- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 31, 2006


Ferry sinks, hundreds missing

SEMARANG — A crowded Indonesian ferry broke apart and sank in the Java Sea during a violent storm that sent towering waves over its deck, and the vast majority of the nearly 640 passengers were still missing a day later, officials said yesterday.

Raging seas hampered rescue efforts and about 14 hours after the disaster, just 66 survivors had been found, many drifting in lifeboats or clinging to driftwood, officials said. No bodies had been recovered, leaving nearly 600 passengers unaccounted for.

Waves of up to 16 feet crashed over the deck of the ship around midnight Friday during the final leg of a 48-hour journey from the island of Borneo to the main island of Java, said Slamet Bustam, an official at Semarang port, the ferry’s destination, where hundreds of distraught relatives and friends waited for news about their loved ones.


Madrid airport bomb hurts 26, two missing

MADRID — A powerful car bomb exploded at Madrid’s international airport yesterday and Spain’s government, blaming the Basque group ETA, ended peace negotiations with the separatists.

The blast left two persons missing and 26 injured, most with damage to their ears from the shock wave.

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero blamed the bombing on ETA, which had agreed to a cease-fire earlier this year.


U.S. senators seek better ties with Correa

QUITO — Incoming U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the United States wants to strengthen relations with Ecuador’s leftist President-elect Rafael Correa and respects his intention to not extend the U.S. military’s use of a coastal base.

Mr. Reid and a bipartisan delegation of five other senators met for almost an hour with Mr. Correa, who takes office on Jan. 15, and expressed a desire to build better bilateral relations.


Castro said to favor ballots over bullets

LA PAZ — President Evo Morales said his close ally Fidel Castro once advised him to shun arms for his populist cause and change Bolivia through democratic means.

The Cuban president, who once tried to spread armed revolt throughout South America, “never told me that you have to take up arms, never,” Mr. Morales said Friday in an interview with Bolivian radio network Fides.

Mr. Morales, who was democratically elected in 2005, said Mr. Castro urged him three years ago to pursue a democratic revolution similar to the one Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez claims to be leading.


Abbas visits to celebrate Eid

GAZA CITY — Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas traveled to the Gaza Strip yesterday in his first visit to the region since a deadly outbreak of factional violence this month.

Mr. Abbas, who spends most of his time at his headquarters in the West Bank town of Ramallah, arrived to celebrate the Eid al-Adha holiday, according to his office. He was also expected to attend ceremonies tomorrow for the anniversary of the founding of his Fatah movement.

Earlier this month Fatah and Hamas militants waged deadly street battles that killed 17 persons, paralyzed much of Gaza and led to fears of a civil war.

From wire services and staff dispatches

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