Italy orders end to truckers' strike

ROME - The government ordered Italy's striking truck drivers back to work at midnight after they blocked highways and border points for a second day yesterday, causing shortages of gasoline, food and supplies.

The Transport Ministry ordered an end to the strike, citing "the fundamental rights of citizens," the Apcom news agency reported. New talks were set for Dec. 20.

Most supplies move through Italy by truck, but yesterday, drivers pushing for lower gas prices and shorter working hours blocked traffic on highways outside Rome, Milan, and other major cities. Many gas stations across Rome were closed. Fiat, the country's largest private-sector company, said it was forced to lay off thousands of workers temporarily because of a lack of deliveries to its factories.

- AP

Pirates free crew, Japanese tanker

TOKYO - Pirates released the Japanese chemical tanker Golden Nori and its 22 crew members off the Somalian coast yesterday, and all the crew are unharmed, a U.S. Navy spokesman said.

The tanker, carrying crew members from Myanmar, the Philippines and South Korea, was seized in late October. One of the two South Korean crew members escaped and was rescued by a passing vessel in early November.

Andrew Mwangura, head of the Kenya-based East Africa Seafarers' Assistance Program, said Monday that the hostage-takers had demanded $1 million ransom and threatened to kill all 22 crew if their demands were not met. Yoichi Oda, a Japanese official in charge of crisis management, said the Japanese government had not received any ransom demands.

- AP

Protesters greet Gadhafi in Paris

PARIS - Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi insisted yesterday that his government was never involved in terrorist acts, blaming "individuals" for two bombings of Western passenger jets. He also disputed critics who accuse Libya of abusing human rights.

Speaking on French TV on the second day of an official visit to France, Gadhafi said Libya wanted to take its place in a world marked by peace and cooperation.

Protests over his six-day visit, which has clinched contracts worth billions of dollars for French business, started even before Gadhafi arrived. They grew larger yesterday when he entered the National Assembly. More than half the 80 lawmakers invited boycotted the event. President Nicolas Sarkozy is the first Western leader to offer an official visit to Gadhafi in more than 30 years.

- AP

Elsewhere:

A court

in the Hague, Netherlands, trying former Liberian President Charles Taylor on war crimes, cleared the way for his trial to resume next month, six months after its chaotic adjournment. He is charged with arming rebels who killed thousands of civilians during Sierra Leone's civil war.

An Indonesian court

sentenced four Islamic extremists yesterday to prison terms of up to 19 years for terror acts including the beheadings of three Christian schoolgirls and a deadly market bombing.