International News Briefs

U.S. Army helicopter crashes in Philippines WASHINGTON – A U.S. Army helicopter involved in anti-terrorism training exercises crashed at sea in the Philippines Thursday with 12 Americans aboard.

No survivors were found within the first few hours of the crash, lowering hopes of retrieving anyone alive from the water. Both U.S. and Philippine military forces were searching the area.

Eight crew members and four passengers were aboard the MH-47 Chinook helicopter, a statement from the U.S. Pacific Command said. There were no initial indications that the helicopter was brought down by hostile fire, said Navy Cmdr. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman.

The helicopter was one of two which had just dropped off the last of 160 U.S. special forces troops on the tiny southern Philippine island of Basilan, Philippine military officials said. The MH-47 is the special forces’ version of the Army’s CH-47 heavy lift helicopter.Palestinians arrest suspects in killingJERUSALEM – Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat repeated a call to halt violence Thursday, and his security forces arrested three suspects in the assassination of an Israeli Cabinet minister, one of Israel’s conditions for releasing Arafat from a two-month siege.

Arafat’s West Bank office was among the targets of Israeli airstrikes Thursday, the third day of punishing Israeli reprisals for Palestinian attacks. At least seven Palestinians and an Israeli Arab were killed, and two Israeli soldiers wounded in the day’s bloodshed.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon announced in a nationally televised speech and news conference that his government would set up buffer zones to separate Israel and the Palestinian ruled areas to provide security.

“In order to enhance the security of the citizens of Israel, and for the purpose of achieving a security separation, we have decided to establish buffer zones,” he said. “During a discussion of the Security Cabinet, it was decided to immediately begin marking buffer zones and placing obstacles along them.”

Palestinian security took a step toward easing tensions by arresting three suspects in the Oct. 17 assassination of Israeli Cabinet minister Rehavam Zeevi, a key Israeli condition for removing the tanks besieging Arafat’s headquarters in Ramallah. Sharon spokesman Ranaan Gissin said the three must be put on trial before the blockade would be ended.Sri Lanka accepts cease-fire proposalCOLOMBO, Sri Lanka – Sri Lanka’s government agreed Thursday to a long-term cease-fire plan already approved by the Tamil Tiger rebels and hopes to sign the truce deal within days, officials said.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s Cabinet gave its consent to a proposal prepared by Norwegian negotiators who have been trying to end nearly two decades of war in the island nation, a senior government official said on condition of anonymity.

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The rebels have approved the Norwegian plan, the official said. Government spokesman G.L. Peiris told reporters earlier that a formal and long-lasting cease-fire agreement between the government and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam could be signed within two days.

Peiris said Wickremesinghe was likely to travel Friday to the north, where most of Sri Lanka’s 3.2 million Tamils live and most of the fighting has taken place. “We hope a historic development will take place in coming days,” he said.Inspector Morse star dies of cancer at 60LONDON – Actor John Thaw, known to millions of TV viewers worldwide as the grumpy, music-loving detective in “Inspector Morse,” died Thursday at 60 after a battle with throat cancer.

“John died with his family around him” at home, said Thaw’s wife of 29 years, actress Sheila Hancock.

Thaw was a respected stage actor and had been a leading television actor for many years. But was he was indelibly identified with “Inspector Morse” after creating a complex character whose flaws appealed to fans as much as his better qualities.

The highly praised British series began in 1985 and lasted for 33 two-hour episodes that aired over 15 years. “Inspector Morse” had a 13-run in the United States on PBS’ “Mystery” series, beginning in 1988, and was shown in many other countries.