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US drops Afghanistan opium spraying plans

Facing opposition from Afghan President Hamid Karzai, the United States has set aside plans to use spray planes to kill opium crops in Afghanistan, the world's largest drug producing country. Karzai's opposition to spraying has frustrated some US officials who doubt that the vast amount of opium produced in Afghanistan can be significantly reduced without spraying. Opium is the raw material for heroin. The UN says Afghanistan's drug trade has funded terrorists. (AP)

France

Yushchenko seeks EU admittance for Ukraine

STRASBOURG -- Viktor Yushchenko made his first trip to the West as Ukraine's president yesterday, seeking recognition of the former Soviet republic's right to join the European Union and other Western institutions. Yushchenko called on the EU to commit by 2007 to membership talks and said he would push through democratic reforms to aid Ukraine's bid to join the 25-nation bloc. His appearance increased pressure on EU officials to embrace Ukraine at a time of little appetite among members for further expansion into poorer parts of Europe. (AP)

United Nations

Annan questioned in oil-for-food probe

Investigators probing allegations of impropriety in the United Nations' Iraqi oil-for-food program questioned Secretary General Kofi Annan about his involvement twice last year and again yesterday, a UN spokesman said. Annan met with former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker and his investigators Nov. 9 and again Dec. 3, spokesman Fred Eckhard said. A third meeting took place yesterday afternoon, but Volcker, who spoke to reporters as he left the United Nations, would not give details. Volcker's panel had been expected to release a preliminary report in late January, but he said yesterday it would come out in early February. (AP)

Poland

Magazine publisher fined for insulting pope

WARSAW -- The former communist-era government spokesman was convicted and fined $6,500 yesterday for insulting Polish-born Pope John Paul II in a satirical weekly. A court ruled that Jerzy Urban, founder and publisher of the weekly magazine "NIE" -- Polish for "no" -- illegally insulted the pope when he wrote and printed a piece making fun of the pontiff's age and frailty before a papal visit to Poland in August 2002. (AP)

Chile

Court sets deadline in Pinochet rights trial

SANTIAGO -- Chile's Supreme Court gave judges a six-month deadline yesterday to wrap up investigations into hundreds of charges of human rights abuses under former dictator Augusto Pinochet, a move long sought by the military officers standing trial. The high court said in a written resolution that judges investigating more than 300 charges of murder, torture, and kidnappings under Pinochet's 1973-1990 rule should file formal charges or indictments within six months or the cases would be closed. (Reuters)

Canada

Virginia developer buys abandoned mine town

VANCOUVER -- An abandoned but well-maintained British Columbia mining town, complete with library, pub, and hospital, has been sold to an unidentified Virginia property developer who must now decide what he wants to do with it. The buyer paid less than $5.6 million for Kitsault, located on a fjord near the Alaska Panhandle about 500 miles northwest of Vancouver, the town's marketing agent said yesterday. The isolated town went on the block in September after standing vacant under the watch of a caretaker for more than two decades. The residents left when a collapse in metal prices shut a nearby molybdenum mine. (Reuters)

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