China's Catholics

await pope's letter

BEIJING - China's state-backed Catholic Church yesterday welcomed a newly announced Vatican initiative to repair ruptured relations with Beijing and said a promised letter from Pope Benedict XVI to Chinese Roman Catholics could be helpful.

"I hope and I also believe that the pope's letter will show his love of China's churches," Liu Bainian, the vice chairman of the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, said in a telephone interview. "I am hopeful it can improve Chinese-Vatican ties."

The Vatican announcement, made Saturday, said that the Holy See sought a dialogue with the aim of restoring diplomatic relations with Beijing, and that Benedict was preparing a message for Chinese Catholics.

China's official Catholic Church, backed by the government, refuses to recognize Vatican authority, while many clergy and lay people remain loyal to the pope and have been persecuted for it. - AP

Canadian's trial

in slayings begins

NEW WESTMINSTER, British Columbia - An accused serial killer allegedly confessed to killing 49 women and intended to murder one more to make it an even 50, a prosecutor told jurors yesterday during opening arguments of his trial.

Robert William Pickton, 56, a pig farmer, has been charged with 26 counts of first-degree murder. He has pleaded not guilty to the first six counts.

Most of the women Pickton is charged with killing vanished from Vancouver's impoverished Downtown Eastside area in the 1990s. The first trial covers the killings of Sereena Abotsway, Mona Wilson, Andrea Joesbury, Brenda Wolfe, Georgina Papin and Marnie Frey. It is expected to last a year. - AP

Turk admits role

in journalist's death

ISTANBUL, Turkey - A nationalist extremist convicted of bombing a McDonald's restaurant in 2004 has confessed to inciting the killing of an ethnic Armenian journalist last week, police said yesterday.

Yasin Hayal told police he provided a gun and money to the teenager who is suspected of carrying out Friday's shooting, the Hurriyet newspaper reported, citing police records.

The teenager, Ogun Samast, was arrested during the weekend along with several other people, and has confessed to fatally shooting journalist Hrant Dink, according to a chief prosecutor.

Police confirmed the confession, but gave no details. - AP

Elsewhere:

Security forces in Guinea's capital, Conakry, clashed yesterday with protesters seeking the ouster of President Lansana Conte. At least 10 civilians were killed and 115 were wounded, hospital officials said.

A suicide car bomber attacked a military convoy in northwestern Pakistan, killing himself and at least four soldiers, an intelligence official said.

A powerful earthquake in northeastern Indonesia left four people dead and four injured, officials said yesterday. The U.S. Geological Survey put the quake's magnitude at 7.3.