- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 9, 2003

JAPAN

Mars mission dropped near goal

TOKYO — Japan abandoned its troubled mission to Mars on Tuesday after space officials failed in their final effort to put the Nozomi probe back on course to orbit the Red Planet.

The probe, Japan’s first interplanetary explorer, had been traveling for five years toward Mars and would have reached the planet next week.

But officials at Japan Aeronautics Exploration Agency said Nozomi was off target and that scientists gave up trying to salvage the mission after an attempt to fire the probe’s engines failed because it was short on fuel.

FRANCE

Basque separatist arrested with cohorts

PAU — French police arrested the military leader of the banned Basque separatist group ETA yesterday and three persons suspected of being with three suspected accomplices, French and Spanish officials said.

Gorka Palacios Alday was taken into custody near Pau, in the southwest. Spanish authorities said the other suspects included Juan Luis Rubenach, considered ETA’s chief of logistics, and Inigo Vallejo, who reportedly prepared attacks that were to have coincided with a European Union summit.

Mr. Palacios Alday took command of ETA’s armed operations from Juan Ibon Fernandez de Iradi, who was captured a year ago but escaped.

ETA stands for Basque Homeland and Freedom. It is blamed in Spain for more than 800 killings since the late 1960s with a campaign of bombings and shootings aimed at carving an independent Basque homeland out of territory straddling northern Spain and southwest France.

BRAZIL

Authorities arrest cops in bribe case

BRASILIA — Brazilian authorities arrested 32 reputedly corrupt police officers yesterday in the biggest police operation to clamp down on drug smuggling on the unruly border area with Paraguay and Argentina.

The operation included 200 federal police officials and was aimed at breaking up a gang that paid police to turn a blind eye to cars and buses crossing the border with drugs and other smuggled goods on board, a federal police statement said.

The border where Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay meet is notorious for smuggling, above all of guns and drugs, but also of alcohol, tobacco and electronics.

Monitoring of the area has increased recently because of suspicions that Muslim militants raise funds there.

COLOMBIA

Marxist rebels decide to keep hostages

BOGOTA — Colombian Marxist rebels said yesterday that they had suspended plans to free four Israelis and a Briton before Christmas after the army staged a rescue mission that guerrillas said risked the hostages’ lives.

“There are no security conditions to allow the release before Christmas as is our desire,” the National Liberation Army said in a communique.

The 5,000-strong ELN released a Spanish and a German backpacker last month and had promised to free the remaining hostages before Christmas. The group of backpackers was kidnapped on Sept. 12 near the northern Sierra Nevada mountains.

BRITAIN

Queen faces knee surgery

LONDON — Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II will have an operation on Friday to remove torn cartilage in her left knee, a Buckingham Palace spokeswoman said yesterday.

It will be the second such operation for the 77-year-old monarch this year, after a similar one on her right knee in January after she stumbled walking on uneven ground.

After that operation she had to rest for two weeks.

The queen has been healthy most of her life and still enjoys the outdoor life.


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