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THE NEW YORK TIMES: World Briefing: Africa, Europe, Asia, Americas

Published: March 2, 2006
NIGERIA: MILITANTS FREE 6 OF 9 HOSTAGES A militant group in the oil-producing delta region that has been demanding a greater share of the oil wealth said in an e-mail message that it had released an American hostage, Macon Hawkins, 68, from Kosciusko, Tex., an employee of a company hired by Royal Dutch Shell to lay oil pipelines, citing his age and health. Mr. Hawkins is diabetic. News services later reported that five oil workers from Egypt, the Philippines and Thailand who were kidnapped with Mr. Hawkins on Feb. 18 had also been freed. Three other foreign oil workers — from the United States and Britain — are still being held. The group, Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, reiterated its demand that two leaders of the Ijaw ethnic group be released from prison and that a neutral third party mediate its dispute with the government. Over the past two months, the group has taken hostages and shut down 20 percent of Nigeria's daily output of 2.5 million barrels of crude oil. LYDIA POLGREEN (NYT)
NIGER: APPEAL FOR HELP IN BIRD-FLU CULLING Niger, one of the world's poorest nations, appealed for international help to cull poultry after an outbreak of the A(H5N1) strain of avian influenza. The government has ordered the systematic culling of poultry in affected zones to stop the disease from spreading among its poultry but said it needed equipment like protective suits and chemicals before it could begin. (REUTERS)
BRITAIN: 3 CHARGED IN $92 MILLION ROBBERY The police charged two men with conspiracy and a woman with handling stolen goods in connection with last week's $92 million cash robbery in Kent. One, John Fowler, a car salesman, was also charged with kidnapping the manager of the depot where the cash was stored. They are to appear in a Kent court today. (REUTERS)
KOSOVO: PRIME MINISTER RESIGNS Prime Minister Bajram Kosumi resigned after criticism of his stewardship as the province seeks independence from Serbia. He cited the need to preserve a coalition majority and the cooperation of Kosovo's Western backers. (REUTERS)
SOUTH KOREA OPPOSES MOVE TO REVISE JAPAN'S CONSTITUTION President Roh Moo Hyun of South Korea signaled his opposition to Japan's move to revise its pacifist Constitution, saying that Japanese leaders have been trying to justify their colonial history in Asia. In a speech commemorating the anniversary of a 1919 Korean uprising against Japanese colonial rule, Mr. Roh said Japan should become a “normal country, a world leader” by changing its conduct, not by “revising its laws or building up its military.” Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi of Japan rejected the criticism, saying that Mr. Roh should consider postwar Japan's peaceful history. South Korea and other Asian countries invaded by Japan have reacted angrily against a series of comments by Japan's foreign minister, Taro Aso, who has said that Taiwan owes its current high educational standards to Japanese colonial rule and that Japan's emperor should visit the Yasukuni Shrine, the memorial where 14 Japanese war criminals are enshrined. NORIMITSU ONISHI (NYT)
MEXICO: INQUIRY INTO LEAK OF 'DIRTY WAR' REPORT Attorney General Daniel Cabeza de Vaca announced that his office had begun an investigation into the leak last week of a secret report prepared by a special prosecutor's office that accused the armed forces of kidnapping, torturing and murdering hundreds of suspected subversives during the so-called dirty war of the late 1960's to the early 1980's. The government had withheld the report since December, saying that it placed too much blame for the abuses on the military. Its authors, worried their report would be censored, leaked it to several prominent writers, and it was posted on the Internet by the National Security Archives, a nonpartisan research group based in Washington. The special prosecutor, Ignacio Carrillo Prieto said an official version of the report would be released on April 15. ANTONIO BETANCOURT (NYT)
MEXICO: MEXICO CITY BACKS AWAY FROM ORDER CLOSING HOTEL Mexico City officials announced that they would not immediately shut down the popular Sheraton María Isabel after its representatives provided documents indicating that the 755-room hotel had corrected most of a long list of code violations. Virginia Jaramillo Flores, the leading city official in the borough where the hotel stands, said the hotel was given 72 hours to come to full compliance with zoning laws. The hotel stirred outrage among the leftist leaders of the city government last month when, at the request of the United States, it forced out 16 Cuban officials meeting there with American oil executives. GINGER THOMPSON (NYT)

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