Big antiabortion rally in Madrid

MADRID, Spain - A huge crowd rallied in the Spanish capital yesterday against a bill to ease restrictions on abortion - a vivid and emotional show of how the issue remains sensitive two decades after abortion was legalized in this traditionally Roman Catholic country.

The crowd of at least tens of thousands of people waved banners, balloons, and red-and-yellow Spanish flags as it marched down a major Madrid boulevard with the slogan "Every Life Matters." Civic groups predicted one million or more people would attend, and said they chartered about 600 buses to bring people in from other cities.

The protest was called to denounce a bill - sponsored by the Socialist government - that would allow unrestricted abortion at up to 14 weeks of pregnancy and let girls ages 16 and 17 have abortions without parental consent. Parliament is expected to vote this year on the legislation.

Under the country's 1985 abortion law, the procedure is allowed in cases of rape or fetal malformation, or when doctors deem a pregnant woman's physical or mental health to be in danger - a clause that has allowed for abortions to be carried out more or less freely. Most of Spain's yearly 100,000 abortions come under that clause.

- AP

West Africans pressure Guinea

ABUJA, Nigeria - West African leaders said yesterday that they were imposing an arms embargo on Guinea after soldiers fatally shot pro-democracy demonstrators. They also said they would try to stop Guinea's military ruler from running in January's presidential election.

Regional leaders attended an emergency meeting of ECOWAS, the Economic Community of West African States, and said at a news conference afterward that they would step up pressure on the ruling junta not to seek office. Capt. Moussa "Dadis" Camara seized power in a December coup. He initially said he would not run in the January elections but recently indicated that he may have changed his mind.

A peaceful pro-democracy rally Sept. 28 took a violent turn when Guinean presidential guard troops opened fire on demonstrators. A Guinean human-rights group said that 157 people were killed. The government put the death toll at 57.

- AP

Fireworks blaze kills 30 in India

NEW DELHI - A blaze erupted at a fireworks warehouse in southern India, killing at least 30 people and injuring 10 ahead of a major Hindu festival yesterday.

The victims in Friday night's explosion were mainly traders buying fireworks in bulk as millions of Hindus prepared to celebrate Deepavali, the festival of lights, the Press Trust of India news agency reported. Setting off fireworks is a major part of the celebration's evening festivities.

Police pulled 30 bodies from the warehouse in Pallipat near Chennai, the capital of the southern state of Tamil Nadu, PTI quoted police as saying. The cause of the fire was not immediately known.

- AP