- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 8, 2005


Police blame IRA for bank robbery

BELFAST — The Irish Republican Army stole $50 million from a Belfast bank, the Northern Ireland police chief bluntly declared yesterday — an announcement that rocked the foundations of the peace process.

The British and Irish governments accepted Chief Constable Hugh Orde’s verdict and said the development has gravely undermined years of effort to revive a Catholic-Protestant administration involving Sinn Fein, the IRA-linked party.

The Dec. 20 raid on the Northern Bank, when a gang held the families of two employees hostage until the bank’s main vault was cleared out, was the biggest cash robbery in history. It came a week after months of negotiations narrowly failed to reach a new power-sharing deal.


U.N. to open human rights center

GENEVA — The United Nations is set to open its first human-rights center in the Middle East to advise governments and help train police and judiciaries, a spokesman said yesterday.

Agreement to open the center by October follows talks this week in Qatar, which has offered to host a regional center.

The U.N. center would advise governments, national human-rights bodies and nongovernmental organizations, but would not monitor human rights, the spokesman said.

Many of the region’s autocratic governments have come under strong Western pressure to reform and improve human rights since the September 11 attacks, blamed on Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda network.


Trains collide in fog; at least 13 killed

BOLOGNINA DI CREVALCORE — A passenger train and a freight train collided head-on in heavy fog in northern Italy yesterday, killing at least 13 persons, injuring dozens and crushing several cars into a wreck of buckled metal.

The force of the crash, on a line between Bologna and Verona, lifted one train car vertically into the air until it was nearly perpendicular to the tracks. Rescue workers struggled to keep their balance as they scaled the car with ladders. Another passenger car was ripped nearly in half.


Volcker panel to post documents on Net

The U.N. committee investigating the oil-for-food scandal said yesterday that a complete set of previously secret internal U.N. audits would be posted on the Internet on Monday (www.iic-offp.org).

The committee, headed by former Federal Reserve Board Chairman Paul Volcker, also said it will release preliminary findings of its investigation in late January or early February.

The committee is investigating charges of bribes, kickbacks and embezzlement against the regime of Saddam Hussein from the 1996-2003 U.N.-run program that was intended to ease the impact of sanctions on Iraq.


Convicted art thief attempts suicide

STRASBOURG — French prosecutors yesterday asked that a 33-year-old art thief, already convicted in Switzerland of stealing dozens of works of art, be sentenced to three years in a French prison for similar offenses.

The request came after Stephane Breitwieser, described by his attorney as “deeply depressed,” tried to commit suicide by hanging himself in his jail cell overnight. His cellmate saved him by alerting authorities.

Prosecutors also sought a three-year sentence for Breitwieser’s mother, Mireille Stengel, who was charged with receiving stolen goods and destroying some 200 stolen items.

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