Tight race forces runoff in Ghana

ACCRA, Ghana - Neither the ruling party's candidate nor the opposition candidate secured enough votes to win the presidential election outright, forcing a runoff in one of Africa's few stable democracies, according to results released yesterday.

The neck-and-neck race has become a referendum on Ghana's stunning economic growth, which saw the country's foreign investment grow more than 2,000 percent and exports more than double since the ruling party took office eight years ago.

Nana Akufo-Addo of the ruling New Patriotic Party received 49.1 percent of the vote, just 1 percentage point shy of what he needed to win the election in the first round.

Opposition candidate John Atta Mills campaigned on a platform of change, arguing that the country's growth had not been felt in people's wallets. He received 47.9 percent of the 8.6 million votes cast. The runoff is Dec. 28.

- AP

Ship passengers avert danger zone

HODEIDA, Yemen - A cruise ship let off hundreds of passengers in Yemen yesterday so they could fly to the other side of the Arabian Peninsula and avoid the dangerous Gulf of Aden, where pirates have attacked dozens of ships.

The M/S Columbus arrived in the western Yemeni port of Hodeida, where 420 passengers and crew got off.

Some immediately flew on a charter flight to Dubai, while others first toured the Yemeni capital and mountain villages before flying to the glitzy Persian Gulf city, said Mohammed Abdel-Moghni, the head of the Yemen tour agency that handled their onward travel.

The German cruise liner then continued with a limited crew through the Gulf of Aden, where Somalian pirates have targeted commercial ships, cruise liners and yachts.

- AP

Malaysia frees 9/11-tied suspect

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - Malaysia has released a former army captain accused of helping Sept. 11 hijackers and held without trial since 2001 after deciding he no longer poses a threat, officials said yesterday.

Yazid Sufaat allegedly let senior al-Qaeda operatives, including two eventual Sept. 11 hijackers, use an apartment he owned for meetings in Malaysia in January 2000.

A U.S.-trained biochemist, Yazid was arrested in late 2001 when he returned from Afghanistan, where he allegedly worked on an al-Qaeda biological-weapons program. He also was accused of providing a false letter of employment for Zacarias Moussaoui that helped the 9/11 conspirator enter the United States.

National police chief Musa Hassan said Yazid was freed because "he had shown remorse." Three alleged members of the extremist group Jemaah Islamiyah, two Thai separatists and two Malaysian spy suspects also were freed.

- AP

Elsewhere:

The toll from Zimbabwe's

cholera outbreak has risen sharply, the United Nations said; 775 deaths and 16,141 cases of the waterborne disease were reported in the African nation.

A former World Bank economist

was chosen to become Romania's next prime minister. Theodor Stolojan, 65, also held the job as the nation emerged from communism.