World Briefs

Sept. 11 defendants to face 1 less charge

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – The chief prosecutor for the Guantanamo military tribunals says he will seek to dismiss one of the eight charges against five prisoners accused of planning and aiding the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Army Brig. Gen. Mark Martins has asked a Pentagon official to strike the charge of conspiracy. The prisoners still would face charges that include nearly 3,000 counts of murder and still could get the death penalty. Their trial at the U.S. base in Cuba is likely at least a year away.

Lawyers for two men accused of lesser roles in the plot said the decision will make it harder to convict their clients.

N. Korea: Delegation urges open Internet

PYONGYANG, North Korea – A private delegation including Google’s Eric Schmidt is urging North Korea to allow more open Internet access and cellphones to benefit its citizens, the mission’s leader said Wednesday in the country with some of the world’s tightest controls on information.

Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson also said his nine-member group called on North Korea to put a moratorium on missile launches and nuclear tests that have prompted U.N. sanctions, and the delegation asked for fair and humane treatment for an American citizen detained.

The visit has been criticized for appearing to hijack U.S. diplomacy and boost Pyongyang’s profile after North Korea’s latest, widely condemned rocket launch. Richardson has said the delegation is on a private, humanitarian trip.

Winter storm batters Mideast, 8 dead

AMMAN, Jordan – The fiercest winter storm to hit the Mideast in years brought a rare foot of snow to Jordan on Wednesday, caused fatal accidents in Lebanon and the West Bank, and disrupted traffic on the Suez Canal in Egypt. At least eight people died across the region.

In Lebanon, the Red Cross said storm-related accidents killed six people over the last two days. Several drowned after slipping into rivers from flooded roads, one person froze to death and another died after his car went off a slippery road, according to George Kettaneh, Operations Director for the Lebanese Red Cross.

In the West Bank town of Ramallah, a Palestinian official said two West Bank women drowned after their car was caught in a flash flood Tuesday.

Venezuela court upholds inauguration delay

CARACAS, Venezuela – Venezuela’s Supreme Court chief said Wednesday that the upcoming inauguration of President Hugo Chavez can legally be postponed, siding with the government in a heated dispute with the opposition while the ailing leader struggles with complications a month after cancer surgery in Cuba.

Supreme Court President Luisa Estella Morales made the statement after the opposition urged the top court to rule that the government was violating the constitution by putting off the swearing-in for a new term, which had been scheduled for today. Lawmakers voted Tuesday to delay the ceremony, allowing Chavez to take the oath of office at a later date before the Supreme Court.

Associated Press