Fernando Llano, Associated Press
Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez speaks to journalists at a meeting with relatives of three people kidnapped by Colombian rebels.

Venezuela: Chavez seeks release

BARINAS — President Hugo Chavez said Saturday that he has taken "the first steps" toward the release of three ailing hostages held by Colombian rebels for more than six years.

"We have already made contact" with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, Chavez told reporters in the southeastern city of Barinas. "The first steps on this path have been taken."

Chavez urged "calm and patience," saying "there's no time limit" for the release of Gloria Polanco, Luis Eladio Perez and Orlando Beltran, who were kidnapped in 2001.

Australia: Apology to Aborigines

CANBERRA — Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said Sunday that many Australians disagree with a national apology to generations of Aboriginal children who were seized from their families, but he said the act will remove a "blight on the nation's soul."

About 100,000 children were forcibly removed from Aboriginal mothers between 1910 and the 1970s under policies that were aimed at making them grow up like white Australians, leaving deep scars on countless lives and the nation's psyche.

Aboriginal leaders have welcomed the move as a historic milestone in race relations. The apology by Parliament will be televised live Wednesday around Australia, and 100 members of the so-called "stolen generations" will be flown to the national capital to witness it.

Ecuador: Volcano destroys crops

PENIPE— Ecuador's erupting Tungurahua volcano has dumped an inch of ash on nearby villages, causing major crop damage in an agriculturally important area, officials said Saturday.

Several villages on the volcano's western flanks are being destroyed by falling ash that billowed over the highland plain and darkened the sky, said Juan Salazar, mayor of the farming hamlet of Penipe. The volcano is spewing a steady column of ash up to 2.5 miles high and toward the northwest, said Patricio Ramon, volcanologist at the institute's Guadalupe monitoring station near the volcano.

Germany: U.N. chief sees chaos

MUNICH, Germany — The United Nations' chief nuclear watchdog provided a singularly bleak vision of a world "in disarray" Saturday, warning that the most imminent threat is not a new nation joining the nuclear club but deadly material falling into the hands of extremists.

The specter of nuclear terrorism is not a new theme for International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei, who has been managing the crisis over Iran's nuclear program for the past six years, but his language was particularly gloomy at a conference of international leaders on security here.

Iraq: Soldier in tears testifies

BAGHDAD — A weeping Army soldier said Saturday at his murder trial that he can't remember firing the gun that killed an Iraqi civilian who had stumbled upon the hiding place where he and five other snipers were sleeping.

Sgt. Evan Vela and several of his fellow snipers described the confused scene and their own exhaustion in the May shooting. Tears rolled down Vela's cheeks as he said in a hushed voice that he could not recall the exact moment he killed Genei Nasir al-Janabi.

Israel: Rocket injures brothers

JERUSALEM — Israel threatened retaliation Saturday after two brothers, ages 8 and 19, were seriously wounded when a rocket from Gaza slammed into the center of the Israeli border town of Sderot.

The rocket was one of 11 fired toward southern Israel on Saturday, police said. It landed yards away from a road where a family was running to seek shelter as warning sirens rang out to announce the attack, Israeli media reported. The younger brother's legs were at least partially severed by the explosion, Army Radio reported.