World and Nation

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Paraguay's Ruling Party Faces Threat of a Populist Bishop

No political party currently in power anywhere in the world has governed longer than the Colorado Party here, not even the Kim family's Communist dynasty in North Korea. But a charismatic Roman Catholic bishop recently suspended by the Vatican is threatening that hegemony and has emerged as the front-runner for next year's presidential election.

Known as "the bishop of the poor," Monsignor Fernando Lugo Mendez has been strongly influenced by liberation theology, which emerged in Latin America in the 1960s and contends that the Roman Catholic Church has a special obligation to defend the oppressed and downtrodden. But he is reluctant to position himself on the political spectrum, saying that he is interested in solutions, not labels.

"As I am accustomed to saying, hunger and unemployment, like the lack of access to health and education, have no ideology," he said in an interview here. "My discourse, my person and my testimony are above political parties, whose own members are desirous of change and want an end to a system that favors narrow partisan interests over those of the country."

The Colorado Party has been the ruling party here since 1947. Gen. Alfredo Stroessner led a dictatorship notorious for corruption and brutality from 1954 to 1989, but, thanks to its tight control of patronage and the bureaucracy, the party managed to retain control of the government even under the current system of free elections.

US Displays Bomb Parts Said To Be Made in Iran

In a dusty field near the Baghdad airport on Monday, the American military displayed hundreds of components for assembling deadly roadside bombs, its latest effort to embarrass Iran, the country it contends is supplying the material to armed Shiite groups here.

Officers of the 1st Cavalry Division whose unit seized the components said they had been found in a palm grove just north of the capital two days earlier, after a tip from a local resident. An explosives expert said the components were made to be assembled into the deadly canisters called explosively formed penetrators, or EFPs, which explode and hurl out a high-speed blob of copper designed to cut through tough American armor.

"I've lost good friends to these EFPs," said Capt. Clayton Combs, whose unit turned up the cache of weapons. "And the fact that we found these before they got to the side of the road is just a huge win for us."

The cache included what Maj. Marty Weber, a master explosives ordnance technician, said was C-4 explosive, a white substance, in clear plastic bags with red labels that he said contained serial numbers and other information that clearly marked it as Iranian.

But while the find gave experts much more information on the makings of the EFPs, which the American military has repeatedly argued must originate in Iran, the cache also included items that appeared to cloud the issue.

Israeli Crackdown in West Bank City Continues

Israeli troops searched for militants and weapons in the West Bank city of Nablus for a third day Monday, going door to door and periodically clashing with gunmen and stone-throwing youths.

One Palestinian man was killed and his son was wounded, Palestinians said, the first fatality since Israel began the operation Saturday through the warren of homes and shops in the market area of central Nablus.

The Israeli troops, in dozens of jeeps and armored vehicles, have placed the neighborhood under curfew and blocked off the surrounding streets with concrete blocks while they conducted an open-ended search. The operation has kept tens of thousands of residents confined to their homes.

"The operation will carry on until we achieve our main mission," said Brig. Gen. Yair Golan, the commander of forces in the city.

Over the past year, more attempted attacks against Israel have originated in Nablus than in any other West Bank city, the general said.

The Israeli military said on Monday that soldiers had surrounded a house after they received reports that gunmen were inside. When two men from the house were seen climbing onto the roof, the soldiers fired, killing one and wounding the other, the military said.

3 French Citizens Slain in Ambush in Saudi Arabia

Gunmen killed three French citizens and wounded a fourth near the holy city of Medina in Saudi Arabia early Monday in a brazen reminder that attacks on foreigners there have not stopped despite an aggressive three-year security crackdown.

The Saudi Interior Ministry said eight French citizens had been traveling toward Medina from Tabuk, a northwestern town, when they came under attack. Two men were pronounced dead on the scene and another died in a provincial hospital later in the day, a Saudi security official said.

A fourth member of the group was listed in critical condition, Maj. Gen. Mansour al-Turki, an Interior Ministry spokesman, said late Monday.

Turki said the group had stopped by the side of a road typically restricted to Muslims about 10 miles from Medina when a car pulled near them and opened fire.

The group included men, women and at least one child, he said, but only men were struck in the attack.

Two of the victims were identified by colleagues as engineers who worked at Schneider Electric in Riyadh, the Saudi capital.