North Korea: U.S. preparing an attack

SEOUL, South Korea

North Korea claimed again yesterday the United States may attack the communist state after the war in Iraq and spark a “second Iraqi crisis.”

North Korea accused Washington of inciting a dispute over the North’s suspected nuclear weapons programs to create an excuse for invasion.

“No one can vouch that the U.S. will not spark the second Iraqi crisis on the Korean Peninsula,” North Korea’s state-run Minju Joson newspaper said.

North Korea will “increase its national defense power on its own without the slightest vacillation no matter what others may say,” the paper said.

On Monday, Pyongyang said Washington was using the war against Iraq as a test for military action against the North, labeled by President Bush part of an “axis of evil” with Iran and Iraq.

South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun dismissed the allegation as “inaccurate and groundless” and said U.S. officials repeatedly have pledged to resolve the issue peacefully.

Early this month, President Bush said he believed the standoff could be resolved diplomatically, but noted it could be resolved militarily if diplomacy fails.

The standoff flared in October when U.S. officials said Pyongyang admitted having a secret nuclear program in violation of a 1994 pact.

Palestinian children, gunmen killed in W. Bank

JERUSALEM

Israeli forces killed two children and three gunmen in the West Bank yesterday, doctors and Israeli Radio said. Three Palestinians were sentenced to life in prison by an Israeli military court.

Israeli forces looking for suspected Hamas militants in Bethlehem shot three Palestinian gunmen dead after they opened fire on the soldiers from a car, Israel Radio said. The report said soldiers then opened fire on another car they thought was trying to run them over, killing a 10-year-old girl. The Israeli military had no immediate comment.

A spokeswoman at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem said three wounded were brought there from Bethlehem – a father, mother and 15-year-old girl.

In the West Bank town of Jenin, a 14-year-old boy was killed and a 12-year-old boy was seriously wounded by fire from an Israeli tank, doctors said. The Israeli military said they were shot while climbing on an armored vehicle and trying to steal a machine gun.

In the Gaza Strip, soldiers opened fire on two suspicious figures near the Jewish settlement of Morag, hitting one, military sources said.

Order delays release of historic documents

WASHINGTON

President Bush issued an executive order yesterday that will delay the release of millions of historical documents for more than three years and make it easier to reclassify information that could damage national security.

Bush signed the 25-page order three weeks before the government’s April 17 deadline for the automatic declassification of millions of papers 25 years or older.

Historians and declassification experts have mixed reactions to Bush’s order. Some say its provisions are less restrictive than they expected and others argue it further cloaks government activities.

Amending a less restrictive order signed by President Clinton, Bush’s action gives agencies until the end of 2006 to release the documents – a wide gamut of national security decision-making, from military records to diplomatic documents.

Court upholds secret trial for terror suspect

RICHMOND, Va.

A federal appeals court ruled Monday that the government can keep secret some of the proceedings in the case of the only person charged in the United States in the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

The court ruled that a May 6 hearing in Zacarias Moussaoui’s case will be closed to the public, and that certain classified witness statements submitted by prosecutors may be kept from the defense.

According to previously unsealed documents, Moussaoui wants the government to produce Ramzi Binalshibh, who is alleged to have helped plan the Sept. 11 attacks, so he can testify for Moussaoui.

Federal Judge Leonie Brinkema has issued a secret ruling that would allow Moussaoui access to Binalshibh, according to a government official speaking on condition of anonymity.

Tourists caught fatal disease on plane trip

HONG KONG

Adding to fears that a deadly flu-like illness is being spread by air travelers, Hong Kong officials said yesterday nine tourists apparently came down with the deadly disease after another passenger infected them on a flight to Beijing.

The World Health Organization insisted air travel is safe but said its scientists are investigating each case to make sure the disease is not spread through ventilation.

In recent weeks severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, has spread beyond hospitals, where dozens of health care workers became infected, to schools, with at least four closed for several days, and now to air travelers.

Hong Kong officials said the nine tourists became sick after a mainland Chinese man with SARS infected them on a March 15 Air China flight to Beijing.

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