Dozens of miners trapped
Rescuers were struggling yesterday to find 79 miners trapped by a fire in a complex of iron mines, state media reported. Eight miners were confirmed dead in the blaze, which broke out Saturday morning at the mines in Shahe, a city in Hebei Province, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. It said 106 miners were working underground at the time, and 19 had been rescued alive by yesterday morning. Thick smoke was hindering rescue efforts, and emergency workers sought help from experts from the provincial government, the Beijing Youth Daily newspaper reported.
■ Hong Kong
Democracy leader resigns
The leader of the territory's top pro-democracy party has decided to step down, a colleague said yesterday, with newspapers reporting that he's taking responsibility for the party's poorer-than-expected showing in recent legislative elections. In a cell phone text message, Demo-cratic Party Chairman Sum told fellow party member Fred Li that he won't run for another term in party elections next month, Li told reporters. Yesterday's news-papers quoted Yeung as saying during a television interview he decided to quit to take the fall for the party's disappointing results in the Sept. 12 legislative contest.
Fireworks injure zoo animals
Seven antelopes and two giraffes in Malaysia's national zoo were injured after pranksters attacked them with firecrackers, news reports said yesterday. The incident occurred Thursday when unidentified visitors to the zoo fired homemade firecrackers at the animals, said Malaysian Zoological Society Chairman Ismail Hutson. Two African antelopes lost their tails, while the other animals suffered skin lacerations, Ismail told the national news agency, Bernama. "If there is one thing that we do not like, it is the irresponsible act of firing harmful substances like firecrackers at the animals in the zoo," Ismail was quoted as saying.
Elephant `innocent' of killing
An elephant that stamped on his keeper at a Chinese zoo in the mating season and crushed him to death has been declared innocent because of mitigating circumstances, Xinhua news agency said yesterday. Hu Tianmin was cleaning the elephant house at the zoo in Kunming, capital of Yunnan Province, in August when the five-tonne, 20-year-old male Asian elephant named "Zhongbo" lifted him up, threw him to the ground and stamped on him. "The production safety adminis-tration in Kunming confirmed that the victim was responsible for his own tragedy because he had entered the elephant pen all alone and without adopting any protective measures, in violation of zoo rules," Xinhua said.
■ Hong Kong
Police ready for WTO protest
Bracing for disruptive protests at next year's WTO meeting, Hong Kong's police chief said officers have already started gathering intelligence on anti-globalization groups, a local broadcaster reported yesterday. In an interview with government-run radio RTHK that was partially aired, Commissioner of Police Lee Ming-kwai called the WTO ministerial meeting scheduled for Dec. 13 to 18, next year a big challenge for his department. He said police started preparing for the meeting several months ago, obtaining intelligence on anti-globalization groups from foreign counterparts, RTHK reported.
Illegal immigrants caught
Ukrainian border guards detained 52 illegal Chinese immigrants seeking to cross into neighboring Slovakia from Ukraine's western Transcarpathia region, officials said late Saturday. The immigrants were seized near the Slovak border, the local border guard office said in a statement. Ukraine, which borders Poland, Slovakia and Hungary -- EU member states since May -- had become an important transit route for illegal migrants seeking entry to western Europe.
Israelis `need discipline'
Egypt has told Israel, which killed three Egyptian policemen at the Egypt-Gaza border earlier this week, it must choose more disciplined troops, Egypt's official Middle East News Agency reported on Sunday. Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit also told his Israeli counterpart Silvan Shalom that Egypt "would absolutely not accept the repetition of this type of incident." "Israeli leaders and soldiers with a greater degree of discipline must be picked so that they don't open fire randomly and hit others, leading to the complication of relations with Egypt," Aboul Gheit told Shalom in a phone call.
March turns deadly
Thirteen people were reported trampled to death and many were injured on Saturday when a good-humored march marking Togo's return to the diplomatic good graces of the EU turned into a stampede. A reporter said the stampede began as a crowd numbering in the hundreds of thousands pressed into the courtyard in front of President Gnassingbe Eyadema's palace. According to a government statement, the organizers of the demonstration were overwhelmed by the huge turnout, which it said was a reflection of "the feeling of joy of the Togolese people."
