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World Briefing - 2003-01-08

Venezuela is planning to restructure the state-run Oil Company in an effort to end a five-week general strike. Some 30-thousand oil workers are on strike in an effort to force President Chavez from power. On Tuesday, thousands of Chavez opponents rallied outside the federal tax agency in Caracas and vowed to stop paying taxes. Prior to the strikes Venezuela was the fifth leading oil exporter.

A military court in the Democratic Republic of Congo has sentenced at least 26 people to death in connection with the assassination of President Laurent Kabila two years ago. Colonel Eddy Kapend, the main suspect sentenced Tuesday, served as Mr. Kabila's senior aide at the time of the assassination. Authorities tried Colonel Kapend and more than 100 other suspects in a mass trial that began last March.

Ivory Coast's main rebel group says it will participate in peace talks scheduled to begin next week in Paris. A rebel spokesman indicated that fighting between French peacekeepers and a western based rebel group Monday had jeopardized the peace talks. France proposed the talks last week after that rebel group threatened to break an 11-week cease-fire.

India says it plans to deport more than 20-million illegal Bangladeshi immigrants deemed to be a security threat. The Indian Home Ministry announced the campaign after a meeting of Indian security officials. The ministry says the presence of so many illegal immigrants poses a serious threat to internal security.

Sri Lanka's ethnic Tamil rebels have pulled out of a key committee on deescalating the country's long civil war. However, the Tamils' chief negotiator says the group will remain at peace talks with the Sri Lankan government taking place in Thailand. The current, fourth round of the Norwegian-brokered peace talks opened earlier this week.

Lithuania's former Prime Minister Rolandas Paksas scored an upset victory in the country’s presidential runoff election, unseating heavily favored incumbent Valdas Adamkus. Mr. Paksas won about 55 percent of the vote, while Mr. Adamkus had about 45 percent. Opinion polls before the vote had shown a comfortable lead for Mr. Adamkus.

A small commuter plane has crashed while taking off from Charlotte-Douglas International airport in North Carolina. Twenty-one people are believed to have been on board when the plane apparently slammed into a maintenance hangar. A police spokesman says it does not appear anyone survived the crash.