Colombia ousts 2 top cops,

alleges widespread wiretaps

BOGOTA, Colombia - Colombia's police chief and the head of police intelligence were forced to retire yesterday as the government alleged that police illegally tapped calls of opposition political figures, journalists and members of the government.

The scandal multiplied U.S.-ally President Alvaro Uribe's woes on a day judicial authorities also ordered the arrests of 20 politicians and business leaders, including five congressmen, on criminal conspiracy charges for signing a 2001 pact with illegal right-wing militias. (See related story, Page 32)

"The procedure is totally unacceptable, illegal and contrary to the policy of the government," Uribe's office said in a statement.

The statement said the government had asked for and received the resignations of Gen. Jorge Daniel Castro and Gen. Guillermo Chaves.

It was not immediately clear whether Uribe was aware of the wiretapping before yesterday's announcement, which did not specify whose phones had been tapped.

Gen. Oscar Naranjo, head of the judicial police, was named the new national police director. Naranjo has worked closely with U.S. drug enforcement and intelligence agencies against the country's drug cartels.

Gunman recants, clears rancher

in killing of U.S. nun in Brazil

BELEM, Brazil - The gunman convicted of killing Dorothy Stang recanted previous testimony and claimed the rancher now on trial for giving orders to kill the American nun and rain-forest defender did not offer him money to do it.

Testifying for the defense yesterday, Rayfran das Neves Sales told the court he acted out of rage when he fired six shots into Stang at close range on a muddy stretch of road in the Amazon rain forest in February 2005.

"She [Stang] spoke in a loud voice and at that moment I felt threatened," said Sales, adding he fled after the killing to Vitalmiro Bastos de Moura's ranch because it was the only place to run. "When I got there he asked, did I tell you to do this and I told him 'no.' "

Moura is one of two ranchers accused of ordering Stang's killing in a conflict over land he wanted to log and develop.

"I had no participation whatsoever," Moura, 36, told the judge in his opening statement.

Pleading not guilty, Moura said he didn't even know Stang, who had been active in organizing poor settlers around the jungle town of Anapu for the last 23 years of her life.

Stang, 73, was killed by six shots fired at close range on a muddy patch of road in the Amazon state of Para. She helped build schools and taught settlers to defend their rights and to respect the rain forest, earning the enmity of powerful men who hoped to exploit it.

Palestinian security official quits

over Hamas-Fatah street battles

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip - The top Palestinian security official quit in exasperation yesterday after a second day of firefights among Palestinian factions left four more people dead, including a truck driver delivering bread.

Residents frightened by the upsurge in violence holed up in their homes, leaving Gaza City's streets largely deserted while rival security forces took up positions on rooftops and hundreds of gunmen in black ski masks put up checkpoints and stopped cars.

Eight people were killed and 70 wounded Sunday and yesterday.

The 2-month-old Hamas-Fatah unity government struggled to prevent Gaza from again descending into chaos, reaching an agreement with warring factions for a truce late yesterday, the second such agreement in as many days, government spokesman Ghazi Hamad said.

But rival sides continued to battle each other throughout the night, leaving one Hamas man dead in fighting early today, Palestinian security officials said.

With the casualty toll mounting, Interior Minister Hani Kawasmeh resigned and accused leaders on both sides of thwarting his efforts to halt the violence.

The career civil servant was a compromise candidate for the top security post when the Fatah movement and the Islamic radicals of Hamas formed a unity government in March after months of factional fighting. His resignation was a new blow to the shaky coalition.

Militants kill U.S. soldier

at meeting in Pakistani town

KABUL, Afghanistan - Militants killed a U.S. soldier and a Pakistani yesterday after a meeting held in a Pakistani frontier town seeking to calm the worst clashes in years between Afghan and Pakistani troops policing a border crossed daily by Taliban and al Qaeda insurgents.

The attack at Teri Mangal produced a rare American casualty inside Pakistan, which is a U.S. ally in the fight against terrorist groups but has uneasy relations with Afghanistan on how to deal with insurgents. Two American and four Pakistani soldiers were reported wounded, along with two civilians working for the NATO force in Afghanistan whose nationalities were not released.

An Afghan army brigade commander, Gen. Akrem, who attended the meeting, said gunmen fired on the participants - including about 15 Americans - as they left a school building after the talks.

"From three directions the gunmen opened fire - from the window of a classroom, from a building outside the school and from a hill," said Akrem, who like many Afghans uses only one name.

He said that Afghan soldiers at the meeting had been disarmed, but that the U.S. soldiers had weapons and fired back.

Japan moves a step closer

to changing pacifist constitution

TOKYO - Japan's parliament approved a plan yesterday for a referendum on the country's pacifist constitution, a move that boosts Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's drive to give the armed forces a larger global role.

The country's 1947 constitution was drafted by U.S. occupation officials after World War II, and it has never been amended. Many Japanese credit the charter's pacifist clause, Article 9, with keeping the country out of war since 1945.

Under the proposal approved yesterday, the referendum to revise the constitution could be held as early as 2010.

- Associated Press