mexican and Colombian counterparts, Vicente Fox and Andres Pastrana, announced the fund after a weekend summit aimed at reviving a 6-year-old trade bloc dubbed the Group of Three.

Fire at Schiphol airport forces evacuation

AMSTERDAM Thousands of people were evacuated from Schiphol international airport in Amsterdam yesterday after an explosion and fire in a fast-food restaurant in the passenger terminal.

The fire department said the blaze started in when a french fryer overheated in the airport's Burger King billed by the company as its busiest outlet in the world. Workers said they scrambled over the counter and ran when they heard the explosion in the kitchen.

Fire Chief Pieter Heere said no one was injured, but a police statement said one person was treated for smoke inhalation.

Iran cracks down on opposition

TEHRAN Forty members of Iran's main opposition group have been arrested, media reports said yesterday, the latest crackdown by Islamic hard-liners who appear to be trying to clear the field ahead of the June presidential election.

The action against the outlawed Freedom Movement's top leadership was immediately condemned by the largest party backing reformist President Mohammad Khatami.

The Islamic Iran Participation Front called on Iranians "to turn out in large numbers in the presidential election to exercise their rights and say 'no' to actions incompatible with freedom, justice and the rule of law."

Liberia calls up army to counter attacks

MONROVIA, Liberia President Charles Taylor has ordered the government to begin raising a 15,000-strong force to counter what Liberia says is a cross-border offensive from guerrillas based in Guinea.

Liberia says Guinea-based Liberian rebels started attacking northern border towns on Wednesday and Thursday. Control of at least two embattled towns, Foya and Kolahun, was not certain yesterday, according to reports in the capital, Monrovia.

Heavy fighting was reported overnight on Saturday as more rebels tried to cross over near Foya.

Former king announces challenge for poll

SOFIA, Bulgaria Bulgaria's exiled King Simeon II announced a new political grouping yesterday to contest June 17 general elections, making him the first monarch in post-communist east Europe to enter active politics.

King Simeon told some 600 politicians and intellectuals gathered for the founding meeting of the National Movement for Simeon II that it was not a royalist organization.

"It must be clear to all that monarchy is not on the movement's agenda. There are much more important priorities for the country," said King Simeon, who has lived in exile since being forced out by the communists in 1946. "This is a national movement, for all people, it is not a royalist movement," he said.

10 miners feared dead in Zambia accident

CHINGOLA, Zambia Ground movement caused a slope in an open-pit copper mine to collapse yesterday afternoon, burying 10 mine workers in sand, a mine spokeswoman said. The miners were feared dead. The accident happened at the Konkola Copper Mines in Chingola, some 185 miles north of Zambia's capital, Lusaka.

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