Indonesian government,rebels to sign peace pact
HELSINKI, Finland -- The Indonesian government and Aceh rebels met Sunday for last-minute talks before the signing of a peace treaty aimed at ending nearly 30 years of fighting in the oil- and gas-rich province that has killed 15,000 people. Spurred by the need to get reconstruction aid to the Dec. 26 tsunami-ravaged region, the parties embarked on a seven-month peace process under the mediation of former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, culminating in the accord they are to sign today. Hundreds of Muslims gathered in Jakarta on Sunday to reject the presence of non-Muslim countries' participation in the monitoring of the peace accord. In Banda Aceh, hundreds of people turned out Sunday at the city's biggest mosque -- most sent by the government in a convoy of trucks -- to pray for peace. In an about-face, rebels of the Free Aceh Movement, or GAM, have agreed to renounce a demand for full independence and will disarm. In return, the government has offered them amnesty, land, jobs and political representation. It has said it will also pull out tens of thousands of soldiers and police from the province by the year's end.
Bomb scare promptsevacuation of hotel
WASHINGTON -- A major downtown hotel was evacuated for more than an hour Sunday after a suspicious package was discovered in the basement, but police bomb technicians found nothing dangerous inside it. The discovery prompted bomb technicians and the FBI terrorism task force to evacuate about 350 guests and employees from the Mayflower Hotel, which is four blocks north of the White House. "Someone tried to make this look like a real bomb," said Alan Etter, D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department spokesman. Evacuees were kept a short distance from the building. Bomb technicians from the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department disrupted the package with a small explosive charge but found no evidence of anything dangerous inside, Etter said. "It was found to be a hoax device," Etter said. Bomb technicians and police accompanied by bomb sniffing dogs were checking the entire building as a precaution.
Marine faces chargeof attempted murder
LAWRENCE, Mass. -- A veteran recently named "Marine of the Year" for his service in Iraq was charged with attempted murder after firing a shotgun from his apartment window as a group of noisy revelers stood outside a nightclub, police said. Two people were hit by bullet fragments and suffered minor injuries. Daniel Cotnoir, 33, had called police minutes earlier to complain about the noise coming from the street shortly before 3 a.m. Saturday, The Lawrence Eagle-Tribune reported. He later told authorities someone had thrown an empty bottle through his bedroom window and he feared for the safety of his wife and two daughters, who were home, the newspaper reported. Cotnoir was being held on $100,000 bail and scheduled to be arraigned today.
Rock slides shut downmajor stretch of highway
IDAHO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Engineers and geologists were trying to stabilize the side of a mountain Sunday after three rock slides in less than 24 hours spilled onto an interstate. The slides backed up traffic on Interstate 70 and forced a five-mile shutdown of the state's main east-west highway for several hours. Officials were able to divert vehicles to a frontage road to get around the area, and the eastbound lanes reopened, but the westbound lanes were expected to stay closed overnight Sunday, and it wasn't clear how soon they might reopen. State Transportation Department spokeswoman Stacey Stegman said there were reports of a few cars sustaining minor damage from running into rocks, but no reports of injuries. Crews blasted apart the large boulders and moved out the debris while the stretch was shut down, and more blasting was scheduled for early today. The three slides happened about 30 miles west of Denver. Stegman said the spot isn't known to have problems, but heavy rains apparently loosened the rocks.