Around The World


SALAMA, Guatemala - A Guatemalan court yesterday sentenced three former right-wing paramilitaries to death for the killing of two women in a massacre during the country's 36-year civil war.

But the court acquitted the men in the killing of an additional 267 people, including 142 children in 1982 massacres of Mayan Indians, which drew international condemnation of the country's military.

An initial death sentence after a 1998 trial of the three men - Carlos Chen, Pedro Gonzalez and Fermin Lajuj - was annulled on a technicality by an appellate court.

Yesterday's sentence was for the killing of two women in the Rio Negro village massacre, in which 70 women and 107 children were tortured and killed on March 13, 1982.

The three men were members of the Civilian Self-Defense Patrols, created by the military in the 1980s to help combat leftist rebels.

An estimated 200,000 people, mostly Mayan civilians, were killed or disappeared in the war that ended in 1996 with a United Nations-sponsored peace accord.

Iraq signs deals to purchase Russian oil-field equipment

MOSCOW - Iraq has signed contracts to purchase oil-production equipment worth $57 million from Russian companies, a top Russian official said yesterday.

The deals were signed during a recent visit by a Russian delegation to Baghdad, Fuel and Energy Minister Viktor Kalyuzhny was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.

Russia has provided food and equipment for oil production worth hundreds of millions of dollars to Iraq under a food-for-oil program, the only exception to U.N. sanctions imposed after Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

Russia has been the leading buyer of Iraqi oil even though it is itself one of the world's largest oil producers. Russia hopes that its efforts will be rewarded when sanctions are lifted against Iraq.

Iraq owes billions of dollars to Moscow, mostly for weapons purchased in the 1980s, and Russia would like to get at least some of that money through contracts to rebuild Iraq's oil industry.

Russian court revokes license of Moscow Scientology center

MOSCOW - In the latest move against a foreign religious group, a court today revoked the license of the Moscow center of the Church of Scientology because of problems with its registration papers.

Prosecutors said they began investigating the Humanitarian Hubbard Center after receiving dozens of complaints from parents about attempts to influence their children.

The Russian government in 1997 passed a law that gives courts the right to ban religious groups guilty of inciting hatred or intolerant behavior.

The Los Angeles-based Church of Scientology was founded in 1954 by science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard and teaches that technology can expand the mind and help solve problems.

Moscow authorities also have moved against the Jehovah's Witnesses during the past year.

Waldheim to foreign critics: Stay out of Austrian politics

VIENNA - Former President Kurt Waldheim, barred from the United States for his activities in World War II, says foreign critics have no right to tell Austrians how to choose their leaders.

Waldheim told the Austria Press Agency that the international uproar over the possibility that the far-right Freedom Party of Joerg Haider might enter the government was "entirely out of place."

The Freedom Party, running on an anti-immigrant platform, received about a quarter of the votes in Sunday's national elections, edging the junior coalition partner Austria Peoples Party for second place following the Social Democrats of Chancellor Viktor Klima.