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VENEZUELA/Chavez cuts ties to Colombia

President Hugo Chávez severed Venezuela's diplomatic relations with Colombia Thursday over claims he harbors guerrillas, and he charged that his neighbor's leader could attempt to provoke a war. Chávez said he was forced to break off all relations because Colombian officials claim he has failed to move against leftist rebels who allegedly have taken shelter in Venezuelan territory. Chávez acted moments after Colombian Ambassador Luis Alfonso Hoyos presented a meeting of the Organization of American States in Washington with photos, videos, witness testimony and maps of what he said were rebel camps inside Venezuela. Neither Chávez nor his OAS ambassador directly responded to the Colombian challenge to let people visit the alleged site of the camps.


GAZA STRIP/Wall no problem for smugglers

A Palestinian tunnel smuggler with a blowtorch sliced through an underground steel wall early Thursday, the latest of what officials say are hundreds of holes cut into the Egyptian barrier meant to stop smuggling of goods, cash and weapons to the blockaded, Hamas-run Gaza Strip. Smugglers say the wall was never a serious obstacle, and they are far more worried about competition from consumer goods being brought to Gaza legally, now that Israel has eased its closure of the Palestinian territory. The wall is seen as Egypt's most ambitious attempt to stop smuggling through the hundreds of tunnels that run under its 9-mile-long border with Gaza. The tunnels have been a lifeline for the Islamic militants, keeping them supplied with cash and weapons, while delivering consumer goods to Gaza's shops.


SOUTH AFRICA/Desmond Tutu to retire

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who won the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize for his opposition to apartheid in South Africa, said Thursday he will withdraw from public life after his 79th birthday on Oct. 7. As South Africa's first black Anglican bishop, Tutu used his international profile to advocate sanctions against the all-white government, which relinquished power after elections in 1994. He retired as archbishop of Cape Town in 1996 to lead the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a body that aimed to expose the injustices of the past. In 1997, Tutu learned he had prostate cancer and underwent surgery. When the Truth Commission completed its work in 1998, Tutu took up a lectureship at Emory University in Atlanta, returning to South Africa in 2001, ostensibly to retire. Yet he continued to campaign for social justice and participated in a number of forums and organizations, including the United Nations Advisory Committee on the Prevention of Genocide.

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