- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 23, 2008

VENEZUELA

46 killed as plane slams into mountain

MERIDA — All 46 persons on board a Venezuelan passenger plane died when the plane slammed into the sheer face of a foggy Andean mountain after veering off course following takeoff, officials said yesterday.

Rescuers rappelled from helicopters to search for remains in the shattered wreckage lodged 13,000 feet above sea level on a craggy, rock wall known as “Indian Face.”

The plane, operated by the small local airline Santa Barbara, crashed 6 miles from the tourist city of Merida after taking off for the capital Caracas on Thursday.

UGANDA

Rebels, government sign peace deal

KAMPALA — Rebels from the Lord’s Resistance Army signed a deal yesterday with the Uganda government on major steps to end a brutal 20-year insurgency — a step forward in ongoing peace talks that have progressed in fits and starts for more than a year.

The two sides have been meeting in Sudan-mediated peace talks since July 2006 in an effort to resolve two decades of insurgency in northern Uganda.

Yesterday’s deal is the second this week, suggesting the pace may be picking up. On Tuesday, the two sides signed an agreement on how to prosecute purported war criminals.

TURKEY

President approves headscarves law

ANKARA — Turkey’s president yesterday approved a pair of constitutional amendments that would allow female students to wear Islamic headscarves at universities.

The legislation, which has polarized Turkey and exposed the deep gap between the Islamic-rooted government and the military-led secular establishment, is expected to face a legal challenge from opponents on grounds the amendments violate Turkey’s secular constitution.

Turkey’s parliament — dominated by members of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Islamic-rooted party — voted 411-103 on Feb. 9 to approve two amendments adding paragraphs to the constitution.

SIERRA LEONE

War crimes court upholds convictions

FREETOWN — A U.N.-backed court yesterday upheld the convictions of three former rebel leaders sentenced last year to half-century prison terms for rape, murder and other war crimes committed during Sierra Leone’s decade-long conflict.

The three were leaders of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council, a junta that overthrew an elected government in 1997 and was ousted by Nigerian-led peacekeepers the following year.

Their convictions in July were the first handed down by Sierra Leone’s war crimes tribunal.

GUATEMALA

Mob kidnaps 30 police officers

GUATEMALA CITY — An angry mob took about 30 police officers hostage in Guatemala and threatened to kill them unless authorities release a jailed farm leader, police said yesterday.

The crowd surrounded the police station in the Caribbean coastal town of Livingston on Thursday night, disarmed the officers and took them in small boats to their remote village of Maya Creek, the Associated Press reported.

The villagers demanded the government free Ramiro Choc, who was arrested Feb. 14 on charges of illegal land invasion, robbery and illegally holding people against their will.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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