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News Briefs

China Detains Three Relatives Of Victims At Tiananmen

The New York Times -- BEIJING

At least three family members of people gunned down by the Chinese military during the crackdown on dissent in Beijing on June 4, 1989, have been detained, as the authorities seek to prevent protests connected with the 15th anniversary of the massacre, relatives said Monday.

State security officers took the three, all of them women, from their homes on Sunday. Relatives said none of the three have since returned home or made contact.

The detentions came shortly after a noted Chinese surgeon and longtime Communist Party member, Jiang Yanyong, wrote to top leaders calling for an official reassessment of the massacre. The official version holds that the demonstrations in Tiananmen Square constituted a counterrevolutionary rebellion, and that the army took appropriate action in suppressing it.

U.S. Accepts Responsibility For Deaths Of Two Iraqi Journalists

The New York Times -- BAGHDAD, Iraq

U.S. authorities accepted responsibility on Monday for the shooting deaths this month of two Iraqi journalists at an Army roadblock, but said the soldiers had fired in self-defense.

In a brief statement, a senior military official said the two journalists, a cameraman and a reporter for Al Arabiya, a satellite channel, were traveling in a sport utility vehicle about 100 yards behind a car that was speeding toward the roadblock. The soldiers fired at the speeding car, the official said, and hit the journalists by mistake.

“We looked into this,” the official said. “We did an investigation. And we concluded that this was an accident and that the soldiers were acting in self-defense and within the rules of engagement.”

The nighttime shooting -- which provoked protests and a walkout by Arab reporters during a news conference by Secretary of State Colin L. Powell in Baghdad -- was the latest in a string of roadblock killings that have claimed dozens of Iraqi lives. Military officials said the driver of the speeding car was also killed after he failed to heed warnings to slow down.

Initially, U.S. military commanders had left open the possibility that the two journalists had been shot by someone other than U.S. soldiers. But the military official acknowledged that eight U.S. soldiers had opened fire and that four to six bullets aimed at the speeding car had hit the journalists.

Trials Open Nationwide Disputing Ban on Abortion Method

The New York Times -- NEW YORK

The new federal law banning a procedure that the government calls partial-birth abortion compromises reproductive choice for women, and is vague and unconstitutional, a lawyer argued on Monday in U.S. District Court in New York, echoing statements made in California and Nebraska as challenges to the law went to trial across the country.

In defense of the law, the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, Bush administration lawyers said the procedure was never medically necessary to protect a woman’s health and caused undue pain to the fetus, making the procedure inhumane.

The two sides squared off in federal courts over suits brought by doctors and abortion-rights groups against the act, which President Bush signed into law in November. In pretrial hearings, the cases drew considerable national attention as the government tried to subpoena medical records of abortions from hospitals. Appellate courts have temporarily prohibited the release of those records.

At issue is the ban that criminalizes a procedure called intact dilation and extraction, which can be used to terminate pregnancies after the first trimester. Any “overt act” to “kill the partially delivered living fetus” is banned, punishable by up to two years in prison.

Angola’s GMO Restriction Plan Imperils International Aid

The New York Times -- JOHANNESBURG, South Africa

A U.N. effort to feed nearly 2 million hungry Angolans, most of them former war refugees, is imperiled because Angola’s government plans to outlaw imports of genetically modified cereals, officials of the World Food Program here said Monday.

Most food assistance from the United States, which at last count provided more than three-quarters of U.N. aid to Angola, consists of genetically modified corn and other crops that apparently would be barred under the new rules.

That includes 19,000 tons of genetically modified American corn now bound for an Angolan port. The corn -- roughly a month’s supply for the U.N. food program in Angola -- must be cleared for unloading by Wednesday, said Mike Sackett, the World Food Program’s director for southern Africa.

It remains unclear whether the new ban on genetically modified foods, issued March 17 but not yet formally put into effect, will prevent the unloading of the shipment, Sackett said.

Angola follows four drought-stricken southern Africa nations -- Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique -- in refusing foreign donations of certain genetically modified foods despite widespread malnutrition and even starvation among their citizens.

Zambia has barred genetically modified foods outright, saying their safety is unproven. Other nations, including Angola, are insisting that cereals and seeds be milled first so that they cannot germinate in local soils and thus potentially alter the genetic makeup of local crops.

The United States, which provides more than half the food aid in southern Africa and the vast bulk of genetically modified foods, has accused governments of placing political and theoretical concerns above the survival of their own people.