- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 20, 2006

ITALY

U.S.-bound weapons seized, report says

ROME — Italian authorities seized a container full of weapons including Kalashnikov assault rifles and plastic explosives bound for the United States from Saudi Arabia in May, press reports said yesterday.

Il Mattino newspaper said the “arsenal” was discovered during a search of a ship registered to an unidentified ex-Soviet republic which was traveling from Saudi Arabia to the U.S. East Coast.

Customs officials in the port of Gioia Tauro in the southern Calabria region discovered more than 70 AK-47 assault rifles, plastics used in explosives and launch pads for rockets in the container, the daily said.

The Ansa news agency later reported that “the shipment was permitted, but certain papers were missing from the accompanying documents.”

VENEZUELA

4 U.S. spies caught, Chavez claims

CARACAS — President Hugo Chavez said Venezuela has caught four persons spying for the American government, but a U.S. Embassy spokesman said yesterday that he had “no idea what the president is talking about.”

Without offering specifics, Mr. Chavez said that one woman was caught not long ago while taking photos in the north-central city of Valencia.

“I’ve caught four of their spies, four, and I’ve put them back in their hands,” Mr. Chavez told a campaign rally in western Venezuela Friday night.

U.S. Embassy spokesman Brian Penn said yesterday that more than a year ago, a clerical official working in a military office at the embassy had her purse stolen in Valencia and that inside it was a disposable camera. The woman was never detained or formally accused of spying.

NIGERIA

German hostage freed; militant hideout raided

PORT HARCOURT — A German oil worker taken hostage at gunpoint in Nigeria was freed overnight unharmed after two weeks in captivity, a state government spokesman said yesterday.

The release of Guido Schiffarth on Friday night was simultaneous with, but not a result of, a military raid on a suspected militant hideout on the outskirts of Port Harcourt, the largest city in Nigeria’s oil-producing Niger Delta.

The 62-year-old employee of Bilfinger and Berger was snatched on Aug. 3. There are now seven foreign workers in captivity while 10 have been released.

The army said about 100 people have been arrested in the search for suspects.

SRI LANKA

Military says 80 rebels killed in fighting

COLOMBO — Two days of heavy artillery and mortar fire have killed more than 80 Tamil Tiger rebels, Sri Lanka’s military said yesterday, and the United Nations warned of an impending humanitarian crisis in areas cut off by fierce fighting.

Sri Lanka’s air force destroyed a strategic Tamil sea base in the north, killing an unknown number of rebels, the military said.

About 800 rebels and security forces have been killed in fighting in Jaffna since Aug. 11, when rebels made a major push to retake the government-held, Tamil-majority peninsula.

SOUTH AFRICA

Government rejects AIDS policy criticism

JOHANNESBURG — South Africa dismissed harsh criticism of its AIDS policy by a top U.N. official “with contempt” yesterday and said he was no Messiah for Africa’s HIV/AIDS crisis.

U.N. special envoy on AIDS in Africa Stephen Lewis closed a global conference in Toronto on Friday with probably the most blistering attack ever on South Africa’s “lunatic fringe” approach to AIDS, calling it immoral and ineffective.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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