- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 6, 2003

ITALYBerlusconi addresses court in bribery trialROME — In the first trial of a governing Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi stood before a court yesterday and denied bribery charges, insisting that his role in a contested business deal served the best interests of the nation. Mr. Berlusconi is accused of bribing judges in Rome to sway a ruling on the sale of then-state-controlled food company SME in the 1980s, before he was a politician. Mr. Berlusconi says the company was about to be sold off too cheaply, so he stepped in after pleas from then-Prime Minister Bettino Craxi. Mr. Craxi is among those who fell from power in the so-called “Bribesville” scandal that toppled some of Italy’s leading politicians a decade ago and revealed widespread government corruption. He was a Berlusconi ally and died in 2000 in Tunisia, where he was living in self-imposed exile to avoid prison on corruption convictions.NORTH KOREAPyongyang: Dialogue with U.S. at riskSEOUL — North Korea threatened yesterday to scuttle all nuclear talks unless the United States responds positively to its offer to dismantle its nuclear program in exchange for economic and diplomatic payoffs. Pyongyang also accused Washington of complicating efforts to resolve the nuclear crisis by again including the Stalinist state on a list of countries suspected of sponsoring terrorism. It denounced Washington for ignoring the North’s proposal, presented at talks in Beijing last month meant to defuse the six-month-old nuclear crisis.SOUTH AFRICAApartheid fighter Sisulu dies at age 90JOHANNESBURG — Anti-apartheid icon Walter Sisulu, a veteran of the struggle against white rule in South Africa and longtime friend of Nelson Mandela, died yesterday at age 90.Mr. Sisulu, a diminutive man who knew gut-wrenching poverty and the indignity of racial discrimination firsthand, was born in 1912, the same year as the creation of the African National Congress, the liberation movement that won power in 1994.Rising from humble rural origins, he became one of the leading lights of former South African President Mandela’s ANC.CHINASubmarine crew’s families met by officialsBEIJING — China’s president and his predecessor held an emotional meeting with six relatives of the 70 sailors killed in a mysterious Yellow Sea submarine accident disclosed days ago, state television reported yesterday. The report showed President Hu Jintao and his predecessor, Jiang Zemin, boarding the seemingly undamaged vessel Sunday in the northern port of Dalian. The vessel’s condition supported suggestions that the 70-member crew was killed by toxic fumes or a malfunction with the air supply. The government said Friday that all 70 sailors aboard the submarine died in the disaster off China’s northeastern coast, but it has not said how they died or exactly when the disaster occurred. It was the first fatal submarine accident announced by China and one of its worst known military disasters.COLOMBIAFARC executes high-level hostages BOGOTA — Colombian Marxist rebels have killed a provincial governor, a former defense minister and eight soldiers they were holding hostage to pressure for a prisoner release, officials said yesterday. The bodies of Antioquia Province Gov. Guillermo Gaviria and former Defense Minister Gilberto Echeverri and the eight soldiers were found in the countryside near the northeastern Colombian town of Urrao by security forces, military and government officials said. The dead were among a group of about 80 prisoners, including soldiers, lawmakers, a former presidential candidate and three U.S. civilian Defense Department contractors, whom the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia wanted to exchange for jailed guerrillas. Mr. Gaviria and Mr. Echeverri were kidnapped by the guerrilla army, known by the Spanish acronym FARC, in April last year.

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