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News Briefs

Annan to Press Baghdad On Weapons Inspectors

SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON POST -- UNITED NATIONS

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan will meet Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri next week to press Baghdad to allow U.N. weapons inspectors into the country for the first time in more than three years, according to a U.N. spokesman.

The U.N. chief is seeking to head off a military confrontation between Iraq and the United States, which has demanded that Baghdad permit unfettered access to U.N. weapons inspectors to let them hunt for the country’s suspected chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs. But U.N. officials say that Iraq has provided no indication that it is prepared to let the inspectors back.

U.N. officials said Annan would try to limit the March 7 discussions to a handful of key issues, including Iraq’s obligation to permit the inspectors’ return and to account for hundreds of Kuwaiti nationals who disappeared during Iraq’s occupation of Kuwait. “The secretary general expects to have a focused discussion on the implementation of relevant Security Council resolutions, including the return of U.N. weapons inspectors to Iraq,” said U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric.

Police Release Information About Alleged Subversives

LOS ANGELES TIMES -- ROME

Italian police Monday released information about nine Moroccan immigrants who had been ordered held on charges of subversive association after a judge agreed that they might have been plotting to send lethal gas into the U.S. Embassy or poison its water supply.

But after nearly a week of interrogation, police told U.S. officials that the suspects have offered nothing to build on evidence found in one of their apartments: a bag containing nearly 9 pounds of a cyanide compound and a map highlighting water pipes feeding the embassy complex in central Rome.

Police identified the renter of the suburban apartment as Aziz Jamile, a 32-year-old pizza chef. He and his four roommates are under arrest. Another key suspect, police said, was Zinedine Tarik, a 37-year-old manager of a telephone exchange here for immigrants wanting to call or wire money home. Tarik and two others were seized at another apartment.

Priest Charged with Abuse Vows to Fight Back

LOS ANGELES TIMES -- BOSTON

A priest suspended on a charge that he sexually abused a child more than 30 years ago on Monday became the first member of the clergy here publicly to challenge his accusers within the church, heatedly denying the allegations and declaring that he will fight to keep his job.

“I have done nothing,” the Rev. D. George Spagnolia said at a news conference at St. Patrick’s Parish in Lowell, north of Boston.

About 200 supporters broke into applause as their pastor, known as Father Spag, added in slow, measured tones, “I demand due process.”

More than 80 priests from the Boston archdiocese have been named in a sexual abuse scandal that bubbled over early this year with the child molestation trial and conviction of defrocked priest John J. Geoghan, now serving nine to 10 years in prison and also awaiting trials in at least two other criminal cases.

Spagnolia’s forceful denial comes amid concerns that the impulse publicly to purge the church of known pedophiles might lead to false accusations -- and even, some people fear, a potential witch hunt.