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News Briefs

December 23, 1995
Web posted at: 2:10 p.m. EST (1910 GMT)

About 400 killed in fire in India


NEW DELHI, India (CNN) -- About 400 people, more than half of them children, died Saturday when fire broke out during a year-end party at a school in northern India. About 315 deaths had been confirmed, but the toll was expected to reach more than 400, police said.

Another 160 people were injured -- half of them with serious burns -- after a huge tent caught fire and fell over, police said. Nearly 1,500 students and their parents were at the party when the fire broke out in Dabwali, about 120 miles northwest of New Delhi.

Most of the deaths were caused by a stampede when frightened people blocked the only exit gate. Press Trust of India quoted police as saying the fire was caused by an electrical problem.

Malawi's Banda acquitted of murder conspiracy


BLANTYRE, Malawi (CNN) -- Malawi's former president Kamuzu Banda, was acquitted on Saturday of charges of conspiring to murder four opposition politicians during his three decades of rule.

Malawi's High Court also acquitted Banda's close associate John Tembo, official hostess Cecelia Kadzamira and three senior policemen of the same charges.

Banda, now in his mid-90s, ruled Malawi for three decades until being ousted in the country's first multi-party elections last year. .

Banda, Kadzamira, Tembo and the police officers were charged with the 1983 murders of three cabinet ministers and a member of parliament. They were charged after a commission of inquiry determined that the police killed the four politicians on government orders.

Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Collins Chizumira, said the acquittal meant people in Malawi could be killed by the government machinery and freed.

Greek prime minister's health deteriorates


ATHENS, Greece (CNN) -- Doctors attending Greek Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou said on Saturday his health had deteriorated in the past 24 hours.

Papandreou, 76, was still taking antibiotics for an infection while his breathing was supported periodically by a respirator and his kidneys by a dialysis machine.

It was the fifth infection that Papandreou, who had open-heart surgery in 1988, has suffered in the past two weeks. He was rushed to the hospital with pneumonia on November 20.

New Polish president sworn in


WARSAW, Poland (CNN) -- Aleksander Kwasniewski was sworn in Saturday as Poland's president amid political turmoil connected with allegations that the prime minister, his longtime ally, had spied for Russia.

Kwasniewski took the presidential oath before the National Assembly of both parliament chambers. The 41-year-old former Communist defeated President Lech Walesa, former Solidarity leader, in last month's elections. Walesa refused to attend Saturday's ceremony.

The espionage allegations against Prime Minister Jozef Oleksy emerged Tuesday after the interior minister asked the military prosecutor's office to launch an investigation.

Oleksy denies he betrayed his country. He acknowledges frequent contacts with high-ranking Russians but says the evidence against him was "fabricated to a great extent" by Walesa agents.

Turks voting for parliament on Sunday


ISTANBUL, Turkey (CNN) -- Turks go to the polls on Sunday in parliamentary elections that pit Western-oriented parties against a pro-Islamic party favoring stronger ties with Turkey's Muslim neighbors.

Some 34 million voters will choose among 12 parties who have put forward candidates for the 550-seat parliament in early general elections called after Prime Minister Tansu Ciller's right-left coalition collapsed in September.

No party is expected to get a clear majority. The vote is seen by many as a referendum on whether Turks want to strengthen economic and defense ties with the West or replace these ties with Islamic-oriented policies.

Train engineer charged with negligence in crash

Egypt train

BADRSHEIN, Egypt (CNN) -- Egyptian police have accused a train engineer of speeding in Thursday's wreck that killed 75 people.

The engineer, Mahmoud Mahmoud, is reportedly under guard at a hospital, where his leg was amputated. He has been charged with causing death by negligence.

The train plowed into the rear of another passenger train in dense fog in Badrshein about 20 kilometers south of Cairo. The derailed cars then crashed into shops by the tracks.

A government statement said the second train was traveling at about 70 mph, much too fast for the foggy conditions.

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U.N. concerned over ethnic violence in Burundi

Burundi map

BUJUMBURA, Burundi (CNN) -- The United Nations said that it is "extremely concerned" about the ethnic violence in Burundi, which is claiming dozens of lives a week.

A spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali said Friday he's worried about new waves of refugees escaping the killings and attacks on aid workers. On Tuesday, the secretary-general said the 2 million Rwandan refugees remaining in Zaire and Tanzania don't want to go home.

"Everybody is afraid that a new genocide may happen, this time not by the Hutu against the Tutsi but by the Tutsi against the Hutu," he said, referring to the country's two major ethnic groups.

The African nation sharply criticized the secretary-general's remarks, saying that his statement could destroy the delicate climate of confidence that the new Rwandan government is trying to build upon.

Burundi is in the midst of an ethnic conflict between the Hutu majority and the minority Tutsi groups.

Earlier in the day, Burundi radio reported that 30 were killed near the capital in Bujumbura, after suspecting Hutu militants attacked a community and burned houses.

Presidents of Burundi, Rwanda meet to talk peace

Rwanda refugee

KIGALI, Rwanda (CNN) -- Burundi's Hutu president flew to Rwanda Friday for a two-day round of talks on security and the refugee problem.

Burundian President Sylvestre Ntibantunganya was met by his Rwandan counterpart, Pasteur Bizimungu, also a Hutu, and told reporters that he had come to discuss how the two sides could live in peace.

The U.N. refugee agency has appealed for $288 million to help displaced families from the two countries.

Hundreds of thousands of people remain in squalid camps in Zaire, Tanzania, and Burundi. Many are still afraid to return home after a year of fleeing ethnic bloodshed.

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Peres hints Israel would give up nuclear capability

Palestinian flag

ISRAEL (CNN) -- Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres said Friday he would give up nuclear capability in exchange for peace.

Israel has always maintained that it doesn't have nuclear weapons, but the comment from Peres is the closest Israel has come to admitting that it might not be true.

Western intelligence experts believe the Israelis have a significant nuclear arsenal.

In the West Bank town of Bethlehem on Friday, there were still high spirits over its change from Israeli to Palestinian control.

PLO leader Yasser Arafat's wife and child arrived to light the Christmas tree in Manger Square. Thousands turned out to cheer them.


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