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World in brief

U.S. to kin of embassy staff: Leave Haiti

By wire services
Published May 27, 2005

MIAMI - Families of U.S. Embassy staff members in Haiti have been ordered to leave the country and the diplomatic post is to be downsized by 25 percent because of a deteriorating security situation, the State Department said Thursday.

The decision comes in the midst of a spate of kidnappings and carjackings in the country, including an attack Wednesday by gunmen on a U.S. Embassy vehicle near the international airport. The assailants climbed onto the armor-plated vehicle and tried to shoot through its roof. No one was injured in the attack and the vehicle was able to get to safety.

In April more than 65 kidnappings were reported in and around the capital, among them several United Nations peacekeepers. "No one has been killed, but there have been verified reports of torture of victims to encourage family members to pay ransom money," according to Corwin K. Noble, a consultant with Washington-based Global Security Ltd.

France's Chirac pleads for "yes' on EU charter

PARIS - In an attempt to avert a French rejection of a proposed European Constitution, President Jacques Chirac told voters Thursday that they have a "historic responsibility" to approve it.

Chirac warned of dire consequences if Sunday's referendum produces a French "no" to the treaty - planned as the next big step in a 50-year process of European integration. "It would open a period of divisions, of doubts, of uncertainties," he warned in a televised address.

Chirac's prime-time speech marked the official end of the campaign ahead of Sunday's referendum and reflected the measure's high stakes and darkening prospects. Opinion polls predict that French voters will turn down the bid to speed the continent's political integration by strengthening institutions such as the European Union's presidency.

Military ordered to release Abu Ghraib pictures

A federal judge in New York told the Defense Department on Thursday that it would have to release perhaps dozens of photographs taken by an American soldier during interrogations of Iraqi detainees in the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

The judge, Alvin K. Hellerstein, said at a hearing that photographs would be the "best evidence" in the public debate about the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by American soldiers at Abu Ghraib. The government could appeal the decision.

The hearing, in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, came in a Freedom of Information Act suit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union to obtain material about military prisons in Iraq and Guantanamo, Cuba.

1.5-million evangelicals march in Brazil

SAO PAULO, Brazil - At least 1.5-million evangelical Protestants rallied in the heart of this city's financial district Thursday, demonstrating their growing clout in the world's largest Roman Catholic country.

Brazil's 13th "March for Jesus" began Thursday morning as hundreds of thousands of faithful from several evangelical sects walked more than 1 mile from the University of Sao Paulo's School of Medicine to Avenida Paulista.

The number of hymn-singing marchers swelled, and by the time they reached Avenida Paulista the crowd had grown to 2-million, according to the Reborn in Christ Church that organized the event. Sao Paulo's police department placed the number at 1.5-million.

Elsewhere . . .

EGYPT ELECTION: Voters overwhelmingly cleared the way for Egypt's first contested presidential election, according to referendum returns released Thursday. Government opponents dismissed the results. It was a day of mixed news for President Hosni Mubarak as the White House denounced the beating of protesters during Wednesday's vote.

DARFUR PEACEKEEPERS: International donors pledged an additional $200-million Thursday to fund the African Union peacekeeping operation in Sudan's western Darfur region during a conference to discuss the ongoing violence. Washington added $50-million to its $95-million pledge.

Times Latin America correspondent David Adams contributed to this report.

[Last modified May 27, 2005, 00:41:05]

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