Rome hails blows to death penalty

ROME - The city of Rome lit up the Colosseum yesterday to celebrate both a U.N. vote calling for a moratorium on the death penalty and a decision by New Jersey to abolish capital punishment.

The ancient arena was bathed in white light as Italy celebrated the U.N. General Assembly resolution approved Tuesday despite opposition by supporters of the death penalty including the United States, Iran and China. Italy, a firm opponent of capital punishment, spearheaded the nonbinding resolution.

Italy also hailed the signing into law Monday of a measure abolishing the death penalty in New Jersey, making it the first U.S. state to abolish capital punishment in more than 40 years.

- AP

Lawmaker guilty of link to militias

BOGOTA, Colombia - Colombia's Supreme Court convicted a pro-government congressman yesterday of conspiring with far-right paramilitaries, the first guilty verdict handed down by the court in a scandal linking dozens of lawmakers to the militias.

Eric Morris, of the small Colombia Democratic party, was sentenced to six years in jail and ordered to pay a $432,000 fine. Morris was one of a trio of lawmakers from Sucre province whose arrests last year led to the "para-politics" scandal that has tarnished President Alvaro Uribe's image abroad.

Sucre, along the Caribbean coast, was the epicenter of a brutal offensive launched by paramilitaries in the late 1990s to "cleanse" it of leftist rebels. Hundreds were killed or disappeared.

- AP

Spain convicts 47 for separatist ties

MADRID, Spain - Spain's National Court convicted 47 people yesterday of links to the armed Basque separatist group ETA via a network of ostensibly legitimate social and political organizations.

The court sentenced them to prison terms ranging from two to 24 years. Judge Angela Murillo said the trial had shown that the youth social group Ekin, and its predecessor KAS, were an integral part of ETA, which is blamed for 820 killings since the 1960s in its campaign for Basque independence.

The trial began in late 2005 and stemmed from an eight-year inquiry by Baltasar Garzon, Spain's leading antiterror investigator, who alleged that ETA had support through political, financial and media groups.

- AP

Elsewhere:

Brazil's Supreme Court

quashed a lower court's injunction that had halted work on a $2 billion river diversion project. Bishop Luiz Flavio Cappio has been on hunger strike for more than three weeks to stop the project, which he and others say will harm the environment and benefit large agribusiness.

A Sri Lankan air strike

last month wounded the separatist Tamil Tiger rebels' reclusive leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, the military said.

Mikhail Kasyanov,

who was dismissed by President Vladimir V. Putin as Russia's prime minister in 2004, said he would mount a campaign for the March presidential election only if the authorities provide guarantees of a fair vote. To get on the ballot, however, Kasyanov will have to gather two million signatures.