Plane crash kills 18 near Everest
KATMANDU | A small airplane crashed and caught fire Wednesday as it tried to land in foggy weather at a tiny mountain airport near Mount Everest, killing 18 people, including 16 tourists from Germany, Australia and Nepal, officials said.
Witnesses raced onto the tarmac in search of survivors, but there was only one - the pilot.
The 19-seat Yeti Airlines plane, which had taken off from the capital, Katmandu, snagged its wheels on a security fence during its landing at Lukla airport, about 40 miles from Mount Everest, said Mohan Adhikari, general manager of the Katmandu airport.
2 U.S. journalists missing in north
BEIRUT | Two American journalists vacationing in Lebanon have not been heard from since Oct. 1 and are believed missing, the U.S. Embassy said Wednesday, appealing for information on their possible whereabouts.
The embassy said Holli Chmela, 27, and Taylor Luck, 23, reportedly left Beirut en route to the northern Lebanese port city of Tripoli.
The city is a predominantly Sunni Muslim city, where militants and Islamic fundamentalists are known to be active. It has witnessed sectarian fighting in the past few months as well as two car bombs targeting Lebanese troops that killed 25 people and left dozens of others wounded.
Earlier this week, the embassy had issued a statement to U.S. citizens about potential violent actions targeting Americans in Lebanon and called on its nationals to increase their security awareness.
Mbeki supporter aims to split ANC
JOHANNESBURG | Former South African Defense Minister Mosiuoa Lekota threatened Wednesday to split the ruling African National Congress and form a new party following last month’s overthrow of former President Thabo Mbeki.
His threat was the latest move in the worst political crisis since the end of apartheid, unleashed by the ousting of Mr. Mbeki at the climax of a power struggle with ANC leader Jacob Zuma.
Mr. Lekota did not announce a new grouping as had been predicted, although he said the dominant ruling party was near a split.
It was not clear how much support Mr. Lekota, a former ANC chairman, has, although he said hundreds of local party supporters have resigned and that regional and provincial ANC branches are contemplating leaving.
Medvedev says U.S. hurts security
EVIAN | Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Wednesday the United States‘ self-styled role as the world’s dominant power was undermining international security.
“A desire by the United States to consolidate its global domination led to it missing a historical chance … to build a truly democratic world order,” Mr. Medvedev said of U.S. actions since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
He said Russia’s war with Georgia in August showed that the security mechanism in Europe, which he said was based around NATO and the United States, needed a major overhaul.
The Kremlin leader proposed a new security pact that would ban the use of force or the threat of its use, and it would make clear no single country, including Russia, would have a monopoly on providing security for the continent.
Election marks a democratic first
MALE | Thousands of voters waited in snaking lines in the pouring rain Wednesday to vote in the Maldives’ first democratic presidential election, even as opposition officials complained of widespread voting irregularities.
The election has been seen as a referendum on President Mamoun Abdul Gayoom, Asia’s longest-serving ruler, who won six previous elections as the only candidate on the ballot.
But opposition officials reported widespread problems at ballot stations across this nation of 1,190 islands scattered in the Indian Ocean.
Gates seeks more Afghanistan troops
OHRID | Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates on Wednesday urged Eastern European leaders to shift their military efforts from Iraq to Afghanistan, where their forces are more urgently needed.
Speaking at a meeting here of the Southeast European Defense Ministerial, Mr. Gates said that as the security situation in Iraq continues to improve, countries should considered filling the “urgent need” for trainers in Afghanistan.
Combined, the 11 members of the group not counting the United States - have nearly 5,100 troops already in Afghanistan. Just one of the member nations, Bosnia-Herzegovina, has no troops there.
President bypasses far-right parties
VIENNA | Austria’s president on Wednesday asked the leader of the Social Democrats to form a new coalition government, a blow to two far-right parties who together won almost as many votes.
Werner Faymann’s center-left party won the most votes in Sept. 28 elections with 29.3 percent of the ballots. In second place was the People’s Party, with 26 percent. But the far right made significant gains.
The Freedom Party came in third place and the Alliance for the Future of Austria fourth. Their combined results - 28.2 percent - placed them on nearly equal footing with the Social Democrats.
Mr. Faymann, however, has ruled out forming a government with either of them.
Rights group says torture common
AMMAN | The torture of prisoners remains widespread in Jordanian jails despite efforts to reform the system, a U.S. rights group said Wednesday, adding prison officials were rarely held accountable for abuses.
The findings released by Human Rights Watch were based on visits to seven of Jordan’s 10 prisons and interviews with 110 inmates and senior prison officials. The majority of prisoners complained of abuse.
Jordanian security officials have denied any systematic violations of prisoners’ rights. A close U.S. ally in its war on terrorism, Jordan borders Israel, Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia.
From wire dispatches and staff reports