Aristide supporters, foes take to the streets in Haiti

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — In one of the largest anti-government demonstrations yet, about 10,000 people marched in the capital yesterday, calling for the resignation of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Thousands of Aristide supporters took to the streets in another part of Port-au-Prince, singing, dancing and shouting "Aristide for five years!" The two groups never met and the demonstrations were peaceful, in sharp contrast to violent protests in recent days.

Aristide, a former Roman Catholic priest who is serving his second term as president of the poorest country in the Americas, has come under increasing pressure to resign. He has been at odds with opposition parties over the tainted results of parliamentary elections in 2000.

The anti-Aristide protest, six days before Haiti celebrates the bicentennial of its independence from France, included academics, professionals and nonprofit organizations.

Government spokesman Mario Dupuy called the anti-Aristide demonstrators "a minority of people trying to sabotage plans for Haiti's bicentennial celebrations" by making the country look bad.

Last week, an anti-Aristide demonstration was disrupted by a drive-by shooting in which two people were killed. Other recent protests have involved rock-throwing and other assaults by counter-demonstrators.

Russia says it arrested Chechen with explosives

VLADIKAVKAZ, Russia — A Chechen rebel commander was arrested with explosives near the southern Russian city where a suicide bomber earlier this month killed 46 people on a commuter train, the Federal Security Service said yesterday.

Authorities captured Ibrahim Israpilov on Tuesday near Yessentuki with 44 pounds of explosives, radio-controlled detonators, grenades and firearms, the intelligence service, known as the FSB, told Russian news agencies.

The head of the security service, Nikolai Patrushev, said on Russian TV that Israpilov is a suspect in attacks on the rail line, but he did not say whether authorities suspect the Chechen commander in the Dec. 5 suicide bombing of the train.

Russian forces have been bogged down in Chechnya since 1999, when they returned after rebel raids on a neighboring Russian region. Earlier, the Russians fought an unsuccessful 1994-96 war against separatists that ended in de facto independence for the region.

Foreigner linked to attempt to kill Pakistani president

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — At least one of the three suicide bombers who tried to assassinate President Pervez Musharraf was a foreigner, raising the specter that international terrorists had a hand in the attack, investigators said yesterday.

The attack — the second attempt in 11 days to kill Musharraf by bombing his motorcade on a road into the capital — was carried out by "a mix of local and international terrorists," Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said.

Still, the government stopped short of accusing Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network in the attack, as it did after the first attempt Dec. 14.

"Which group carried out the attack, al-Qaida, local militant or sectarian organizations — it would be guesswork to say right now," said Interior Ministry spokesman Abdur Rauf Chaudhry.

Fifteen people, including the bombers, were killed and 46 people wounded in the attack.

Rescuers continue to search for survivors of Benin crash

COTONOU, Benin — Rescue teams searched waters off the West African nation of Benin yesterday in a desperate hunt for survivors of a plane crash that killed at least 113 people.

Looters sifted through debris, grabbing cellphones and cash.

The Boeing 727 crashed on takeoff Thursday, scattering debris into the Atlantic Ocean just 500 yards from the airport. Yesterday, the bulk of the destroyed aircraft was still in the water.

Most of the casualties were Lebanese headed home for the Christmas holidays. Thousands of immigrants from Lebanon work in West African countries.

There were 22 survivors among the 161 — 151 passengers and a crew of 10 — aboard the Union des Transports Africains plane, which was owned by Lebanese businessmen and registered in Guinea.

There was no word on what caused the plane, which crashed about 3 p.m. in clear weather, to clip a building as it took off.

Mexico drops investigation of Roman Catholic cardinal

MEXICO CITY — Mexico dropped a money-laundering probe against a Roman Catholic cardinal, one of a handful of clerics who oversee Vatican finances, officials said yesterday.

The government pursued the investigation after a former attorney general, Jorge Carpizo, alleged that Cardinal Juan Sandoval of Guadalajara or his subordinates may have accepted donations from drug traffickers.

Sandoval denied the allegations and called the inquiry an attempt to silence his criticism of the investigation of the 1993 shooting death of his predecessor, Cardinal Juan Jesus Posadas Ocampo. Sandoval has long maintained that Posadas was killed to conceal ties between drug traffickers and government. Carpizo's investigation had concluded that Posadas was killed by accident during a showdown between drug traffickers.