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World in brief

Congo beats back coup

By wire services
Published June 12, 2004

KINSHASA, Congo - Forces loyal to Congo's leader crushed a coup attempt Friday by renegades within his presidential guard in fighting that sent gunfire and explosions echoing through the capital of Africa's third-largest nation.

The crisis was the second this month for the 14-month-old government led by President Joseph Kabila, established to close a 1998-2002 war that was Africa's deadliest.

Kabila, appearing on state TV in khaki uniform hours after the uprising's leaders were sent fleeing, told Congolese to brace for future challenges.

"Stay calm, prepare yourself to resist - because I will allow nobody to try a coup d'etat or to throw off course our peace process," Kabila, 32, declared.

At stake was the stability of Congo, and with it central Africa. Congo's five-year war had drawn in the armies of five foreign African countries, splitting a nation that before the war was one of the world's largest mineral producers.

By late afternoon, the officer behind Friday's attempted coup, Maj. Eric Lenge, was on the run south of the capital with 21 of his men, pursued by loyalist troops backed by helicopter, presidential spokesman Kadura Kasonga said.

Loyalist forces routed Lenge and his fighters from state broadcast headquarters, sending the mutineers retreating to a presidential guard base in the capital.

Information Minister Vitale Kamerhe then appeared on state airwaves before dawn to declare "the situation entirely under control," without a shot fired.

Israel may begin paying settlers to move

JERUSALEM - The government could begin offering compensation next month to Jewish settlers who volunteer to leave the Gaza Strip, even though the Cabinet has not given final approval to uproot settlements there, a government official said Friday.

The rapid work on compensation followed a Cabinet decision Sunday approving Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to evacuate all 21 Jewish settlements in Gaza and four others in the northern West Bank by the end of next year.

Hong Kong finally catches elusive crocodile

HONG KONG - After a seven-month hunt that drew international attention and involved experts from as far as Australia, authorities say they have captured the territory's most famous fugitive: a 4-foot-6-inch crocodile that became an instant celebrity after it was spotted last fall swimming in a polluted creek.

Variously dubbed Gucci, Croc-Croc Chan or the Yuen Long crocodile, the wily croc achieved a fame that grew as it outwitted a stream of wildlife experts who tried to capture it. But early Thursday, a routine patrol reported the crocodile had been snared in a crude metal trap set along the creek's bank. Crocodiles are not indigenous to the area, and officials said they had no idea how it made it into the creek.

Also . . .

POLAND: Poland's President Aleksander Kwasniewski nominated economist Marek Belka as prime minister on Friday for the second time, pleading with lawmakers to back him and restore political stability to the country.

Belka, a former economic policy chief under the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq, failed an initial confidence vote in Parliament after being appointed on May 2.

[Last modified June 11, 2004, 23:46:13]

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