- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 23, 2002

Castro calls session to OK socialism law

HAVANA Cuban leader Fidel Castro has called a special parliamentary session for tomorrow to approve inscribing Cuba's socialist system as "untouchable" in the nation's constitution a move backed by a massive signature drive.

In a letter read on state television yesterday, Mr. Castro agreed to the request by National Assembly President Ricardo Alarcon for a special session to approve the proposed constitutional change.

Mr. Alarcon had announced earlier that lawmakers would meet in regular session on July 5, and the proposal had been expected to be approved then. But because of the "historical transcendence" of the amendment, he asked Mr. Castro on Friday to call a special session sooner.

Two more blasts rock Spain's coastal resorts

MIJAS, Spain Two bombs rocked Spain's tourist coasts yesterday, bringing the number of attacks to five in two days that the government blamed on Basque separatist group ETA trying to disrupt a EU summit in Seville.

"Terrorists have tried to create a climate of fear and a landscape of destruction," Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar said in the southern city as leaders of the European Union wound up two days of talks.

There were no serious injuries in the blasts yesterday, although a policeman was slightly hurt in the second attack. The first blast occurred at Mijas in the south; the second was at Santander in the north. A British tourist was badly injured on Friday when a car bomb went off in the popular southern resort of Fuengirola.

Floods in Russia leave 28 dead

ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia Flood waters swept away homes, washed out bridges and left at least 28 people dead and 20,000 homeless across southern Russia. Rescuers in helicopters plucked residents to safety yesterday some from trees to which they clung.

Other helicopters flew in food and water for drivers stranded on the region's main highway. Damage has been estimated at $106 million. Stavropol, northern Ossetia and the separatist republic of Chechnya were among the regions badly hit.

Karzai names remainder of Cabinet

KABUL, Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai named the rest of his Cabinet yesterday, filling more than a dozen posts but leaving one conspicuously vacant: the ministry of women's affairs.

Mr. Karzai did not explain why Sima Samar, who held the post previously, had not been reappointed. An outspoken advocate of women's rights, she is reported to have received threats from extremists this month during the loya jirga.

Mr. Karzai had announced half of his Cabinet on Wednesday, the final day of the national assembly that re-elected him.

Pacific storm slows solo balloon flight

SANTIAGO, Chile Adventure balloonist Steve Fossett deliberately slowed his high-speed run across the South Pacific yesterday to avoid a thunderstorm that could thwart his sixth attempt to become the first solo balloonist to circle the world nonstop.

Mr. Fossett, a 58-year-old U.S. millionaire, descended to just 1,300 feet from his cruising altitude of 23,000 feet as he drifted south of Easter Island. His speed dropped to 21 mph from 44 mph.

The storm was the first obstacle faced by the former stockbroker since a smooth liftoff Wednesday from the Australian outback.

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