Blair calls on IRA to maintain peace
British Prime Minister Tony Blair called Thursday on the Irish Republican Army to fulfill its week-old peace declaration, and urged Northern Ireland’s political rivals to commit themselves to revive the province’s power-sharing government.
Blair held talks with Ian Paisley, leader of the Democratic Unionists, and an hour later with Gerry Adams, leader of the IRA-linked Sinn Fein party.
A Catholic-Protestant coalition in Northern Ireland led by moderates fell apart in 2002 after suffering repeated breakdowns over IRA activities.
Oil-for-food chief took payoff, investigators say
Investigators have concluded that the former chief of the Iraq oil-for-food program, Benon Sevan, took kickbacks under the $64 billion humanitarian operation and refused to cooperate with their probe, his lawyer said Thursday.
While the amount of money Sevan allegedly took wasn’t immediately known, the findings would be a major blow because of his stature in the organization and the control he had over it.
The Independent Inquiry Committee had planned to release its findings Tuesday and had sent advance notice to Sevan’s lawyer, Eric Lewis, last week. Lewis revealed the findings early and vehemently denied both claims against Sevan.
“The fact is, the committee’s allegations are baseless,” Lewis said in a statement. “Mr. Sevan never took a penny, as he has said from the beginning.”
The committee refused to comment on Lewis’ claims.
Officials turn to black boxes for answers
With early evidence indicating nothing wrong with the Air France jet that crashed this week, officials Thursday looked to the black boxes for answers – but they were faced with a long delay because of problems in downloading data.
The captain of the Air France jet that crashed and burst into flames Tuesday – yet all 309 people aboard survived – remained in the hospital Thursday and won’t be questioned until his physical state improves, officials said.
The co-pilot of Air France Flight 358 was questioned Thursday as investigators try to piece together why the plane skidded off the runway and burst into flames after landing in a ravine. Investigators said details of the co-pilot queries were “privileged” information and would not be made public at this time.
Women, children face high mortality rates
Afghan women and children face an “acute emergency” because of exceptionally high maternal and child mortality rates, a representative of the U.N. children’s agency said Thursday.
About 20 percent of Afghan children die before their fifth birthday, said Cecilia Lotse, UNICEF’s director for South Asia, and about 1,600 out of every 100,000 Afghan mothers die while giving birth or because of related complications.
“While the country is progressing from a state of emergency to a focus on development, I think it’s fair to say that the objective reality of women and children remains nothing but an acute emergency,” she said at a news conference.