- The Washington Times - Friday, May 17, 2002

Carter meets Cuban reform leaders

HAVANA Former President Jimmy Carter met yesterday with opponents of Fidel Castro's government.

He met with Vladimiro Roca, who was freed on May 5 after nearly five years in prison for demanding changes in Cuba's communist system, and other organizers of Project Varela, a signature drive to demand a referendum on reforms, in the house of a U.N. official.

Mr. Carter used a nationally broadcast speech on Tuesday night to mention the project. This was the first time most Cubans had heard about it. Cuba's communist news media yesterday printed his comments in full giving unprecedented attention to dissidents.

Italy cracks down on crime by immigrants

ROME Italy carried out a nationwide crackdown on crime yesterday, arresting scores of illegal immigrants in what Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi called a fight between good and evil.

The police crackdown netted 560 pounds of drugs and the arrests of about 240 people, 159 of them immigrants. Many foreigners have been detained recently as part of the sweep.

Police commander sentenced in Brazil

BELEM, Brazil A Brazilian police commander was found guilty yesterday of the murders of 19 landless peasants six years ago and sentenced to 228 years in prison in a case seen as a test of Brazil's willingness to bring police to justice.

Mario Pantoja was one of three commanding officers who ordered armed police to disperse a roadblock of the radical Landless Movement, or the MST, on April 17, 1996.

Another police officer was acquitted by the seven-member jury in Para state in northern Brazil. A third officer will be tried next week.

British referendum on euro seen likely

LONDON A strong endorsement for the euro from Prime Minister Tony Blair has sparked speculation that he will call a referendum next year on whether Britain should join the single European currency.

"The ground is clearly being prepared" for a referendum, Lord Brittan, a former Cabinet member from the main opposition Conservative Party, said yesterday.

In an interview with British Broadcasting Corp., aired Wednesday, Mr. Blair said it would be "overwhelmingly" in Britain's interests to adopt the euro if the economic conditions were right.

WHO issues warning on alternative medicine

GENEVA Increasingly popular alternative medicines, from Chinese herbal remedies to acupuncture and spiritual therapies, often are misused and may harm patients, the World Health Organization warned yesterday.

The U.N. agency called for further clinical research into the safety and efficacy of such products, consumed by up to 80 percent of people in developing countries.

Incorrect use of alternative therapies has caused deaths in wealthy countries, where more and more patients rely on them, says the report "WHO Traditional Medicine Strategy 2002-2005."

China unblocks foreign media Web sites

BEIJING China appeared to have lifted long-standing blocks on the Web sites of several Western news organizations that were freely accessible through local Internet connections in Beijing and Shanghai yesterday.

No official announcement was issued to explain why normally censored Web sites, which included those of Reuters, CNN and The Washington Post, were accessible, some as early as Wednesday evening.

Foreign news organizations have lobbied hard for China to lift blocks on their sites, but Beijing remains deeply suspicious of foreign media, especially in the run-up to an expected leadership reshuffle this year.

Plane crash victims' kin ordered to pay legal fees

SINGAPORE Families who lost relatives in a 1997 plane crash that sparked suspicions of pilot suicide lost their final appeal in a lawsuit against the Singapore-based airline and were ordered to pay its legal fees.

In a ruling released yesterday, the Supreme Court also said that by filing the lawsuit the families had forfeited the $200,000 compensation per victim originally offered by SilkAir, the regional arm of national flag carrier Singapore Airlines.

All 104 persons aboard SilkAir Flight MI185 died when the Boeing 737 nose-dived into a river on Indonesia's Sumatra island on Dec. 19, 1997. The plaintiffs in the case were from Singapore, Malaysia, the United States and Britain.

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