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World in brief

Serbian leader enters no plea in war crimes

Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 27, 2003

THE HAGUE, Netherlands -- The Serbian ultranationalist leader Vojislav Seselj refused to plead Wednesday to war crimes charges stemming from ethnically motivated killings committed by troops under his command during the Balkan wars.

Seselj, who had earlier promised a vigorous defense, said he wanted to delay his plea by up to 30 days, claiming he needed clarification of terms in the indictment that he did not understand.

Relief trickles into China's quake-stricken region

QONGKURQAK, China -- As weeping mourners held Muslim funerals Wednesday for earthquake victims in China's far west, officials said they were still struggling to get tents and medical supplies to the isolated region.

State media said the death toll had risen to 266, including relief workers killed by aftershocks from the quake Monday in the Xinjiang region. Officials said they worried about outbreaks of disease among thousands of villagers sleeping outdoors in freezing weather amid the ruins of their collapsed mud-brick houses.

Hardest-hit was Qongkurqak (pronounced Chong-kur-chak), a farm town where officials said 240 people died. They said 90 percent of the town's 30,000 residents were left homeless.

African outbreak of Ebola reportedly slowing

BRAZZAVILLE, Republic of Congo -- An Ebola outbreak in Republic of Congo has killed 79 people but appears to be slowing down, health investigators said Wednesday.

The rate of new infections has started tapering off in the quarantined region of Cuvette West, where the deaths have occurred, World Health Organization spokesman Iain Simpson said in Geneva. Last week, health officials registered only eight new cases compared to as many as 25 in previous weeks. Nearly 100 people are still battling the disease.

Six killed as four states in India have elections

GAUHATI, India -- Suspected separatists shot and killed five soldiers and their civilian driver in one of two Indian states where elections were marred by violence on Wednesday.

Police said the attack occurred after polls closed in Santarampada, a village in the northeastern state of Tripura. The soldiers were escorting ballot boxes at the time.

They were among 200,000 soldiers and police assigned to guard polling booths in Tripura and three other states electing new legislatures Wednesday: northeastern Meghalaya and Nagaland and northern Himachal Pradesh.

NUCLEAR SAFETY: Indian and American regulators resumed discussions Wednesday in Bombay, India, on safeguards at nuclear reactors, ending a hiatus prompted by India's atomic weapon tests.

A 15-member team from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission made its first visit since 1998 to discuss the challenges both nations face with aging reactors.

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