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Doctors, nurses on trial, charged with 393 deaths

TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) -- It began in summer 1998, when several infants died, and no one immediately knew why.

Three years later, six Bulgarians and a Palestinian -- all of them doctors or nurses -- face the death penalty if they are convicted of killing 393 children by injecting them with blood contaminated with the AIDS virus.

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi has said the CIA or the Mossad, Israel's intelligence agency, is behind the plot.

The defendants have pleaded innocent. Some have complained their confessions were extracted under torture, including electric shocks and beatings.

Bulgaria has accused Libya of holding a political trial against its nationals and has repeatedly called for an independent team of international experts to study the case and testify.

Luc Perrin, head of virology at Geneva University Hospital, said the contamination was caused by "bad medical practices."

Perrin, who examined 40 of the children, said at least half of them were also infected with hepatitis C, which suggests the hospital had reused needles.

12 dead, 30 seriously hurt in blast at fertilizer plant

TOULOUSE, France (AP) -- A huge explosion, apparently accidental, ripped through a chemical fertilizer plant today in this southwestern French city, killing at least 12 people and injuring 180, including 30 who were seriously hurt, rescue officials said.

Windows were blown out for miles, and red plumes of smoke wafted across Toulouse, home to nearly a million people and the country's aeronautics industry.

Officials blocked off the industrial area just south of the city, evacuated schools, closed the airport, train station and subway and told people to stay home as a precaution. There were early fears that the smoke could be toxic, though officials said that appeared not to be the case.

Officials of the AZF chemical plant called the blast an accident, and French radio reported that workers had made an error in mixing chemicals.

However, Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, who visited the scene, said: "We cannot establish at this moment the causes of what is an accident or something else. An investigation is under way."

Pontiff's visit prompts all-out security effort

ASTANA, Kazakstan (AP) -- Across a broad square from the turquoise, circular altar where Pope John Paul II is to celebrate Mass on Sunday, Kazak police prepared wide-ranging security measures for one of the most sensitive state visits this young capital has ever seen.

In addition to President Nursultan Nazarbayev's presidential guard and the pontiff's bodyguards, the Kazak Interior Ministry will deploy 3,342 officers and 600 student volunteers to keep order. All transit traffic through Astana will be banned, except for official vehicles and buses carrying worshipers.

The ministry has asked for cooperation during the pope's four-day visit, which begins Saturday, especially during the Mass on Sunday under the city's monument to World War II dead.

About 52,000 worshipers are expected in the square, with 30,000 others expected to stand beyond police cordons.

Bishop Tomasz Peta said John Paul's visit would highlight the peace that Kazakstan, divided roughly equally between Muslims and Christians, has managed to maintain during its 10 years of independence.

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