National and world news briefs

Published: Saturday, March 1, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, February 28, 2003 at 10:06 p.m.

Reputed Klansman convicted for '66 death

JACKSON, Miss. - A 72-year-old reputed Klansman was convicted Friday in the 1966 slaying of a black sharecropper, a crime prosecutors say was staged to lure Martin Luther King Jr. to southern Mississippi to be assassinated.
Ernest Avants, a stroke survivor, remained seated in his wheelchair as the verdict was read. Federal prosecutors said they won't seek the death penalty, meaning he faces up to life in prison at sentencing May 9.
Avants was acquitted of murder during a state trial in 1967, but the federal charge of aiding and abetting murder was filed after authorities realized recently that Ben Chester White was killed on federal land.

380,000 still without power after storm

Nearly 380,000 customers in North Carolina and Virginia remained without power Friday, the day after a winter storm mowed down hundreds of trees and left a glaze of ice blamed in at least three traffic deaths.
Crews in North Carolina found power lines cradling trees and reported damage comparable to the ravages caused by a December ice storm that left more than 2 million customers without electricity.
Duke Power spokeswoman Guynn Savage estimated the company would need until the middle of next week to finish restoring power.

Man gets 155 years for giving aid to terrorists

  • CHARLOTTE, N.C. - The first person convicted under a law that bars aid to terrorists was sentenced Friday to 155 years in prison for his part in a cigarette-smuggling ring that sent money to the militant Lebanese group Hezbollah.
    Mohamad Hammoud and his brother, Chawki, were leaders of the group that brought cigarettes from North Carolina, where low taxes keep prices down, to Michigan for resale without paying that state's taxes.

    Palestinian Authority discloses finances

  • JERUSALEM - In a bid to dispel charges of widespread corruption, the top Palestinian financial official on Friday said the Palestinian Authority had no secret accounts and had not funneled money to groups Israel and the United States accuse of terrorism.
    Finance Minister Salam Fayad also disclosed that the Palestinian Authority had about $600 million in liquid assets. The public accounting was the first since the creation of the Palestinian governing body about a decade ago.
    "The object is to have a system judged to be good and right by our own people," Fayad said.

    N. Korea says U.S. broke energy promise

    SEOUL, South Korea - North Korea accused the United States on Friday of triggering a nuclear crisis by failing to provide promised energy, disrupting inter-Korean reconciliation and plotting war against the North.
    At the same time, Pyongyang reiterated that the only way to resolve the nuclear standoff on the Korean Peninsula was through direct talks with the United States. Washington says ties can improve only if North Korea first abandons its nuclear ambitions.
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