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World Briefing - 2003-01-22


Venezuela's central bank has closed its foreign exchange market for five days in an attempt to keep its local currency from declining further. On Tuesday, former U-S President Jimmy Carter proposed a plan to help end Venezuela's political crisis. Mr. Carter presented the plan to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez during a meeting in Caracas. President Chavez's opponents began a general strike December 2nd to force him to resign and call early elections. Venezuela was the world's fifth-largest oil exporter before the strike began.

The head of the Ivory Coast parliament has accused French officials of favoring rebels at peace talks outside Paris. A second phase of the peace talks begins Friday when Ivorian President Gbagbo is scheduled to meet French President Chirac in Paris. U-N Secretary General Kofi Annan and other African heads of state will join the talks Saturday. Northern-based rebels have controlled about half of Ivory Coast since launching their uprising in September.

Former Serbian President Milan Milutinovic has been taken into custody at the United Nations tribunal at The Hague. He faces charges connected to war crimes committed during the 1998 Kosovo conflict. Mr. Milutinovic voluntarily left Belgrade Monday to surrender to the U.N. Court.

Officials in Mexico say a powerful earthquake has struck the western coastal state of Colima, killing at least 23 people. Mexico's earthquake center says the seven-point-six magnitude quake hit late Tuesday, about 500 kilometers west of Mexico City. The government has declared a state of emergency there.

In the Middle East, protesters clashed with Israeli soldiers as the Israeli army demolished dozens of shops in a West Bank village Tuesday. Israel says the market in the town of Nazlat Issa was built illegally. But town residents accuse Israel of waging economic warfare, since the shops are the town's main source of income. The Israeli army also razed the Hebron home of a militant from Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement. Meanwhile, the first clash in four months between Israel and Lebanese Hezbollah fighters broke out Tuesday in the disputed border area.

In Australia wildfires are raging in two more states, as devastating blazes are subsiding around the capital, Canberra. In Canberra, calmer winds and cooler temperatures helped reduce blazes, which have killed four people, destroyed hundreds of homes and caused more than 30 million dollars in damage.

And finally, thirty years ago abortion became legal in the U.S., as the U.S. Supreme Court struck down state and local state laws restricting abortions in the first six months of pregnancy. Throughout the country there were demonstrations for and against the landmark ruling.