- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 19, 2004

IRAN

Brake failure blamed in train explosion

NEYSHABUR — Negligence or brake failure likely caused a 51-car train to roll out of a switchyard and eventually reach a speed of more than 90 mph before it derailed, caught fire and exploded, killing at least 320 persons and injuring hundreds, a top Iranian official said yesterday.

An iron wedge used to secure the wheels of the lead car was broken, and it was not clear whether the brakes on individual cars were working, said Hassan Rasouli, governor of Iran’s northeastern Khorasan province.

The train had been loaded with gasoline, fertilizer, sulfur and cotton. At least 460 persons were wounded, the governor said.

BRITAIN

Five Guantanamo prisoners to return

LONDON — Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said yesterday that five Britons jailed at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, will be returned home in several weeks. But they could be arrested again upon arrival.

He said discussions were continuing on the fate of the remaining four British citizens being held.

Earlier yesterday, Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen told his parliament that a Dane held at Guantanamo Bay will be released soon.

ISRAEL

Military gets new F-16 jets

RAMON AIR FORCE BASE — Israeli military chiefs and politicians cheered the arrival yesterday of the first in a fleet of U.S.-made warplanes bought to keep Israel’s strategic edge over Middle East adversaries.

Two F-16 jets swooped into Ramon air base in the Negev Desert, part of the biggest military purchase — $4.5 billion — in the embattled 55-year history of the Jewish state.

In all, 102 jets are to be delivered by the end of the decade.

CYPRUS

Leaders begin talks on unification

NICOSIA — Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash and Greek Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos met for two hours yesterday at the opening of talks seen as the best chance in 30 years to reunify their divided island, with both sides staking out tough positions — a signal that the discussions are likely to be long and difficult.

The U.N.-sponsored talks aim to reunite the Mediterranean island before it enters the European Union on May 1.

BRITAIN

Simon Wiesenthal to be knighted

LONDON — Britain awarded an honorary knighthood to 95-year-old Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal yesterday for “a lifetime of service to humanity” pursuing Holocaust perpetrators.

Mr. Wiesenthal spent most of five decades tracking down more than 1,000 Nazi war criminals responsible for the mass murder of Jews in World War II.

HUNGARY

Azeri hacks Armenian at NATO event

BUDAPEST — An Armenian military officer attending a NATO Partnership for Peace program was hacked to death yesterday morning with an ax and a knife by a participant from Azerbaijan, police officials said.

The officers were attending an English-language course within the framework of the Partnership for Peace program, which is aimed at increasing cooperation between neutral and former Soviet bloc nations and NATO in peacekeeping and other areas.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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