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News Briefs

Spain Arrests Two on Suspicion Of Planning Terror Attack

The Spanish police arrested two people in eastern Spain on Thursday on suspicion that they were planning an imminent terrorist attack for the Basque militant group ETA, the Interior Ministry said.

The two suspects, Mikel Orbegozo Etxarri and Sara Majarenas Ibarreta, were detained in the coastal city of Valencia after they tried to flee police officers who had begun questioning them about suspicious behavior near city hall, the ministry said in a statement.

The police later found a bomb, a pistol and 25 cartridges of explosives in the suspects’ hotel room, the statement said. They also found information on possible targets, including members of the military, business executives and politicians in Valencia and other parts of Spain, according to the statement. Orbegozo Etxarri, in his mid-30s, and Majarenas Ibarreta, in her 20s, were both from San Sebastian.

Local news agencies reported that the suspects were planning to carry out an attack before Sunday, when Spain is scheduled to hold a referendum on the European constitution.

ETA has killed more than 800 people since 1968 in its campaign to establish an independent Basque state encompassing territories in northern Spain and southern France.

Nasa Nearly Set to Resume Shuttle Flights

NASA now has completed more than half of the recommendations required to resume space shuttle flights and should be able to comply with the rest to begin launches in May or June, an expert advisory panel said Thursday.

The return-to-flight task force, headed by former astronauts Thomas P. Stafford and Richard O. Covey, said it fully approved of NASA’s plans to meet seven of 15 mandatory recommendations of Columbia accident investigators and conditionally approved an eighth.Covey told a telephone news conference that the space agency was close to meeting most of the other requirements, which his panel hoped to approve by the end of March at its last scheduled major meeting.

Shuttles have been grounded since Feb. 1, 2003, when the Columbia disintegrated upon return to Earth when hot gases entered a hole that was found to have been punched into the leading edge of its wing by foam debris on launch. The shuttle’s seven-member crew died in the accident.

Key Witness in Worldcom Trial Ends His Testimony

Scott D. Sullivan, the government’s star witness in its case against Bernard J. Ebbers, the former chief executive of WorldCom, ended seven days of testimony by admitting he broke the law so the company could meet financial targets.

Under questioning, Sullivan, WorldCom’s former chief financial officer, said that he had hid billions of dollars in expenses to mask the company’s deteriorating performance.

“Hitting the earnings per share numbers was more important to you than to follow the law?” asked the lead defense lawyer, Reid Weingarten.

“At that point in time, I knew it was wrong and I knew it was against the law,” Sullivan responded.

In a cross-examination Thursday, Weingarten tried to portray Sullivan as the brains behind the $11 billion fraud that brought down WorldCom in 2002.