Monday, August 18, 2008


Planes collide, leaving 5 dead

LONDON | Two small planes collided in midair and crashed in central England on Sunday, killing five people, emergency workers said.

The planes slammed into each other near Coventry, about 90 miles northwest of London, the regional ambulance service said.

One of the planes was carrying one person, and it crashed into a field, while the other plane, which had four people onboard, came down in a nearby wooded area, the ambulance service said in a statement.

Police and firefighters also were at the scene. No further details were immediately available.


Bombings blamed on Basque terrorists

MALAGA | Two small bombs blamed on the Basque separatist group ETA exploded at tourist resorts in southern Spain on Sunday, authorities said. No injuries were reported, but more than 10,000 people were evacuated from a harbor area.

It is the height of the summer tourist season in Spain, and ETA has previously carried out attacks in vacation areas at this time of year in an effort to disrupt tourism.

The first blast occurred on a beach in Guadalmar at about 1 p.m., and a second device exploded at a tourist marina parking lot in Benalmadena Costa two hours later, the Interior Ministry said.

Both towns are about 340 miles south of Madrid in the Costa del Sol resort area on a stretch of coastline popular with foreign tourists, especially the British.

A caller who said he spoke in the name of the ETA warned the fire department in the beach resort of Benalmadena that three bombs would explode, the ministry said.

The caller said bombs had been placed in Guadalmar, Benalmadena and on a highway linking Malaga to its international airport, a ministry spokeswoman told the Associated Press. She spoke on the condition of anonymity in keeping with ministry rules.

Police had cleared the beach at Guadalmar, on the southwestern outskirts of Malaga, closed two roads and cleared more than 10,000 people in an orderly evacuation from the resort harbor at Benalmadena prior to the blast there, the spokeswoman said.

In July, ETA set off a series of small bombs in Spain’s northern beach resorts of Laredo and Noja, and one in Playa de la Carihuela, a short walk from Benalmadena’s marina. One person was slightly injured in those bombings.


EU welcomes release of Belarus dissident

BRUSSELS | The European Union’s current president, France, Sunday welcomed the release of Belarus’ highest-profile political prisoner, former presidential candidate Alexander Kozulin.

“This liberation was one of the conditions set by the European Union for the gradual resumption of dialogue with Belarus,” it said in a statement.

Also hailing the release Saturday, the United States said it was anticipating “other positive steps from the Belarusian authorities that could open the possibility of a significant improvement in relations.”

Mr. Kozulin — who was jailed in 2006 after leading a protest over purported corruption in an election that returned President Alexander Lukashenko to power — was released Saturday.

With EU and U.S. economic sanctions still in place, Mr. Lukashenko - described as “Europe’s last dictator” by Washington - is seeking to improve his image ahead of parliamentary elections on Sept. 28.


Pope wants aid for South Ossetia

CASTEL GANDOLFO | Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday called for the “immediate opening” of humanitarian corridors between Georgia and the Moscow-backed separatist South Ossetia region to aid victims of the conflict.

“I would like the immediate opening of humanitarian corridors between South Ossetia and the rest of Georgia so that the dead can receive a dignified burial, the wounded can get access to care and those who want to rejoin their dear ones, can do so,” he said during the Angelus blessing.

Expressing his “concern” over the situation in Georgia, which Benedict said he was following very carefully, the head of the Roman Catholic Church appealed to the “generosity” of the international community to help “refugees, especially women and children.”

“Security and fundamental rights, which can never, ever be violated, have to be guaranteed to the ethnic minorities caught up in the conflict,” he said at his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo, just outside Rome.

“I hope in the end that the current cease-fire, struck through the efforts of the European Union, will lead to a lasting peace,” he said, adding that he had offered a “special prayer” for victims of the conflict.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed a six-point peace deal Saturday, a day after Georgia’s pro-Western President Mikhail Saakashvili, to end the fighting in Georgia.

He said Sunday that Russian regular forces would start their pullout from Georgia on Monday.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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