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3 die in Cuban boat hijacking try

Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published July 16, 2003

HAVANA - A shootout broke out among three Cuban hijackers trying to take a stolen boat to the United States, leaving all three dead and a young boy shot in the head, authorities said Tuesday.

In a separate incident Tuesday, about 20 Cubans escaped the island in a hijacked boat and reached the Bahamas. Cuban officials demanded that they be returned to Cuba to face charges.

Cuban officials said Tuesday that U.S. immigration policy is to blame for the hijackings. Cubans who manage to set foot on American soil are given preferential immigration status.

Burundi fighting drives U.N. staffers out

BUJUMBURA, Burundi - The United Nations decided Tuesday to withdraw its nonessential staff from Bujumbura after six days of fighting in Burundi's capital.

The fighting erupted in the capital when Hutu rebels launched an attack on southern neighborhoods with mortars and rocket-propelled grenades, leaving scores of people dead.

Colombia, paramilitaries to negotiate

BOGOTA, Colombia - The Colombian government and right-wing paramilitary fighters agreed Tuesday to begin peace talks, the president's office said.

The United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia promised to start demobilizing their 10,000-strong forces by the end of the year, according to a statement posted on the president's office Web site and signed by paramilitary leaders and members of a government peace commission.

The group also agreed to maintain a cease-fire declared in December, and to stop trafficking drugs.

EU sues 11 nations over biotech food

BRUSSELS - The European Union filed lawsuits against 11 member governments Tuesday for maintaining moratoriums against approving biotech foods - bans that have prompted U.S. action at the World Trade Organization.

Under EU regulations, the countries should have already implemented laws on testing and licensing genetically modified organisms or GMOs. But the governments have refused and the European Commission, the 15-member EU's executive arm, filed suits at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg. Continued noncompliance could lead to fines.

The move is part of the EU's executive's push to end the moratorium and avoid a trade spat with Washington.

EU lawmakers this month voted in favor of new labeling rules for biotech foods designed to restart the frozen approval process for biotech crops.

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