- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 31, 2000

Fiji military opens talks with rebels

SUVA, Fiji Fiji's new military leaders threw out the nation's constitution yesterday and began negotiating with armed rebels whose seizure of the prime minister and other hostages has sparked ethnic and political turmoil in this Pacific nation.

Rebel supporters hurled rocks at cars as military officials met with the rebels in Suva, the capital. Meanwhile, the 11-day-old hostage standoff continued among the lush, tropical gardens and swaying palm trees of Fiji's nearby parliament complex.

Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry and the more than 30 other hostages many of them members of Mr. Chaudhry's government have been held captive since May 19 by attempted coup leader George Speight and his band of rebels. The rebels are members of the ethnic Fijian majority here.

Suspicions evaporate on Pyongyang tunnels

North Korea has stopped work on a complex of underground tunnels once suspected to be part of a nuclear program, the United States said yesterday.

The U.S. team made a second visit to the Kumchang-ri site last week under an agreement negotiated with the North Koreans in 1999. The United States, alarmed by intelligence reports, wanted to ensure that it was not a secret nuclear plant.

State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said the North Koreans had finally given some kind of explanation for the work at the site, saying it was intended as an unspecified "national security-related facility."

U.S. stepping back from Peru criticism

The United States yesterday stepped back from a highly critical rejection of Peru's weekend presidential election, calling the polls "obviously flawed," but not invalid as a State Department official initially termed them.

In addition, State Department spokesman Philip Reeker denied reports that Washington was already planning unilateral sanctions against Peru, saying any punitive action for the Sunday election would have to wait until at least after a meeting of the Organization of American States.

Japan's leader hits low in popularity

TOKYO Support for Japan's prime minister hit a new low yesterday, making him the least popular prime minister in decades to lead this country's ruling party into parliamentary elections.

Support for Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori's government has dropped to just 19 percent, according to a new poll by the Asahi, a major Japanese newspaper. The poll, conducted by telephone Sunday and Monday, showed Mr. Mori's support rating had fallen from 41 percent just a month earlier.

The rating was the lowest for a prime minister heading into general elections since the poll was first conducted in 1946, the Asahi reported.

Sierra Leone seeks to capture mines

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone Government forces in Sierra Leone said yesterday they planned to continue their advance against Foday Sankoh's rebels and to capture the eastern diamond mines that have helped fuel its civil war.

The United Nations called on the rebels to lift a blockade on more than 250 peacekeeping troops following the return over the weekend of the last of hundreds more U.N. troops who had been taken hostage after a dispute over disarmament at the start of May.

U.S. offers evidence to Kabul on terrorist

U.S. Undersecretary of State Thomas Pickering, after meeting in Pakistan with a top official of Afghanistan's ruling Taleban, urged Kabul's hand-over of suspected terrorist leader Osama bin Laden.

Mr. Pickering, in his meeting Saturday with Deputy Foreign Minister Abdul Jallil, "reviewed the U.S. case and provided further evidence" against bin Laden, State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said. U.S. officials accuse bin Laden of involvement in attacks that include the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

Based on wire dispatches and staff reports.

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