Audit set of funds

going to N. Korea

UNITED NATIONS - The U.N. Development Program agreed yesterday not to approve new projects in North Korea until an external audit addressed U.S. allegations that the agency had funneled millions of dollars to the communist regime in violation of U.N. rules.

U.S. Deputy Ambassador Mark Wallace alleged last week that the U.N. program's North Korea operation had been run "in blatant violation of U.N. rules" for years. He demanded an outside audit focusing on concerns that development funds had been used by the North for "its own illicit purposes."

The audit, announced Monday by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, is expected to last three months. - AP

Walkout forcing

airline to halt fights

LONDON - British Airways P.L.C. is canceling all its flights to and from London's Heathrow Airport and several more from its Gatwick terminal for two days next week because of a strike by cabin crew.

The airline said yesterday that a total of 1,300 flights to and from the London airports would be grounded during the 48-hour walkout Tuesday and Wednesday.

Negotiations between the airline and the Transport and General Workers union have centered on pay and sick-leave policy. The talks fell apart, with each side blaming the other for the failure to reach agreement. - AP

Saving British birds

after major oil leak

LONDON - Wildlife workers combed a 100-mile stretch of beach yesterday, trying to rescue birds covered in oil after thousands of gallons of the fuel leaked from a stricken cargo ship off England's southwest coast.

Half of the more than 1,000 birds that washed ashore in the last few days have been taken to wildlife centers around Lyme Bay, where the British ship, the MSC Napoli, was deliberately run aground last week after being damaged in a storm.

"These are very thin, very hungry birds," said Tim Thomas, a scientist with the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. "They've been traumatized."

Contractors removed almost a third of the ship's fuel yesterday, sucking the oil into a nearby tanker. The process was expected to last two weeks. - AP

Elsewhere:

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez warned yesterday that the U.S. ambassador could be asked to leave if he continued "meddling in Venezuela's affairs." Earlier, William Brownfield said U.S. investors must receive a fair price for their shares of Venezuela's largest phone company when Chavez's government nationalizes it.

Ecuador President Rafael Correa ordered an inquiry yesterday into the collision of two army helicopters that killed Defense Minister Guadalupe Larriva, her daughter and five military officers. The collision occurred Wednesday during maneuvers to mark the 53d anniversary of military aviation in Ecuador.

Italy's coalition government approved a bill yesterday that makes racist, sexist or anti-Semitic crimes punishable by up to four years in prison. The measure now must be passed by parliament.

Russian President Vladimir V. Putin, visiting New Delhi, offered yesterday to build four nuclear reactors for India.