Activists arrive in Zimbabwe court

HARARE, Zimbabwe - A prominent Zimbabwean activist and 31 others - some with bloodied and swollen faces - appeared in court yesterday accused in an alleged plot to oust President Robert Mugabe by force.

Jestina Mukoko and the other defendants arrived at the Harare court in leg irons and handcuffs. Two of them carried their child, 2, who has been kept in custody with his parents. Judge Mishrob Guvamombe said the activists should remain in custody until tomorrow but could receive medical treatment.

The group has been charged with recruiting fighters to overthrow Mugabe. The alleged plot has been widely dismissed by opponents of the regime as fabricated amid an increasing clampdown on dissent. Mugabe has been under pressure to step down since the breakdown of a power-sharing agreement that has paralyzed the country and increased humanitarian and economic problems.


- AP

Avalanches leave 7 dead in Canada

FERNIE, British Columbia - Search teams recovered the bodies of seven snowmobilers yesterday, a day after they were swept away by avalanches in western Canada's backcountry, police said. An eighth man was missing and believed dead.

The bodies were found as searchers plowed through avalanche debris near Fernie in British Columbia's Elk Valley, about 550 miles east of Vancouver, said Royal Canadian Mounted Police Cpl. Chris Faulkner.

Eleven snowmobilers were hit by back-to-back avalanches on Sunday. Eight were buried, but three from the group clawed through the snow and reached safety. Search efforts had been delayed until later yesterday by the threat of more avalanches.


- AP

Hotline links China and Russia

BEIJING - Top brass from the Chinese and Russian armies hailed closer ties yesterday in their first conversation over a newly installed military hotline, state media reported.

China's People's Liberation Army chief, Chen Bingde, called the hotline a sign of pragmatic cooperation and growing political trust, the Xinhua news agency said.

Russian counterpart Nikolay Makarov said the link would promote regular communication on military matters. Russia-China military links have moved beyond arms sales in recent years to incorporate joint antiterrorism drills and border-protection exercises.


- AP

Elsewhere:

The U.S. Navy

and British forces said they seized more than 20 tons of drugs smuggled along a "hash highway" through the waters of the western Indian Ocean. The Navy estimated that the drugs seized since October are worth $100 million.

Kim Jong Il

attended a concert by North Korea's state orchestra, state media said, the latest in a series of official reports portraying Kim as healthy amid speculation he suffered a stroke in August. It did not say when the performance by the State Symphony Orchestra took place.