A new flare-up in Sudan dispute

JUBA, Sudan - Gunmen from an ethnic Arab tribe allied with the Sudanese government of President Omar al-Bashir fired on four U.N. peacekeeping helicopters taking off from a disputed border town at the heart of a new north-south conflict, officials said Wednesday. None of the helicopters was hit.

Both Sudan's north and south claim Abyei, in a fertile region that has oil fields. The dispute has complicated the planned creation in July of a new nation out of southern Sudan after the settlement of a long civil war.

The black African Ngok Dinka tribe, allied with the south, and the Arab Misseriya, allies of the north, both claim the area, which was taken over by northern troops and tanks Saturday after an attack on a northern convoy earlier.

A U.N. spokeswoman said Misseriya were moving into Abyei, and some feared it was an attempt to tip a referendum that could decide its future. - AP

A cattle plague declared extinct

PARIS - Rinderpest, a cattle plague that has killed hundreds of millions of animals over centuries, today became the first animal disease to be officially eradicated, the World Organization for Animal Health said.

"Rinderpest, one of the deadliest diseases of cattle and of several other animal species, is now eradicated from the surface of the earth," the Paris-based organization said in an e-mailed statement Wednesday.

All of the world's 198 countries and territories with cattle susceptible to rinderpest are free of the viral disease, according to a resolution adopted by a meeting of member countries of the animal-health organization, known as OIE, in the French capital.

The group said it was working with the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization on confining the virus for research and vaccine purposes. - Bloomberg News

Quake experts indicted in Italy

ROME - Seven scientists and experts were indicted Wednesday on manslaughter charges for not warning residents before a devastating 2009 earthquake that killed 308 people in central Italy. Defense lawyers condemned the charges, saying it's impossible to predict earthquakes.

Judge Giuseppe Romano Gargarella ordered members of the national government's Great Risks commission, which evaluates potential for natural disasters, to go on trial in L'Aquila on Sept. 20.

Corriere della Sera's website and other Italian media quoted the judge as saying the defendants "gave inexact, incomplete, and contradictory information" about whether smaller tremors felt by L'Aquila residents in the weeks and months before the April 6, 2009, quake should have constituted grounds for a quake warning.

Swarms of small temblors had rattled L'Aquila before the quake. - AP

Elsewhere:

Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff suspended an anti-homophobia campaign set to begin at schools this year after meeting legislators representing religious groups opposed to the campaign.