`Last chance' talks begin
Sudan's government and Darfur rebels launched their latest peace effort with delegates meeting in Nigeria for talks aimed at calming a two-year conflict that has killed tens of thousands of civilians and sent hundreds of thousands fleeing. Khalil Ibrahim, leader of the rebel Justice and Equality Movement, said Friday that the current peace parley in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, could be the last. It's the fifth round of as-yet unsuccessful talks. "If you do not have peace now, then ... you will see the fabric of Sudan crumble," he told assembled negotiators. "I can tell you: This will be the last chance."
■ United Kingdom
Exotic spider bites man
A major British supermarket chain apologized yesterday to a pensioner who collapsed after being bitten by an exotic spider as he reached for a bunch of bananas. Phillip Travenen, 65, felt a tickle on his finger as he touched the bananas last Monday during a trip to his local Sainsbury's grocery store in Newport, south Wales. He spent the night under observation at the hospital after it was discovered he had been bitten by a venomous crab spider the size of a large coin. "I believe the customer is now fine. We arranged for his shopping to be dropped at home after the incident," a Sainsbury's spokeswoman said. "We are sorry for any distress this may have caused, and we are currently investigating how this incident could have happened."
Huge gang attacks beach
A gang of about 500 youths attacked and robbed people on a beach near Lisbon, Portugese news reports said yesterday. Youths between the ages of 12 and 20 attacked people on Carcavelos beach, the reports said, quoting police. Officers shot into the air to drive the attackers away. There were injuries and arrests, but no further details were provided. The attackers, who appeared to be well-organized, were from a bad section of Lisbon, the reports said.
New UN plan has backing
German UN Ambassador Gunter Pleuger said Friday three of the five veto powers on the UN Security Council support bringing new permanent members onto the council. Speaking in New York, Pleuger said France had decided, as one of the countries sponsoring the reform resolution, to publicly back the reforms. Britain also has officially announced its support, and Russia also has said it views the reforms positively. On Wednesday a compromise was announced under which the new members of the council would forgo the veto power afforded to the current five permanent members for at least 15 years.
■ United States
Border security slammed
Massachusetts lawmakers on called for a closer look at border security after customs officials allowed a man carrying a sword, a hatchet, brass knuckles and a chain saw stained with what appeared to be blood to cross the US-Canadian border. Two days after being allowed into the US in late April, Gregory Despres, 22, was arrested in Massachusetts in connection with the beheading of his elderly neighbor and the stabbing death of his wife in the New Brunswick town of Minto. Customs officials had fingerprinted Despres, determined there were no warrants for him and let him into the US. They maintain they could not have detained him because he is a naturalized US citizen and there was no evidence at the time that he may have committed a crime.