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Justice Minister Ali Mohamed Osman Yassin the people had been arrested in Darfur for human rights abuses and would immediately be sent to court.

“They are military people … from army, military and security,” Yassin said, adding all the accused were from these “disciplinary forces”.

Official Sudanese media said Khartoum planned to try at least 164 suspects in Darfur.

The news comes two days before the United Nations Security Council is expected to vote on resolution which would send those responsible for war crimes in Darfur to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Sudan opposes the idea of sending Sudanese nationals to a court outside Sudan, saying its judicial system is competent to prosecute those guilty of crimes.

“Now it is high time for us to prove ourselves and to prove how genuine we are and how seriously the Sudanese judiciary can do the job,” Yassin said.

“This is a start … it is not the end of it – they are progressing and doing a good job.”

The US, which had previously asked Khartoum to rein in its militia allies and stop the bloodshed in Darfur, reacted sceptically the report.

“In the past, nothing has been done to hold anyone accountable,” said Deputy State Department spokesman Adam Ereli.

“Our view is that if you want to have real accountability for the crimes that have been committed in Darfur, there has to be an international mechanism for that,” he told reporters.

“Based on their past performance, one cannot expect the government of Sudan to fulfil that responsibility.”

Washington has been pushing to set up a tribunal in Tanzania to prosecute alleged war crimes cases in Darfur.

Although an earlier enquiry determined that war crimes were likely committed in Darfur, the United States fiercely opposes the ICC.

It fears American soldiers could suffer politically motivated trials at the ICC levelled by those opposed to US policies.

Human rights groups have blamed Washington for blocking an ICC referral they say could help end the violence in Darfur, an area the size of France.

An estimated 180,000 have died and more than 1.8 million have been left homeless by the fighting in Darfur.

The Sudanese government has been accused of backing Arab militias, known as Janjaweed, who have committed atrocities such as systematic killing and mass rape against Darfur’s black African groups.

Khartoum denies backing the Janjaweed militias, and blames rebels for starting the conflict.

Sudan has arrested and convicted a small number of Janjaweed, but has not made significant steps to disarm Arab militias, as required by Security Council resolutions.

After a vocal debate in the Knesset, the bill was thrown out by a landslide majority of 72 to 39, removing the last obstacle to the pullout.

The result is a victory for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and deals a severe blow to those staunchly opposed to withdrawal.

A referendum would have seriously delayed the evacuation of 8,000 settlers and troops from the Gaza Strip, whose removal has already been sanctioned by parliament and the cabinet.

Prime Minister Sharon has repeatedly rejected calls for a national vote as a stalling tactic.

But the political manoeuvring over the referendum saw tension soar within Sharon’s right-wing Likud party, a third of which opposes the Gaza withdrawal, in a stand-off that has dogged the premier for months.

Likud rebels, including Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and settler lobby groups had desperately tried to persuade undecided MPs to back the referendum bill.

Demoralised by the defeat, settlers said they would move their fight into the streets, promising to bring 100,000 protesters to the settlements slated for evacuation to prevent the withdrawal.

Settlers, thousands of whom protested near the Knesset, are pinning their hopes on a Supreme Court challenge to the planned withdrawal.

Prime Minister Sharon, a masterful political survivor, has already crushed the last serious political threat to his planned evacuation by securing enough support to get the 2005 state budget through parliament.

He’s due to present the details of his pullout strategy to US President George W Bush at the president’s Texas ranch on April 11.

The evacuation of the Gaza Strip Jewish settlements and Israeli troops, and of four isolated settlements in the northern West Bank, is scheduled to begin on July 20.

Opinion polls show a large majority of Israelis back the withdrawal plan.

But Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurie said no workable Palestinian state could be established as long as Israel kept its settlements in the occupied West Bank.

“These blocs, which the American administration has legitimised by giving its support to Israel, make the creation of a viable Palestinian state impossible,” he said.

His comments came a day after US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice reiterated support for Jerusalem’s plans to keep large Jewish settlement blocs in the West Bank after the withdrawal.

“This policy is completely incomprehensible,” Qureia told reporters.

Israeli officials have confirmed plans to build 3,650 homes around the Maaleh Adumim settlement near Jerusalem.

With the expansion and the construction of a separation barrier, Israel would effectively cut off east Jerusalem, the Palestinians’ intended capital, from a future state in the West Bank.

A roll-on-roll-off vessel carrying seven tanker trucks loaded with 138 tonnes of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) sank in the narrow waterway, which separates the European and Asian sides of Istanbul, late on Saturday.

