- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 27, 2005

BRITAIN

Ex-prime minister Callaghan dies at 92

LONDON — Former Labor Prime Minister James Callaghan, who presided over a chaotic winter of strikes that opened the door to Margaret Thatcher’s free-market reforms, died yesterday on the eve of his 93rd birthday.

His family said Mr. Callaghan, known as “Sunny Jim” for his avuncular character, died at his home in southern England just 11 days after the death of Audrey, his wife of 67 years.

“Jim Callaghan was one of the giants of the Labor movement, whose long and active life almost spans the history of the party he served so superbly,” said Tony Blair, Britain’s first Labor Party prime minister since Mr. Callaghan.

Mr. Callaghan, from a modest working-class background and, unusually for a British prime minister, lacking any university education, became prime minister in 1976 after the surprise resignation of Labor leader Harold Wilson.

But he lasted just three years before the strong ties he had nurtured with the trade union movement all his life unraveled chaotically through the bitter winter of 1978-79, when a battery of pay strikes plunged the country into misery.

AFGHANISTAN

Land mine kills four U.S. soldiers

KABUL — Four U.S. soldiers died when their vehicle struck a land mine in central Afghanistan yesterday, the military said. It was not clear whether the mine was freshly laid or a leftover from the country’s long wars.

The soldiers were among a group of American and Afghan officials examining a potential site for a shooting range in Logar Province, 25 miles south of Kabul, when one of their three vehicles hit the mine.

A Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility for the blast, but the military said investigators suspected the mine was an old charge dislodged by recent rain and snow or that the vehicle had wandered into an unmapped minefield.

SYRIA

U.S. reaches out to opposition

The Bush administration is stepping up contacts with the Syrian opposition with concerns that unrest in Lebanon could cause wider instability, administration officials said yesterday.

Senior U.S. officials involved in Middle East policy-making met Thursday in Washington with prominent Syrian-Americans, including political activists, community leaders, academics and an opposition group.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in an interview with The Washington Post published yesterday that the administration was reaching out to as many people as possible on developments in Syria and Lebanon.

THAILAND

Terrorists ambush train; 19 hurt

BANGKOK — Suspected Islamic rebels detonated two bombs and opened fire on authorities riding in an armored railway car early today in southern Thailand, wounding at least 19 persons, police said.

The armored car was making a routine inspection of track near the Rangae district station in Narathiwat province when the bombs exploded, tearing apart the track and overturning the car, police said.

Insurgents hiding nearby then ambushed the passengers, leaving at least 11 police officers and eight railway officials wounded. A gunfight ensued and continued early today.

CUBA

EU urges Castro to free dissidents

HAVANA — European Union Development Commissioner Louis Michel urged Cuban President Fidel Castro to release imprisoned dissidents during a visit to Cuba to reopen talks between Brussels and Havana, an EU spokesman said.

The Cuban leader expressed interest in mending relations with Europe during the four-hour meeting that lasted until 1 a.m. yesterday, said Mr. Michel’s spokesman, Amadeu Altafaj Tardio.

EU relations with Cuba were frozen two years ago after Mr. Castro ordered a crackdown on critics of his one-party Marxist state.

BRAZIL

Police say killer targets female tourists

SAO PAULO — Police fear a serial killer may be preying on female tourists in the beach towns of Maranhao in northeastern Brazil, the state public security secretary said yesterday.

The bodies of two women, a Spaniard and a German, were found buried on beaches, and a Brazilian tourist is still missing.

All the women were traveling alone and seen with a man shortly before they disappeared, said Detective Nordman Ribeiro, of the civil police in Maranhao.

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