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Thursday, May 15, 2003

Presidential candidate quits Argentine race BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Carlos Menem quit Argentina's presidential race Wednesday, clearing the path to the presidency for front-runner Nestor Kirchner.

Menem, a 72-year-old former president, confirmed that he was abandoning his underdog battle for a third term in office. In live televised comments from his native western province of La Rioja, he said he was cutting short his campaign for a May 18 runoff.

Menem's departure clears the way for Argentina's electoral authorities to proclaim Kirchner as the country's next president.

But before that can occur, Argentine law requires Menem to withdraw in writing to election officials. Kirchner, a 53-year-old governor of southern Santa Cruz province, could then be certified the winner.

A flamboyant Latin American leader during two terms from 1989 and 1999, Menem had long boasted of never having lost an election.

Putin says U.S. relations have survived Iraq flap MOSCOW — Russia and the United States agreed Wednesday to put their stark differences over the Iraq war behind them, but they fell short of announcing a deal on a new U.N. resolution to rebuild the country.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, hosting Secretary of State Colin Powell in the Kremlin, said U.S.-Russian ties had survived the clash over Iraq, in which Moscow joined France and Germany in vocally opposing the war.

"Of course, we have had a lot of argument recently concerning the Iraq problem, but we have successfully overcome those differences," Putin said.

Powell came to prepare for a meeting June 1 between Putin and President Bush in St. Petersburg.

WHO removes Toronto from SARS hot-spot list TORONTO — The World Health Organization said Wednesday it no longer considers Toronto an area affected by SARS and removed if from the list of the world's hot spots.

The decision was made because at least 20 days had passed since the last domestically acquired case of SARS was isolated or died, the United Nations agency said on its Web site.

WHO said the last such case was isolated April 20.

SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, has killed 24 people in Canada since arriving in March. Most of the deaths and probable cases were in Toronto, the site of the largest outbreak outside Asia, where the illness originated.

Israeli forces hunt for Palestinian militants JERUSALEM — Dozens of Israeli tanks streamed into northern Gaza early Thursday, with soldiers searching house to house for Palestinian militants, witnesses said, in one of the largest operations in recent months.

The witnesses said about 70 armored vehicles were involved in the incursion, concentrating on Beit Hanoun in the northeast corner of Gaza, closest to Israel.

Military sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the goal was to stop the firing of homemade rockets from the area.

The operation came as Israeli and Palestinian officials planned for a meeting between their prime ministers, the first summit in nearly three years, set for Saturday night.

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