The accident has raised alarm over the safety of Istanbul’s coastal areas, including residential districts, in the event of an explosion.

Authorities had to battle bad weather and harsh currents off the Bosphorous for about 10 hours in order to seize the drifting vehicles.

“The danger is over… We were lucky,” said government transport official Baris Tozar, explaining that four of the trucks are safely tied up at a quay on the city’s Asian side.

Three others are still lying on rocks at the shore of the Ahirkapi district on the city’s European side, but are under control.

With bad weather preventing authorities from approaching the three tankers, they are now planning to tow them to a safe dock later on.

He said an explosion would have endangered long stretches of the coast.

“There is still some danger, even though it is not a serious one,” he said. “All precautions have been taken.”

Authorities closed all traffic on the seafront road and evacuated fishermen’s facilities on the coast.

The Bosphorus is expected to be re-opened shortly.

The waterway, which links the Black and Marmara seas, is one of the busiest in the world.

Together with the Dardanelles Strait, on the opposite side of the Marmara Sea, it forms the only outlet for Black Sea countries to the oceans.

The increasing passage in recent years of vessels carrying oil and gas has forced Turkish authorities to step up safety measures and impose some restrictions to the traffic, which drew protests particularly from Russia.

In 1979 and in 1994, tanker crashes in the Bosphorus claimed 41 and 28 lives respectively.

Protestors demonstrating against Australia’s immigration laws clashed with police outside the Baxter detention centre in South Australia, amid criticism authorities were clamping down on people’s right to protest.

However South Australian police have defended the actions of the officers, citing a restricted air space around Baxter as the reason why protesters could not release balloons and fly kites.

A total of 16 demonstrators were arrested in the three-day long protest.

Nine people were arrested on Sunday as some protesters came to blows with officers in riot gear from South Australia’s elite Star Force police unit.

The protesters had moved to within 200 metres of the centre when the police charged on three separate occasions – once to pop balloons and twice to arrest people trying to fly kites.

As the police sought to arrest the kite-flyers, a separate group of protesters closer to the main entrance tried to breach an outer fence by using a grappling hook.

The arrest of the four protesters with the grappling hook sparked the largest fight which lasted for about 10 minutes.

“Police acted with a lot of restraint for a long time,” claimed South Australian Police Assistant Commissioner Gary Burns.

The protesters were repeatedly warned they were violating restricted airspace.

“They played a game of brinkmanship and provocation by continuing to fly kites after numerous requests not to,” he said.

“We’ve got a helicopter flying around and there’s no way we want a helicopter brought down by a kite or something similar being sucked up into an air intake.”

But Ian Rintoul, from the Refugee Action Coalition, says the police reaction was over the top.

“One of the worst displayed of police brutality I think I’ve seen,” he said.

Almost all of the 450 protesters who converged on Baxter over Easter have now gone home.

They claim the weekend was a success, with their main aims fulfilled.

They brought media attention to Baxter and succeeded in making themselves heard to the detainees inside.

A 90-strong contingent from Perth waited until after midnight, leaving after five West Australians arrested on Sunday were released from jail.

A massive manhunt is now underway for Brian Nichols, 33.

A large part of downtown Atlanta has been cordoned off, while the court and local schools have been locked down.

Witnesses say the suspect wrestled a gun from a sheriff’s deputy, before fatally shooting a judge, court reporter and a deputy.

The judge has been named as Rowland Barnes, 64, one of the most experienced judges in Atlanta.

A second deputy officer remains in critical condition, but is expected to survive, according to the hospital staff treating her.

Authorities say after the shooting the suspect fled the scene, attempting to steal several cars at gunpoint, before escaping in a green Honda.

Deronta Franklin says he was sitting in his tow truck close to the scene, when the suspect pointed a gun in his face.

“He was calm and cool,” Mr Franklin told CNN. “He said ‘Get out of the truck’.”

Authorities posted electronic messages on highways across the state of Georgia, containing information on the vehicle Nichols was believed to be driving.

“Mr Nichols is considered armed and extremely dangerous and should not be approached,” Sheriff Myron Freeman told reporters.

The Fulton Country judge, Rowland Barnes had been clearing up some minor civil cases and was due to conduct a hearing in Nichols’ rape case before the shooting started.

The jury and the prosecutors in the case had not yet entered the courtroom, according to witnesses.

Georgia’s governor has ordered flags at the nearby capitol to be lowered in honour of the victims of the shooting.

Atlanta lawyer Ken Driggs, says had the incident taken place at a federal court, rather than the targeted state court house, security measures would have been far tighter.

