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Friday, July 18, 2003

85th birthday party begins for Mandela JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Nelson Mandela's lengthy 85th birthday celebrations began Thursday when the beloved former president was presented with a book of tributes by leaders from around the world.

Mandela, who won the nation's first all-race election after the fall of apartheid in 1994, is to be honored throughout the weekend.

Today, his actual birthday, he is to be serenaded by the military band. Disabled children, government officials and business leaders are to offer him an hours-long procession of birthday tidings.

Former President Clinton is scheduled to deliver the first annual Nelson Mandela lecture Saturday in his honor. Later that evening, an expected 1,600 guests, including unnamed international movie stars, world leaders and friends, will pay tribute to Mandela at a gala banquet.

The Nelson Mandela Bridge in Johannesburg will officially be opened Sunday with a road race.

2 rebel leaders join Congo's government KINSHASA, Congo — As fighting raged Thursday in northeast Congo, two main rebel leaders were sworn in as vice presidents in a new power-sharing government created to end the country's nearly five-year civil war.

The new government, headed by President Joseph Kabila, brings together the rebels, Kabila's supporters and the unarmed opposition in an effort to unify a nation the size of Western Europe torn apart by fighting since 1998.

"A new page of the history of the country will be written, and it will be a rosy one I hope," government spokesman Vital Kamere said. "There is no more old government and no more rebels. We are all one government."

Reports of new fighting in the northeastern reaches of the country, however, cast a shadow over hopes that peace could hold in the vast, mineral-rich central African country.

Two rebel leaders — Jean-Pierre Bemba of the Uganda-backed Congolese Liberation Movement and Azarias Ruberwa of the Rwanda-allied Congolese Rally for Democracy — were sworn in as vice presidents.

I had no sex with her, ex-Marine tells court FRANKFURT, Germany — A former U.S. Marine facing charges of abducting a 12-year-old English schoolgirl told a German court Thursday that he did not have sex with the girl, a court spokesman said.

Toby Studabaker, 31, of Constantine, Mich., said he thought the girl, Shevaun Pennington, was 18 years old but would not comment further, said Frankfurt administrative court spokesman Claus Michael Ullrich.

Ullrich quoted Studabaker as saying: "I had no sexual intercourse with her."

Studabaker was arrested Wednesday for alleged abduction under an international warrant in Frankfurt on his way to surrender at the U.S. consulate, hours after the girl departed for home on a flight from the southern German city of Stuttgart.

The pair, who met in an Internet chat room, left Britain together Saturday on a flight to Paris.

Catholics suspend priest for leading Lutheran rite BERLIN — A Roman Catholic priest based in Germany was suspended Thursday for leading a high-profile open communion service at a Lutheran church in May in defiance of a papal admonition.

The bishop of Trier barred Gotthold Hasenhuettl, a professor emeritus of theology at the University of Saarbruecken in western Germany, from celebrating the Eucharist and withdrew his church teaching permit.

On May 29, around 2,000 people crowded into Berlin's Gethsemane Church as Hasenhuettl distributed communion wafers among the worshippers — Roman Catholics and Lutherans alike. He celebrated a Roman Catholic Eucharist, but the service was advertised as an "open communion."

"I have come to the conclusion that, for the sake of the church's credibility, I cannot accept a priest practicing an open communion that was specifically forbidden in this form by the pope in his latest encyclical," Bishop Reinhard Marx said in a statement. "I still hope that Hasenhuettl will relent and make it clear that he recognizes and follows church rules."

Pope John Paul II in April issued a reminder that services in Protestant churches cannot substitute for Sunday Mass.

In an encyclical, he branded "unthinkable" the practice of substituting obligatory Sunday Mass with celebrations of prayer with other Christians or participation in their liturgical services.