President to accept U.N. plan for Darfur
NEW YORK — Sudan’s president said he accepts a U.N. package to help end escalating violence in Darfur and is ready to discuss a cease-fire, according to a letter circulated yesterday.
President Omar al-Bashir said in the letter to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan that Sudan is ready to immediately implement two recent agreements endorsing a three-step U.N. plan to strengthen the beleaguered 7,000-strong African Union force in the vast western region of the country.
U.N. Security Council diplomats cautioned that Mr. al-Bashir remains opposed to any large-scale deployment of U.N. troops and has backtracked on agreements regarding Darfur in the past.
Big quakes trigger tsunami alert
TAIPEI — Two major earthquakes struck southern Taiwan yesterday, triggering fears of destructive waves as Asia marked the second anniversary of the Indian Ocean tsunami.
The quakes, also felt in Hong Kong and southern China, trapped six persons when a building collapsed in Taiwan. No other major damage was reported, and the tsunami alert was soon lifted.
The U.S. Geological Survey said a magnitude 7.1 quake occurred at 8:26 p.m. in Taiwan, followed by one of magnitude 7.0 eight minutes later. The depths of both were 6 miles under the ocean floor.
Top court upholds Beslan sentence
MOSCOW — Russia’s highest court yesterday upheld a life sentence for the only militant known to have survived the 2004 Beslan school siege, rejecting appeals from the man’s attorneys and relatives of the victims.
Nur-Pashi Kulayev was convicted in May in the attack by a court in southern Russia. The Supreme Court upheld its verdict yesterday, a court spokesman said.
The Sept. 1 to 3, 2004, attack on Beslan’s school No. 1 by militants demanding the withdrawal of Russian troops from Chechnya killed about 330 people, more than half of them children, as well as 31 suspected militants and 11 special forces soldiers.
Defiant fox hunters turn out, minus dogs
LONDON — British hunters took to fields and forests on the year’s biggest hunting day yesterday in a show of determination to maintain the tradition despite the ban on the age-old custom of killing foxes with packs of dogs.
Organizers laid trails with the smell of foxes, rather than allowing dogs to chase real foxes, to avoid falling foul of the ban imposed nearly two years ago on hunts in England and Wales. Under the ban, foxes can be killed by a bird of prey or shot but not hunted by dogs.
The Countryside Alliance, a pro-hunting group, said yesterday’s hunt was the biggest ever on Boxing Day, with about 250,000 people attending the hunts in mostly mild, dry weather.
U.S. offered to lift North from terror list
SEOUL — The United States offered to remove North Korea from Washington’s list of states sponsoring terrorism if the communist regime dismantles its atomic-weapons program, South Korea’s main nuclear envoy said yesterday.
The proposal was just one of the incentives the U.S. spelled out last week at six-nation nuclear disarmament talks with the North, along with offers of security guarantees, a peace treaty and normalization of relations, Chun Yung-woo told news cable channel YTN.
North Korea was not prepared to review the U.S. offer at the talks but promised to study it and bring a response to the next round of negotiations, he said.
From wire dispatches and staff reports