New rebel groups seen as Macedonia threats
BUDAPEST New rebel groups emerging in Macedonia are threatening to undermine a Western-backed peace plan in the former Yugoslav republic, President Boris Trajkovsky warned yesterday.
But Mr. Trajkovsky, who pledged that a promised amnesty for ethnic Albanian National Liberation Army (NLA) rebels would be honored, stood firm against threats by rebels to take up arms again.
The NLA began an insurgency earlier this year that threatened to escalate into civil war, but it surrendered its weapons to NATO troops in September under a peace plan that included an amnesty for rebels.
Colombian rebels join peace parley in Cuba
BOGOTA, Colombia The Colombian government and representatives of the country’s second-largest leftist insurgency met yesterday in Cuba in a bid to kick-start peace talks frozen since August, according to government officials.
Colombia’s peace commissioner, Camilo Gomez, headed the government’s delegation, while the pro-Cuban National Liberation Army (ELN) was represented by commanders Ramiro Vargas and Oscar Santos, according to the Colombian presidency.
Attempts to negotiate with the 4,500-strong ELN have hit a series of hurdles in the past and were halted on Aug. 6 by President Andres Pastrana, who said the insurgents had no real desire to negotiate.
Chile reports anthrax letter
SANTIAGO, Chile A letter received in Chile contained deadly anthrax bacteria, Health Minister Michelle Bachelet confirmed yesterday.
Some 13 persons who came into contact with the letter have been placed under medical treatment, the minister said. She did not reveal where the letter had been sent, but she indicated it may have been an office.
Authorities were alerted after discrepancies were noted between the European postmark on the letter and the U.S. return address written on it by the sender.
EU solicits funding for reaction force
BRUSSELS Faced with serious shortfalls in its planned rapid-reaction military force, the European Union won pledges from members yesterday to increase contributions to the unit.
EU foreign and defense ministers also adopted a plan to correct other shortcomings in the campaign to raise a 60,000-man rapid-reaction force, which is supposed to be ready by 2003.
The 15-nation union is creating its own force, separate from NATO, to be used for humanitarian, peacekeeping and regional crisis missions. The EU force is supposed to be able to deploy within 60 days and sustain itself in the field for up to a year.
Scientists identify spina bifida gene
LONDON British scientists said yesterday they had found a gene that causes a severe form of spina bifida, a devastating birth defect that is the leading cause of paralysis in children.
The gene was located in a strain of mice, but researchers at the Institute of Child Health at University College and Imperial College in London said it had the same function in humans.
Spina bifida is one of the most common birth defects in children. It occurs in one in 1,000 pregnancies, when the vertebrae surrounding the spinal cord in the embryo fail to form.
Food vandals win acquittal again
WORCESTER, England Two British protesters were cleared yesterday of causing criminal damage to a field of genetically-modified corn, the second high-profile acquittal involving destruction of the experimental crops in a year.
Barbara Charvet, 59, and Jim Rideout, 26, cut down about 2 acres of both modified and non-modified plants at Preston Wynne, Herefordshire in August 2000, in protest at government trials.
A jury at Worcester crown court accepted their defense that they had a lawful excuse for their actions.
Mr. Rideout had accused the government of failing to heed concerns about genetically modified foods.