Bin Laden vows to fight Israel

CAIRO, Egypt - Osama bin Laden vowed yesterday to fight Israel for the liberation of the Palestinians, saying their cause is at the heart of al-Qaeda's holy war with the West.

The terrorist leader's third statement this year coincided with the Jewish state's 60th anniversary and came as President Bush was wrapping up his visit to Israel for the occasion.

"We will continue our struggle against the Israelis and their allies," bin Laden said in a 10-minute audio clip posted on an Internet site used frequently by al-Qaeda. "We are not going to give up an inch of the land of Palestine."

Al-Qaeda is increasingly using the Israeli-Arab conflict in its media campaign to rally supporters.

- AP

Zimbabwe runoff set for June 27

HARARE, Zimbabwe - Seven weeks after the presidential election, Zimbabwe finally set a runoff date yesterday, saying longtime President Robert Mugabe and rival Morgan Tsvangirai will face off in a June 27 ballot that the opposition fears will be skewed by thuggery and fraud.

Opposition supporters have been beaten, killed and driven from their homes in a recent campaign of terror that observers say is meant to secure Mugabe's lock on power.

Tsvangirai had insisted that the runoff be held next week, but he said after the commission's announcement that he would still compete. Independent monitors had said Tsvangirai won the first round, but not with the simple majority needed to avoid a runoff.

- AP

Russia, Georgia in spy dispute

MOSCOW - Tensions between Russia and Georgia rose again yesterday as Russia's security service reportedly claimed to have uncovered a spy recruited by Georgia to aid insurgents in Russia's south. Georgia denied the allegation.

An unidentified security service official said the alleged agent was a Georgian-born Russian, Ramzan Turkoshvili, 34.

The claim - cast as evidence that Georgia backs terrorists in Russia - came with relations strained by Georgia's drive for NATO membership and Moscow's support for separatists in the former Soviet republic. The tension has led to fears of military conflict between Russia and Georgia, whose location on a key oil export route makes it a focus of contention between Moscow and the West.

- AP

Elsewhere:

The Dutch government

announced plans yesterday to criminalize visits to prostitutes who are not licensed. The Justice Ministry said the move is necessary to force better compliance with the legalized-prostitution policy.

A handful of Russian

doomsday cult members crawled out of a cave where they had holed up awaiting the end of the world after authorities removed two corpses from their lair. The nine were the last of the 35 men, women and children who had dug into a hillside in November and threatened to blow themselves up with gas canisters if officials tried to remove them.

A Gaza City Christian school

was the target of a bomb blast before dawn yesterday. The blast at the Zahwa Rosary School, which is run by nuns but serves mostly Muslim students, caused no injuries.