- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 29, 2005


Mine explosion toll rises to 134

QITAIHE — Anxious relatives demanded to be allowed into a coal mine yesterday after an explosion killed at least 134 miners and left 15 missing, adding to the soaring death toll in China’s mines despite a safety crackdown.

The blast in the Dongfeng Coal Mine prompted national leaders to demand stricter enforcement of safety rules in China’s mining industry, by far the world’s deadliest, with more than 5,000 fatalities a year in fires, floods and other accidents.

The disaster late Sunday occurred as the city of Harbin was struggling to recover from a toxic spill in a river that forced the government to cut off water supplies for five days.


Huge defense deal signed with Spain

CARACAS — Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez signed a $1.56 billion deal yesterday to buy naval ships and transport aircraft from Spain in a military transaction that Washington worries could threaten regional stability.

Spanish Defense Minister Jose Bono signed the contract with Mr. Chavez for four coastal patrol ships, four corvettes, 10 C-295 transport planes and two maritime surveillance planes as part of a program to revamp Venezuela’s armed forces.

“The U.S. government’s negative reaction to this deal was part of the concept they want to impose on the world,” Mr. Chavez said at the signing ceremony. “This act today, more than just a commercial act, it is one of dignity.”


Mideast summit agrees on terror code

BARCELONA — The European Union salvaged a face-saving agreement with Israel and its Arab neighbors yesterday on a joint code of conduct to fight terrorism, at the end of a lackluster summit from which most Arab leaders stayed away.

The 35 nations adopted a five-year work program extending a decade-old economic, political and cultural partnership into sensitive areas of security and combating illegal migration.

But the first Euro-Mediterranean summit failed to agree on a common vision statement because of differences over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that proved as intractable as at the first ministerial conference in 1995.


Fatah cancels primary after Gaza violence

KHAN YOUNIS, Gaza Strip — The ruling Fatah party canceled its primary in Gaza at the end of a full day of voting yesterday after gunmen disrupted several polling places, firing in the air and stealing some ballot boxes.

The violence underscored Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas’ inability to maintain order in the Gaza Strip, or even in his own party, as Fatah tries to fight off a strong challenge from the Islamic Hamas group in the Jan. 25 parliamentary elections.


U.S. delegation cancels visit

CARACAS — A congressional delegation led by U.S. Rep. Henry J. Hyde arrived yesterday in Venezuela, but was not permitted to leave the plane at the country’s main airport and so departed abruptly, said a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy.

The president of the airport denied the accusation, saying the U.S. ambassador met the plane at the airport, entered it briefly, and then the craft departed.

The five-member delegation was scheduled to meet with Venezuelan Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel and other government officials and waited for roughly one hour before departing, embassy spokesman Brian Penn told local Globovision television.

“Government officials did not allow them off the plane, and that’s the cause of the canceled visit,” Mr. Penn said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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