- The Washington Times - Friday, April 20, 2007

COLOMBIA

Gore withdraws from conference

BOGOTA — Al Gore, according to his office, withdrew from an environmental conference in Miami yesterday to avoid appearing with Colombia’s president, who is facing the most serious accusations yet that he once aided far-right death squads, his spokeswoman said.

An opposition lawmaker in Colombia has charged that President Alvaro Uribe let paramilitaries use his own property for meetings and killings while governor in a northern state in the mid-1990s.

During a press conference called to rebut the charges, Mr. Uribe also disclosed that a prosecutor had once questioned him about killings at a farm his family owned but said the property had been abandoned due to lawlessness in the region.

NIGERIA

President pleads for peaceful vote

LAGOS — Gunshots in the night, concerns about fraud and a last-minute scramble to get ballots in place roiled Nigeria yesterday, the eve of presidential elections meant to cement civilian rule in Africa’s most populous nation.

At least 49 persons have been killed since last weekend’s chaotic state elections and many more have been reported dead in earlier political violence. President Olusegun Obasanjo in a national address yesterday pleaded with citizens to vote peacefully.

JAPAN

Empress recovers from illness

TOKYO — Empress Michiko has recovered from stress-induced ailments two months after she suffered intestinal bleeding and other symptoms, palace officials said yesterday.

Michiko, the popular wife of Emperor Akihito, had not been feeling well since she caught a cold and suffered from a high fever in mid-February. On March 6, palace officials said the empress was suffering from bleeding from the walls of her intestines, nose bleeds and mouth ulcers.

RUSSIA

Nobody is safe, Kasparov warns

MOSCOW — Garry Kasparov, the former chess champion who has become one of the Kremlin’s most vocal critics, said his questioning yesterday by Russia’s security agency — and his summons to appear before prosecutors — was a sign that “nobody is safe.”

Mr. Kasparov, who is seeking to unite opposition forces against President Vladimir Putin before crucial elections next year, was among the chief organizers of rallies in Moscow and St. Petersburg whose participants were targeted by police for beatings and arrests.

SOUTH AFRICA

Tainted pet food kills 30 dogs

JOHANNESBURG — Pet food laced with an industrial chemical traced to China has killed 30 dogs in South Africa, the country’s veterinary association said yesterday.

The latest confirmation came after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said imported ingredients used in recalled pet food may have been intentionally spiked with the chemical melamine to boost their apparent protein content.

PARAGUAY

Hostages freed after ransom paid

TOKYO — A Japanese businessman-pastor and two Paraguayans kidnapped earlier this month in Paraguay were freed yesterday, officials in Japan and Paraguay said.

Japanese businessman and Unification Church pastor Hirokazu Ota was kidnapped on April 1 along with his secretary Sawako Yamaguchi, Paraguayan policeman Rafael Ramos and teacher Nancy Gimenez. The secretary was freed earlier.

News reports in Japan and Paraguay said the ransom for the three was about $138,000.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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