- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 22, 2001

Britain suspends N. Ireland coalition

BELFAST Britain said yesterday it was suspending Northern Ireland's shaky home-rule government at midnight in a bid to end a stalemate over guerrilla disarmament and other tensions plaguing the landmark Good Friday peace pact.

British sources said the suspension was unlikely to last more than 24 hours.

It was the second time since August that Britain had suspended the Protestant-Roman Catholic coalition, using a legal loophole to create a six-week breathing space for talks among the province's feuding parties.

The Good Friday peace accord is stalled over the IRA's refusal to start shedding the arms that sustained a long anti-British war, and disputes about policing and demands for Britain to withdraw its troops.

Blast stirs panic in French city

TOULOUSE, France A huge explosion ripped through a petrochemical plant in this southwestern French city yesterday, killing at least 15 persons and injuring 240 as residents panicked, fearing a terrorist attack similar to the ones on the United States.

Authorities, however, said the explosion at the AZF plant was probably an accident.

The 10:15 a.m. blast left a 165-foot-wide crater and destroyed two large buildings at the site as well as several others nearby, including an appliance store where several people were killed, authorities said.

"It's awesome. We were all reminded of the United States. The blast was so strong that it blew off the roofs and the walls of buildings 300 to 400 [yards] away," said one rescue worker.

Yemen begins militants crackdown

SANAA, Yemen Yemen has launched a crackdown on "Arab Afghans" believed to have links to fugitive Osama bin Laden, Washington's prime suspect in the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States.

"We have brought in 20 people for questioning and are trying to get information about bin Laden and his group," Yemeni Prime Minister Abdel Kader Bajammal was quoted as saying in yesterday's ath-Thawra newspaper.

Apart from his role in bombing the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, bin Laden has also been linked to a suicide attack against the destroyer USS Cole in Aden port in southern Yemen last October in which 17 American servicemen died.

"These preventative arrests were carried out in response to a U.S. request for cooperation in the investigation into the attacks," Bajammal told the U.S. television network CNN in an interview published by ath-Thawra.

The "Arab Afghans" are Arabs who went to Afghanistan to fight the Soviet invasion of the country in the 1980s and then fought by the side of the hard-line Taliban Islamic militia that now rules most of the country.

Macedonia tentatively OKs peace-plan reform

SKOPJE, Macedonia Macedonia's parliament gave grudging preliminary approval yesterday to the first three of 15 constitutional reforms underpinning a peace accord with minority Albanian guerrillas.

The first three amendments won 62 votes, the bare minimum required for passage toward the final ratification stage later when the package must obtain a two-thirds majority to become law. A fourth was rejected after mustering only 60 votes.

The amendments given interim approval would drop the exclusive reference to "national state of the Macedonian people" in the constitution's preamble, allow limited official use of the Albanian language and give Albanians jobs in public service commensurate with their share of the population.

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