Thousands Mourn In East Timor

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Thousands of pro-independence East Timorese marched through the capital, Dili, today for the funeral of two comrades killed in a clash with Indonesian troops.

At the same time, an Indonesian soldier slain in yesterday's clash was buried across the road from where the two youths were buried.

Indonesia invaded the eastern half of Timor island in 1975 and annexed it the following year, a move not recognized by the United Nations.

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright will meet East Timorese rebel leader Xanana Gusmao on March 5.

Albright will be the most senior foreign representative ever to meet Gusmao, who was moved earlier this month to house arrest in Jakarta from prison. In 1993 he was sentenced to 20 years in jail for his armed fight against Indonesia's rule of East Timor.

Albright was due to arrive in Indonesia next Thursday as part of a trip that will also include China and Thailand.

Ousted leader's wife may run against their opponent

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - The wife of Malaysia's ousted deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim said today there is a very strong possibility she would challenge Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad in his own constituency in the next elections.

"There's a very strong possibility because I have been given encouragement, especially by the people of Kubang Pasu themselves," Wan Azizah Ismail told BBC radio.

Kubang Pasu district is Mahathir's political base, where Wan Azizah addressed some 10,000 cheering supporters last night. The rally was organized by a coalition of opposition parties and rights groups which have condemned Anwar's arrest and indictment on corruption and sodomy charges, which he claims are politically motivated.

Real Hanoi Hilton opens with fanfare in Vietnam

HANOI, Vietnam - A new Hanoi Hilton opened in Vietnam today, and this one really is a hotel - not to be confused with the infamous prison nicknamed "Hanoi Hilton" by American POWs kept there during the Vietnam War.

The Hilton Hotel Opera is just a few blocks from the old prison, which was mostly destroyed in 1995, leaving only a wing for a museum. The $64 million hotel sits adjacent to Hanoi's renovated Opera House.

Claiming to be Vietnam's first five-star facility, the 269-room Hilton opened with dancers and musicians in traditional ao dai tunics performing in the three-story lobby, which includes an open-air bakery to provide a homey atmosphere.

The Hilton's opening couldn't have come at a worse time. Amid the Asian economic crisis, Vietnam has seen tourism drop and high-end hotel occupancy rates plunge to about 30 percent last year.

Large earthquakes shake southern Siberian region

MOSCOW - A series of earthquakes shook Siberia's southern Baikal region today, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported.

No casualties were reported in the quakes, the strongest of which had a preliminary magnitude of 7.

There were broken windows and damage to slate roofs in villages near the thinly populated epicenter in the Irkutsk region, 2,600 miles east of Moscow, ITAR-Tass said.

Nuclear-waste cargo ship will transit Panama Canal

LA HAGUE, France - A cargo ship carrying a controversial shipment of nuclear waste has left France and will pass through the Panama Canal en route to an April arrival in Japan, officials from the COGEMA treatment factory said today.

The Japanese cargo ship, The Pacific Swan, steamed away under military escort from the northern French port of Cherbourg yesterday. For security reasons its itinerary was withheld from the public for 24 hours.

In the late 1970s, France agreed to treat 2.8 tons of Japan's nuclear waste on condition it be sent back to Japan for final storage.

Palestinian officer executed after one-hour military trial

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip - Protesting that he was innocent and pleading for mercy, a Palestinian police officer was executed by a firing squad early today, a day after being convicted of kidnapping and raping a 5-year-old boy.

The execution, the third in the autonomous Palestinian areas in six months, raised concern among human-rights activists that the punishment would be applied more and more frequently.

However, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was apparently determined to send a signal that he would not tolerate abuses by his security forces.

Col. Ahmed Abu Mustafa was convicted and sentenced by a special military tribunal yesterday evening. The trial lasted about one hour and an attorney was assigned to the defendant only at the start of the trial.

Moscow police confiscate Scientologists' papers

MOSCOW - Police seized boxes of documents from the Scientology movement and questioned its leaders today, in the latest government action against religious groups in Russia.

Tax police and other security services spent 16 hours confiscating materials from the Scientologists' Moscow center yesterday, and they returned today to question the leaders, the group said. Authorities said they were investigating possible tax evasion and other irregularities.

Russian authorities have moved against a number of religious organizations following the passage of a 1997 law that placed widespread restrictions on "nontraditional" faiths. The dominant Russian Orthodox Church strongly supports the law and often speaks out against religious groups that have been arriving in Russia since the Soviet breakup in 1991.