World Watch

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French transport routes were brought to a virtual standstill by defiant truck drivers continuing their protest against a rapid rise in fuel prices. Ignoring the advice of their union leaders to accept a take-it-or-leave-it government aid package, the truckers, joined by taxi and ambulance drivers as well as farmers, demanded cuts in diesel tax granted the previous week to striking fishermen. French gas stations warned they might run dry, and airports also reported fuel shortages. British farmers and truckers joined the fuel price protest by blocking some motorways and an oil refinery, saying protests would widen.

Vatican City
Religious leaders reacted with dismay to a Vatican document asserting the supremacy of the Roman Catholic Church. A 26-page report, released by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and approved by Pope John Paul II, said that followers of other religions are in a "gravely deficient situation." It warned that the tendency among modern Christians to see all religions as equally valid was "contrary to the Catholic faith." The Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, leader of the world's 70 million Anglicans, rejected the Vatican's contention as unacceptable. The Rev. Manfred Kock, chairman of the Evangelical Church of Germany, said the declaration would not help discussions between the Protestant and Catholic Churches.

Brandishing a gun that was smuggled into prison and overpowering four guards, 15 Serb war-crime suspects escaped from a United Nations detention center in northern Kosovo. Two of the escapees were recaptured when they reportedly returned to collect their clothes, but 13 remain at large and are believed to have crossed the border into Serbia. The U.N. mission in Kosovo launched an immediate inquiry and suspended the officer in charge of the jail. A Kosovar magistrate, due to judge one of the prisoners, resigned in protest after the incident. A total of 22 prisoners have escaped in the last seven months.

In its latest bid to combat terrorism, Greece signed a police cooperation pact with Washington to permit closer collaboration between the fbi and the Greek police in stamping out organized crime. Athens' hosting of the 2004 Olympics and a deadly attack against the British military attaché last June put an end to two years of Greek debate and delay in signing the memorandum. The document also allows for greater cooperation in combating drug smuggling, cyber-crime and arms smuggling. The deal, greeted by extremists in Athens with a storm of Molotov cocktail attacks, paves the way for a string of reforms that could introduce witness protection programs, non-jury trials and undercover police squads by the year's end.

Initial investigations into the cause of last month's Gulf Air crash off the coast of Bahrain revealed that the pilot failed to reduce his airspeed as he attempted to land. The chief investigator into the disaster, Frank Hilldrup, said the findings were based on information from the plane's flight data and cockpit voice recorders. But he said it was too early to tell whether pilot error caused the crash. Gulf Air meanwhile announced it would increase financial compensation to the relatives of the 143 people killed, providing $25,000 for each adult victim on the plane and $15,000 for each child.

Kahuzi-Biéga National Park
Hutu militiamen killed at least 10 people at a gorilla sanctuary in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. The dead included Congolese environmentalists and local chiefs who had gathered to discuss ways to protect the remaining 70 eastern lowland gorillas threatened by poachers and the two-year civil war. The humanitarian situation has continued to worsen a year after the signing of a peace agreement between Congolese President Laurent Kabila and his allies from Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia with various rebel movements backed by Rwanda and Uganda. Aid agencies report that ongoing fighting has forced more than 1 million civilians from their homes in the east of the country.

At least 25 people were killed in inter-clan fighting 90 km north of Somalia's capital Mogadishu. The clashes, commonplace since the collapse of the Siad Barré dictatorship in 1991, came a day after Abdulkassim Salad Hassan, who was elected the new Somali President at a recent peace conference in neighboring Djibouti, visited Mogadishu. Hassan, who will govern along with a 245-member parliament also elected at the conference, told an enthusiastic crowd at the Mogadishu stadium, "The time of lawlessness and anarchy is over. I will save the Somali people." He later traveled to New York to seek international assistance to rebuild the war-torn country.

Hong Kong
Two officials at the University of Hong Kong resigned ahead of a scheduled vote on the findings of an independent inquiry that the pair had undermined academic freedom. Vice Chancellor Cheng Yiu-chung and his deputy Wong Siu-lun had been accused by researcher Robert Chung of pressuring him to stop conducting polls on the government's performance and the popularity of the territory's Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa. The dispute has been viewed in Hong Kong as a test of the government's attitude toward academic freedom following the resumption of Chinese sovereignty in 1997. The two university officials insisted that their resignations are not admissions of wrongdoing. Andrew Wong, a Tung aide who is also linked to the scandal, has so far refused to heed calls that he resign.

The bodies of another 11 people were found following attacks by pro-Jakarta militia on refugee camps and villages in West Timor, days after the murder of three U.N. relief workers. The unhcr employees were killed when thousands of pro-Indonesian militia members attacked their offices. The men were beaten, dragged from the building and then burned by militia members reportedly angered by the mysterious assassination of one of their leaders the previous evening. Two other aid workers and a Brazilian tourist were injured. Hundreds of relief workers, responsible for delivering food aid to more than 100,000 East Timorese refugees, were evacuated to Bali and neighboring East Timor. In New York, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan denounced the act as one of the worst attacks on the agency's personnel anywhere and called for a moment of silence before addressing the U.N. Millennium Summit, also attended by Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid.

The issue of performance-enhancing drugs cast a shadow over the Olympic Games after a number of athletes were withdrawn or investigated following blood tests. In separate incidents, China withdrew 27 athletes from its Olympic team, an Uzbekistan team coach was stopped at Sydney Airport with two vials of human growth hormone in his luggage and another 10 athletes were being investigated for possibly failing drug tests. China's disgraced competitors included six distance runners trained by famed coach Ma Junren, as well as seven rowers. The World Anti-Doping Agency said at least 10 athletes, including British cyclist Neil Campbell, had produced irregular results in out-of-competition controls.

New York
The largest-ever gathering of world leaders concluded a three-day U.N. Millennium Summit with a pledge to support the organization's international role and enhance its peacekeeping activities. After several days of negotiations, the U.N. Security Council voted unanimously to overhaul and strengthen the U.N.'s peacekeeping operations. But Russia and China said they would not support moves allowing the U.N. to interfere in their countries' internal affairs. Hopes of a breakthrough in Middle East peace negotiations faded after reports that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat had rejected an American proposal that would divide control over holy sites in East Jerusalem between Palestinians and Israelis.

Mexico City
In an effort to kick-start peace talks with the Zapatista rebels in Chiapas, Mexican President-elect Vicente Fox said he would withdraw troops from the strife-torn state as soon as he takes office on Dec. 1. Fox also told Spanish journalists he would meet other demands by the rebels, whose short-lived 1994 uprising remains an open wound in Mexico's revitalized democracy. Since Fox won in the July 2 elections, there has been a notable silence from the jungle stronghold of the normally voluble masked rebel leader Subcomandante Marcos.