Mr Driggs, who represents clients on death row, told the BBC:
“This is a reminder to those of use who do criminal law that a percentage of our clients are very dangerous.”

The incident followed the execution-style slaying in Chicago of a federal judge’s husband and mother less than two weeks ago.

Governor Bush claimed to have new evidence of neglect and challenged the medical diagnoses that Terri Schiavo is in a persistent vegetative state.

But Circuit Judge George Greer refused to hear his arguments, leaving Ms Schiavo’s parents only the slimmest hopes in their fight to keep their daughter alive.

The decision came hours after the US Supreme Court refused to order her feeding tube reinserted.

The ruling was announced in an abrupt one-page order, and marks the end of a dramatic four day legal battle fought by her parents.

The judges didn’t explain their decision.

It’s the fifth time US courts have declined to get involved in the case, and reduces the chances for quick intervention to reconnect the tube, which was removed last Friday.

The refusal by the Florida court to hear the case may finally exhaust legal avenues available to Ms Schiavo’s supporters.

They insist the 41-year-old, who has been in a persistent vegetative state for the past 15 years, has a chance of at least a partial recovery if given the proper therapy.

Doctors have said Ms Schiavo is likely to die in a week or two without nourishment.

Her husband Michael, who remains her legal guardian, has been urging the court not to intervene, saying her case has been endlessly litigated and state courts have agreed with him that she would want to die.

The Florida court decision is the latest turn in the case that has galvanized pro-life forces in the United State, and become a rallying cry for conservatives.

Opinion polls, however, show Americans, by a two-to-one margin, generally agree with the decision to remove the feeding tube.

The Bulletin magazine has offered a $1.25m reward, to celebrate the publication’s 125th anniversary.

However a report in the Mercury newspaper said another offer has topped it.

“We’ve been gazumped by the Bulletin so we’re going with (our $1.75m reward) now,” Stewart Malcolm of Thylacine Expeditions told the Mercury.

“We’ve had huge interest from overseas, particularly from the US, but it’s gone crazy since the reports of photos from the German tourists.”

Last month, a German tourist submitted two digital images of what he suspected could be the mysterious carnivorous marsupial, the thylacine.

The ‘discovery’ reignited intense interest in the tiger, which was officially declared extinct in 1986.

The last known thylacine died in captivity in a Hobart enclosure fifty years earlier.

But thousands of reported sightings have since been made, with roughly 150 reports investigated each year.

“If the tiger has somehow managed to cling to survival, proving its existence would be one of the greatest scientific stories of the century,” the Bulletin’s editor in chief Garry Linnell wrote in the magazine’s reward offer.

The Bulletin stipulates strict conditions for the tiger hunt, including the capture of a live, uninjured animal carried out in accordance with government regulations.

But, it’s not clear how prospective hunters could legally make a capture, if the tiger has in fact survived somewhere in Tasmania’s wilderness.

“The reward clearly specifies that it has to be legally done, and I can’t see how it can be legally done without a permit, and we won’t be issuing permits for people to attempt to catch thylacine just to satisfy public curiosity,” wildlife biologist Nick Mooney, told the ABC’s 7:30 Report.

Tasmanian Environment Minister Judy Jackson expressed concerns that people were being encouraged to venture into sensitive areas, potentially putting at risk other species such as the Tasmanian devil.

“What I’d suggest to the Bulletin to celebrate their 125th anniversary is to offer that money for scientific research here in Tasmania for other species that are threatened, such as the devil,” Ms Jackson said.

Bounty hunters have until June 30 to snare themselves a tiger.

The singer eventually appeared at the Californian court more than an hour late, looking distressed and wearing pajamas and slippers.

Superior Court Judge Rodney Melville had earlier issued an arrest warrant for Jackson and threatened to revoke his US$3m (A$3.8m) bail, but told lawyers he would hold it for one hour.

Jackson’s defence lawyer Thomas Mesereau told the court the 46-year-old had suffered a severe back problem and was being treated in hospital.

When Jackson did arrive, a few minutes past the deadline, Mr Melville told the jury he didn’t want them to draw any negative inferences from the fact that Jackson did not appear or that the judge had to order him to appear.

During proceedings Jackson’s accuser told the court the singer plied him with him wine and urged the boy to keep quiet about the drinking.

The now 15-year-old former cancer patient also claimed that while staying at the star’s Neverland Ranch, he and his brother frequently drank wine and vodka with Jackson.

He also testified that Jackson served him alcohol, which he called “Jesus Juice”, in a hotel suite in Miami and aboard his private jet.

