French president appeals for calm

By wire services
Published November 3, 2005

PARIS - President Jacques Chirac appealed for calm on Wednesday after six nights of violence in this city's immigrant-heavy northern suburbs threatened to spiral into a political crisis.

The violence, primarily the burning of cars, began as a protest over the deaths last Thursday of two North African youths who were electrocuted when they jumped over a fence surrounding a high-voltage electrical transformer. Some relatives and witnesses said the youths were running from the police, though the official account said the police were not pursuing them.

But as the car-burning spread from Clichy-sous-Bois, the suburb where the youths died, to neighboring suburbs on Wednesday, the government expressed concern that the incident could ignite broader unrest among frustrated first- and second-generation North African immigrants, who have borne the brunt of France's economic weakness.

Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin has seized control of the government's response from his rival, Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, in what appears to be an effort to assuage anger in the country's North African population over Sarkozy's blunt authoritative style. Sarkozy, who had raised temperatures with tough remarks this week, did not speak Wednesday at the government's weekly question-and-answer session before the legislature.

Plan to send U.S. relief experts to Cuba on hold

WASHINGTON - A plan to send three U.S. relief specialists to Cuba to assess damage from Hurricane Wilma has been put on hold because Cuba wanted to turn the visit into a discussion of unrelated issues, the State Department said Wednesday.

Cuban officials insisted on using the mission to discuss their vision for "regional disaster response," spokesman Sean McCormack said in a statement.

"We are unwilling to turn a humanitarian mission into a political dialogue on issues not related to providing relief to the Cuban victims of Hurricane Wilma," he said.

McCormack noted that the United States is providing Cuba $100,000 in hurricane relief that is being distributed through independent nongovernmental organizations.

Fujimori attempts political comeback

TOKYO - Former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori is attempting to forge a three-group political alliance, the Peruvian Embassy in Tokyo said Wednesday, as part of his effort to win re-election to lead the South American nation.

Fujimori, who fled to Japan in November 2000 as his 10-year-old government crumbled amid corruption scandals, came to Peruvian consular offices in Tokyo on Wednesday to validate his signature on a document joining his political movement with two parties, officials said.

The consular office notarized his signature, but affixed a stamp saying that it did not recognize the document, since Fujimori is barred from political activity because of the myriad charges against him, the officials said.

Coral bleaching

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - Unusually warm waters are bleaching coral reefs throughout the Caribbean, raising fears of a die-off of the important organisms, scientists and environmentalists said Wednesday.

Ocean temperatures have been slowly rising, threatening sea coral that can live only within a narrow temperature band, according to the experts. A slight increase in temperature can induce coral bleaching and eventually kill the coral.

Recent data gathered by the University of Puerto Rico shows that up to 95 percent of coral colonies off the island have had some bleaching.