Gunmen attack palace in Somalia

MOGADISHU, Somalia - Government troops battled gunmen who attacked the president's palace in central Mogadishu last night, spreading panic around the capital.

The attackers fired three mortar rounds into the presidential compound and then engaged guards in a 30-minute firefight, residents said. President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed and the prime minister were in Mogadishu, but their whereabouts were unclear.

The internationally recognized government - with key military backing from Ethiopia - has managed to drive the Islamic movement that had challenged it for power out of Mogadishu and much of the rest of southern Somalia. But the potential for violence remains great because of clan rivalries, resentment of the government's Ethiopian backers, and a threat of guerrilla war from remnants of the Islamic movement.

Since the Islamist fighters abandoned Mogadishu on Dec. 28, the government has struggled to restore order to a capital that has known little but chaos and violence for decades. - AP

Blair aide arrested

in honors probe

LONDON - An aide to British Prime Minister Tony Blair was arrested yesterday in the investigation into whether political honors, such as seats in the House of Lords and knighthoods, were traded for cash.

Ruth Turner, Blair's director of government relations, was questioned on suspicion of being involved in the sale of honors - illegal under British law - and perverting the course of justice, police said.

Turner, 36, is the first member of Blair's Downing Street staff to be arrested and the fourth person to be detained by police in their investigation. All four are on bail while inquiries continue, police said. - AP

Chavez: Telecom

spied on him

RIO DE JANEIRO - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez yesterday accused his nation's main telecommunications company of spying on him and suggested it was at the bidding of the United States.

Chavez, addressing 10 South American leaders at a summit of the Mercosur trade bloc, gave no additional details. The accusation came less than two weeks after Chavez announced he would nationalize CA Nacional Telefonos de Venezuela, known as CANTV.

Though Chavez referred to a "North American capital" as being responsible, he did not say the United States. CANTV is Venezuela's largest publicly traded company, and its largest stockholder is New York-based Verizon Communications Inc. CANTV did not immediately comment on the accusation. - AP

Elsewhere:

China's one-child policy has created a generation of "only" children that now numbers 90 million, a family-planning official in Beijing said yesterday.

A court in Warsaw convicted two doctors and two ambulance workers yesterday of participating in a scheme in which 14 patients were allowed to die - or in some cases killed with muscle relaxants - in return for kickbacks from funeral homes.