The boy said during a flight on Jackson’s jet from Miami to California in February 2003, the star handed him a coke can that was apparently filled with wine.

“He said, ‘you know how Jesus drank wine, well we call it Jesus juice,'” the boy said.

Before Jackson’s plane took off on the return trip to California, the boy claimed Jackson gave him an expensive watch.

“He said not to tell anyone about the Jesus juice and said this is like a symbol that we’ll be friends forever,” the boy said on his second day of testimony.

The boy also told jurors that his mother feared for her children’s lives at Neverland.

“She told me that she was afraid they were going to kill us and that she wanted to leave,” the boy said without specifying who his mother was scared of.

Jackson faces 10 charges, including molesting the then 13-year-old boy, plying him with alcohol to seduce him, and allegedly conspiring to kidnap him and his family.

The star has denied all charges and maintains that the boy’s mother is out for financial gain.

The blast occurred at the Texas City facility, 50 kilometres southwest of Houston.

BP spokesman Hugh Depland said the company was unable to confirm the cause or the number of casualties.

Fire fighters and emergency workers were called to the site after a loud explosion was heard at around 12:30pm local time (6:30am AEDT).

The blast was centred in the western part of the sprawling 486-hectare industrial complex, which contains 30 refinery units and houses 1,800 staff.

“It was just a real loud explosion,” Texas City resident, Mike Martin, told the Houston Chronicle.

“It sounded like a sonic boom, and it shook the pictures bad enough to where it knocked them off the wall,” he added.

News of the explosion sparked a jump on US fuel prices, with the cost of petrol reaching US$1.604 (A$2.077) a gallon.

In Dallas, MarketWatch reported crude futures for the month of May rose almost one percent in after hours trading.

“The news spread like wildfire across the trading floor near the end of the NYMX session and I suspect that when after hours trading begins there will be a lot of fireworks in futures,” Tom Kloza, chief analyst at the Oil Price Information Service said.

“Preliminary reports indicate that it could knock out some high octane production as well as diesel.”

BP’s Texas City plant is the third largest refinery in the US and processes 460 million barrels of crude oil a day – three percent of the entire US supply.

But the Port of Houston Authority has allayed fears the blast had forced the closure of its channel to commercial shipping, saying it remains open and fully operational.

On March 30 last year, a blast and fire occurred at the BP Texas City refinery but no injuries were reported.

Under the guidelines of the US-backed ‘roadmap to peace’ plan, Israel is meant to remove unauthorised outposts on Palestinian land.

The report details how officials in the ministries of defence and housing and the settlement division of the World Zionist Organisation spent millions of dollars from state budgets to support the illegal outposts.

Describing the process as a “blatant violation of the law”, former state prosecutor Talia Sasson said “drastic steps” were needed to remedy the situation.

Among the allegations in the 340-page report is that the Housing Ministry supplied 400 trailer homes to settlements without checking ownership of the land, which was “privately-owned Palestinian land”.

Washington and the EU have long demanded Israel halt its settlement activity, which breaks up the contiguity of land Palestinians want for a future state.

The report stopped short of citing Prime Minister Ariel Sharon for encouraging the settlers when he was foreign minister.

Israeli settlers began building the settlements more than a decade ago.

It was an initiative backed by Mr Sharon, then foreign minister, who urged settlers to seize hilltops in order to break up the contiguity of Palestinian areas and prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state.

The report emerged on the day talks on Palestinians resuming control of West Bank towns stalled, extending a stalemate that threatens to increase frustration and anger that could lead to increased violence after a month-long truce.

Despite the risk of losing momentum in peace efforts, both sides clung to their positions.

The Palestinian Authority is insisting Israel remove army roadblocks around the towns and lift travel restrictions, while Israel says it can’t take security risks until Palestinian security forces do a better job reining in militants.

At the centre of the dispute is the town of Jericho, whose handover had been expected to be a relatively simple affair.

The transfer of security in five West Bank towns — Ramallah, Bethlehem, Qalqilya, Tulkarem and Jericho — was one of the key issues agreed at a summit in Egypt last month.

Two meetings of Israeli and Palestinian security commanders in Jericho broke up without agreement on Wednesday, and no new talks were scheduled.

The breakdown came a day after Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz failed to settle the dispute over the roadblocks north and south of Jericho.

Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia accused Israel of dragging its feet, and the violent Islamic group Hamas warned that Israel “will be held fully responsible for the consequences.”

Earlier on Wednesday Palestinian national security advisor Jibril Rajub declared militants were ready to stop attacks, ahead of talks between the Palestinian factions in Cairo next week.