- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 18, 2007

AUSTRALIA

Howard’s plane makes emergency landing

SYDNEY — A plane carrying Australian Prime Minister John Howard was forced to make an emergency landing in Iraq after the cabin began to fill with smoke and fumes shortly after takeoff, defense officials said yesterday.

Mr. Howard was on a secret visit to southern Iraq when the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) C-130 Hercules was forced back to Tallil air base late yesterday, the RAAF said.

The plane, which was carrying 30 persons including the head of the Australian defense force Air Marshal Angus Houston, was on its way to Baghdad when the cabin filled with smoke and fumes soon after taking off from Tallil.

The pilot turned the plane around at an altitude of about 4,900 feet, forcing passengers to wear oxygen masks as the plane dropped into a rapid descent.

AFRICAN UNION

Zimbabwe urged to respect rights

ADDIS ABABA — The African Union yesterday called on Zimbabwe to respect human rights and democratic principles, in its strongest comments yet on the political crisis engulfing the country.

AU commission chief Alpha Oumar Konare “recalls the need for the scrupulous respect for human rights and democratic principles in Zimbabwe,” the pan-African body said in a statement.

Pressure has mounted on Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe after police last Sunday crushed an opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) rally in Harare, arresting and torturing dissidents including MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

CHINA

Rates raised to cool economy

BEIJING — China’s central bank said yesterday it will raise key interest rates by more than a quarter percentage point in a move to cool torrid economic growth — the fourth increase in a year.

The 0.27 percentage point increase in one-year deposit and lending benchmark rates will go into effect today, the People’s Bank of China said.

The new rates will “promote the good, fast development of the national economy” by guiding an increase in credit and investment, preserving price stability and steady operation of the financial system, the bank said.

INDONESIA

Muslim militants split on bombings

KUDUS — Muslim militants behind a series of bombings in Indonesia in recent years are damaging the cause of radical Islam in the country, a purported leader of the Jemaah Islamiyah militant group said, highlighting a split in extremist ranks.

Abu Rusdan told the Associated Press that small terror groups working independently and influenced by Internet teachings were likely to start more attacks against Western targets in the world’s most populous Muslim nation.

Rusdan is an Afghan-trained militant who police and the U.S. think to be a key leader in Jemaah Islamiyah, the shadowy Southeast Asian network that spawned many of the region’s terrorists and is thought to have received funds and direction from al Qaeda.

COLOMBIA

Extradition mulled for Chiquita executives

BOGOTA — Colombia may ask the United States to extradite officials of Chiquita Brands International Inc. to face charges that a former subsidiary paid money to illegal paramilitaries, officials said yesterday.

Chiquita, one of the world’s largest banana producers, said last week it would plead guilty to one count of doing business with a terrorist group and would pay a fine of $25 million in a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice.

“Extradition works both ways,” said President Alvaro Uribe, who has sent hundreds of cocaine smuggling suspects to the United States since 2002 when he first took office.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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