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World in brief

Venezuela deal could mean recall for Chavez

By Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published May 30, 2003

Venezuela's government and opposition signed an accord Thursday that could ease long-running political strife by paving the way for a recall referendum this year.

Under the pact signed in a Caracas hotel, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez could be subjected to a nationwide recall referendum after Aug. 19, midway through his presidential term, which is to end in early 2007. Presidential elections could follow if Chavez were to lose the vote.

Rafael Alonzo, a key opposition negotiator, called Aug. 19 "the day of hope" for Chavez opponents. "We are going to have a referendum and we are going to win the referendum," he said.

But experts say the deal is full of uncertainty.

"This is a positive development, but there are still a lot of issues to work out and continuing distrust," said Michael Shifter, a senior fellow at the Inter-American Dialogue in Washington.

Man tries to hijack jet in Australia with stakes

SYDNEY, Australia - A would-be hijacker armed with wooden stakes stabbed two flight attendants as he tried to break into the cockpit of an Australian jetliner Thursday, apparently in an attempt to crash the plane, the government said.

Cabin crew and passengers on the domestic flight carrying 53 people overpowered and disarmed the man.

Federal Transport Minister John Anderson said the attack did not appear linked to terrorism.

The Boeing 717 was forced to return to Melbourne, where police arrested the 40-year-old man, who reportedly is Australian. The injured flight attendants, a man in his 30s and a woman in her 20s, were hospitalized in stable condition.

Anderson said the wooden weapons had gone through security checks unnoticed, calling the oversight a "lesson about unforeseen tools being used."

Elsewhere . . .

MONTESINOS SENTENCED: A Peruvian court sentenced fallen spy chief Vladimiro Montesinos to eight years in prison on embezzlement charges Thursday for giving a mayoral candidate $25,000 in public money for a 1998 campaign.

U.S. FIGHTER JET CRASHES: An American F-16 fighter jet crashed Thursday in South Korea, but the pilot ejected to safety, the U.S. Air Force said.

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