Belgian police seize 14 in alleged plot

BRUSSELS, Belgium - Police arrested 14 Muslim extremists suspected of planning the jailbreak of an al-Qaeda prisoner convicted of plotting a terrorist attack on U.S. air-base personnel, officials said.

Extra police were deployed across the capital at airports, subway stations and other public places. The U.S. Embassy warned Americans of "a heightened risk of terrorist attack in Brussels."

Police arrested the 14 in raids overnight yesterday and discovered arms and explosives apparently intended for the jailbreak.

The prisoner, Nizar Trabelsi, a 37-year-old Tunisian who played soccer for several German teams, was sentenced to the maximum 10 years in prison four years ago.

- AP

Chavez presides over oil meeting

CIENFUEGOS, Cuba - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez presided at a regional petroleum summit meeting yesterday in Cuba, pressing his efforts to counter American influence in Latin America and the Caribbean by suggesting that more of his neighbors could pay for oil with goods or services in lieu of cash.

In his opening speech to the Petrocaribe summit in Cienfuegos, a southern coastal city about 155 miles from Havana, Chavez said his plan to provide low-cost oil to the region should go beyond financing mechanisms.

He offered other countries the option of following the model of Cuba, which repays by sending doctors who offer free services to the poor in Venezuela.

- AP

Polish leader OKs troop withdrawal

WARSAW, Poland - Poland's president gave his approval yesterday to a government plan that would end the country's military mission in Iraq by October 2008.

Poland has 900 troops in Iraq, and deciding how much longer to keep them there had turned into a source of friction between President Lech Kaczynski and new Prime Minister Donald Tusk in past weeks.

Tusk had been calling for the mission to be extended until October at the latest.

The president, who is the commander in chief of the military and a staunch U.S. ally, had hoped to keep the troops there longer.

- AP

Elsewhere:

American Eric Volz

was freed by a judge in Nicaragua yesterday despite an uproar after an appeals court overturned his conviction and 30-year sentence in the slaying of his Nicaraguan girlfriend. The 28-year-old from Nashville was freed from a prison hospital and then boarded a plane for Atlanta with his mother.

Nepal's supreme court

ruled yesterday that the government must create new laws to protect gay rights and change current ones that might be tantamount to discrimination. The court issued the order in this conservative Himalayan kingdom after hearing a petition filed by four gay-activist groups seeking greater rights.