Leaders pledge peace
Fifteen African leaders -- including the head of every country in central Africa's Great Lakes area -- signed an agreement aimed at ending the cycle of war and dictatorship in the region. "We, the African leaders, have agreed to rededicate ourselves for peace and development of our continent," said Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, chairman of the African Union. "Never, and never again, shall we allow any despots or any tyranny in our continent." The UN and the African Union organized the two-day summit that ended Saturday in the hope that it will mark a watershed for the region.
■ Ivory Coast
French troops on Saturday controlled access to Ivory Coast's main airport in the capital Abidjan and there were increasing signs of a gradual return to normal in the city after days of violence and uncertainty. All airlines operating out of Abidjan airport with the exception of Air France and the Belgian company SN Brussels had re-started their services to capitals in the region and Ivorian officials were back in charge of airport formalities. "We have handed over the international airport to civilians," said the spokesman for the French force in Ivory Coast Colonel Henry Aussavy. Ivory Coast lurched back into crisis after an air strike on a French position on Nov. 6 prompted France to retaliate, destroying the tiny Ivorian air force -- which in turn led to an upsurge in anti-French violence.
■ Costa Rica
Seven die after 6.0 quake
At least seven people were killed when a powerful earthquake rocked the Central American country of Costa Rica on Saturday, officials said. The quake, measuring 6.0 on the Richter scale, also caused extensive damage across the country. Six people died because of heart attacks triggered by the quake, another one died in a car accident. Thousands were awoken in the early hours Saturday when the quake shook the small country. Several aftershocks followed.
Ex-president may face probe
Mireya Moscoso, the jewelry-loving former president of Panama, is to be stripped of her immunity from being questioned by prosecutors and could face a probe over her role in a government fund scandal, her lawyer said on Saturday. Panama's Electoral Tribunal voted unanimously to take away the immunity at the request of the public prosecutor in a bid to gather evidence for possible criminal charges, Rogelio Cruz, Moscoso's lawyer said. Cruz stressed Moscoso has not yet been accused of any crime. Without immunity, prosecutors can now question Moscoso in its probe into the whereabouts of US$23 million of public funds labeled as "unforeseen expenditures" in Moscoso's government.
US lawmaker weds
A US congressman married the daughter of Guatemala's most notorious former dictator on Saturday in a controversial wedding that took place in a high-walled compound ringed with razor wire. Illinois Republican Jerry Weller tied the knot with Guatemalan lawmaker Zury Rios Sosa near Guatemala's colonial capital Antigua. The couple, who met while Weller was on a visit to Guatemala, married in a civil ceremony. Weller was re-elected in November despite questions from his opponent about his choice of fiancee and a possible conflict of interest with some of his government posts. He serves on the US House of Representatives sub-committee for Western Hemisphere Affairs that sometimes sees legislation concerning Guatemala.
■ United States
World's oldest man dies
Fred Hale Sr, the oldest man in the world according to Guinness World Records, has died less than two weeks shy of his 114th birthday. Hale died in his sleep on Friday at an assisted living home near Syracuse, New York, after recovering from a bout of pneumonia, Fred Hale III, 51, the youngest of Hale's nine grandchildren, said on Saturday. Hale, one of two children, was born on a farm in New Sharon, Maine, on Dec. 1, 1890, before cars and airplanes and in the same year Sioux Indians were massacred at Wounded Knee, South Dakota. "He was 17 or 18 before he saw his first car," his grandson said.
■ United States
Space tourism bill passed
Paying passengers would be able to blast into space aboard privately operated rocket ships under legislation the US House passed Saturday. Propelled by last month's successful flights of a privately financed manned rocket over California's Mojave Desert, the bill by Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California, would give the Federal Aviation Administration authority to regulate commercial human spaceflight. No such jurisdiction now exists, even though airline mogul Richard Branson has already announced plans to offer six-figure commercial space flights by 2007, and thrill-seekers have begun plunking down deposits.