Sarkozy makes apology to Algeria

ALGIERS, Algeria - French President Nicolas Sarkozy yesterday called his country's past colonial system "profoundly unjust," in a step toward ending decades of rancor with Algeria, once the crown jewel among French colonies.

France in the past has steadfastly rebuffed entreaties, notably from Algeria, to apologize for an era marked by humiliation and brutality in some colonies. But Sarkozy said at the start of a three-day state visit to Algeria that the colonial system was "contrary to the three founding words of our Republic:

liberty, equality, fraternity.

"

Sarkozy was looking to seal billions of dollars in contracts with the gas-rich North African nation. The friction over the colonial era has complicated ties between France and Algeria for years.

- AP

U.N. official urges more Somalia aid

MOGADISHU, Somalia - The United Nations' top humanitarian official appealed for more help for Somalia yesterday as an insurgency that has killed thousands of civilians this year brought more bloodshed in the capital.

John Holmes, the U.N. undersecretary general for humanitarian affairs, said aid agencies were struggling to operate because of violence in the country, which the United Nations says faces Africa's biggest humanitarian crisis.

Holmes visited a feeding center west of Mogadishu, where many of the thousands of Somalis fleeing fighting between government forces and Islamic extremists were seeking help. Somalia has not had a stable government since warlords overthrew a dictator in 1991, then turned against one another.

- AP

Release rejected at Khmer tribunal

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia - A U.N.-backed genocide tribunal ordered a former Khmer Rouge prison chief kept in detention yesterday on charges of crimes against humanity. The tribunal said Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, might try to flee or threaten witnesses.

Defense lawyers had demanded his release, arguing his rights were violated because he has spent more than eight years in jail without trial. Duch was arrested in 1999 and detained at a Cambodian military prison on war-crimes charges before his transfer to the tribunal's custody in July.

The decision by the panel of three Cambodian judges and two U.N.-appointed foreigners was unanimous, a spokeswoman said.

- AP

Elsewhere:

Sri Lankan

government soldiers and Tamil Tiger rebels battled yesterday across northern Sri Lanka, leaving 42 rebels and six soldiers dead, the military said.

China's space program

has defended a photo of the moon's surface taken by its lunar probe Chang'e 1 as authentic, dismissing critics who suggested it had been copied from a similar image captured by a U.S. orbiter.

Belgium's King Albert II

asked caretaker Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt to help break the country's political deadlock after the collapse of coalition talks. Amid fears the country's French- and Dutch-speaking parts may split, the monarch asked Verhofstadt to find a way out of the impasse, which has left Belgium without a new government for nearly six months.