U.N. OKs attacks on Somali pirates

UNITED NATIONS - On the same day Somali gunmen seized two more ships, the Security Council voted unanimously yesterday to authorize nations to conduct land and air attacks on pirate bases on the coast of the Horn of Africa country.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was on hand to push through the resolution, one of President Bush's last major foreign-policy initiatives. Pirates have hijacked more than 40 vessels off Somalia's 1,880-mile coastline this year.

The resolution sets up the possibility of increased U.S. military action in Somalia, a chaotic country where a U.S. peacekeeping mission in 1992-93 ended with a humiliating withdrawal of troops after a deadly clash in Mogadishu.

Vice Adm. Bill Gortney of the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet expressed doubt last week about the wisdom of staging ground attacks on Somali pirates. He said that it is difficult to identify pirates and that the potential for killing civilians "cannot be overestimated."

- AP

Tour bus crashes in Israel; 26 die

JERUSALEM - A bus filled with Russian tour guides scouting out Israeli locations plunged into a desert ravine near the Red Sea resort town of Eilat yesterday, killing at least 26 people.

The driver of another tour bus said the vehicle sped by in a no-passing zone, crashed through a guard rail and rolled down the slope. Television showed bodies in white bags laid out in a row at the bottom of the ravine.

A spokeswoman for Israel's tourism ministry said the 60 passengers were Russian, and an Eilat official said they were from the city of St. Petersburg and had just landed.

- AP

Bangladesh lifts emergency rule

DHAKA, Bangladesh - Bangladesh's military-backed government said yesterday that it would end nearly two years of emergency rule and restore civil liberties before the national elections this month.

President Iajuddin Ahmed has signed an order lifting the emergency he declared in January last year to quell weeks of street violence over election reform that left more than 30 people dead, a Home Ministry statement said.

The order is effective beginning today and will give candidates the freedom to conduct campaigning for the Dec. 29 parliamentary elections, the statement said. Political parties have been demanding an end to emergency rule so they can campaign without restrictions. The vote is seen as crucial to restore democracy in Muslim-majority Bangladesh, which has a history of military rule and political unrest.

- AP

Elsewhere:

Italian police

staged sweeping raids to arrest about 90 suspected mobsters and prevent the Sicilian Mafia from forming a new command structure, officials said. The blitz was one of the largest in recent years.

About 15 models

in Paris braved near-freezing weather to strip outside the city's cultural affairs bureau to protest a new municipal order that bans the age-old practice of tipping those who pose nude.