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World Briefing - 2003-01-29

Striking Venezuelan oil executives say daily production has exceeded one million barrels, signaling the government may be regaining control of the key industry. Now in its ninth week, the general strike has caused widespread food and fuel shortages, adding to political tensions. The Venezuelan opposition began the walkout December second to force President Hugo Chavez out of office. President Chavez has responded by firing thousands of dissident oil workers and announcing he will impose currency and price controls to stabilize the economy.

France says it is ready to evacuate its citizens from Ivory Coast, where a French-brokered peace plan has sparked several days of rioting. Pressure is mounting on Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo to annul a power-sharing peace deal reached with rebels last week in Paris. Government supporters in Abidjan have held four days of protests against the peace plan. The rebel uprising began September 19th.

The World Food Program says more than half a million West Africans are now facing starvation and need emergency food aid. The Rome-based agency says Mauritania is the worst hit country following three years of drought. The W-F-P says it needs 28-million dollars in food aid for West Africa, but the response from donors has been disappointing. Aid agencies have also warned that millions of people in the Horn of Africa and in six southern Africa nations are facing severe food shortages.

Defense officials in Nepal say at least 13 Maoist rebels and three government soldiers have been killed in fighting about 300 kilometers west of the capital, Katmandu. The attack came three days after suspected rebels shot dead and killed the head of the Himalayan nation's armed police force, his wife and bodyguard, as they strolled near their home in suburban Katmandu.

A fiery collision between a passenger bus and a truck in eastern India has left at least 42 people dead and 13 others injured. The accident happened early Tuesday on a highway south of Calcutta, the capital of West Bengal state.

Former Serbian President Milan Milutinovic has pleaded not guilty to charges of war crimes in Kosovo. Mr. Milutinovic pleaded innocent to four counts of crimes against humanity and the deportation, murder and persecution of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo in 1999. He surrendered to the tribunal last Monday, several weeks after his term as Serbia's president ended.

And, the latest virus-like attack on the Internet is said to have run its course, after three days of affecting computer systems around the world. In South Korea, the nation hardest hit by the computer worm, the largest Internet service provider was still reporting abnormal traffic early Tuesday. But no other unusual symptoms were reported. The latest attack began on Saturday. Officials are still investigating where it originated.