S. Korea uses rice as leverage on the North

Published April 17, 2007

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - South Korea may suspend rice shipments to North Korea to ratchet up pressure on the North to comply with its nuclear disarmament pledges after it missed a deadline to shut an atomic reactor.

The two Koreas were set to begin talks Wednesday to discuss the North's request for 400,000 tons of rice.

South Korea periodically sends rice and fertilizer to the North, which has relied on foreign handouts since the mid 1990s when famine led to the deaths of as many as 2-million people.


Pope celebrates a quiet 80th birthday

VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI marked his 80th birthday Monday by lunching with cardinals and listening to music by one of his favorite composers - Mozart - in a relatively low-key celebration in keeping with the quiet pace of what he has said would be a "short" papacy. The pope is five years beyond the usual retirement age of bishops.


Mine's gas alarm purposely disabled

MOSCOW - A methane gas explosion that killed 108 people at a Siberian coal mine was caused by a deliberate blockage of safety equipment, investigators said Monday.

Konstanin Pulikovsky, head of the industrial watchdog Rostekhnadzor, said the mine's methane gas detection system had been blocked.

Pulikovsky charged that "managers at various levels" at the mine were responsible for giving such orders.

Russian media have reported that miners often cover gas sensors with their jackets to keep the system from stopping work.


French had early tip on 9/11 attacks

PARIS - Nine months before 9/11, French intelligence suspected that the terror network al Qaida was plotting a hijacking - possibly involving a U.S. airline - and warned the CIA, former French intelligence officials said Monday.

But the French warning hinted at a plot in Europe, not the United States, and there was no suggestion of suicide attacks or multiple planes.