- The Washington Times - Friday, February 13, 2004

BURMA

Junta denies nuclear links to N. Korea

RANGOON — The country’s ruling generals Wednesday rejected the suggestion by a senior U.S. congressional aide that Rangoon is seeking nuclear-weapons technology from North Korea.

The junta said in a statement that it was surprised that Keith Luse, an aide to Sen. Richard Lugar, Indiana Republican and Foreign Relations Committee chairman, had raised “a false and disconcerting alarm” that Pyongyang may have been providing weapons of mass destruction to Burma.

Mr. Luse warned Monday that U.S. policymakers must pay “special attention” to what he said was a growing relationship between Pyongyang and Rangoon. He was on a congressional delegation that visited North Korea’s Yongbyon nuclear plant last month.

UZBEKISTAN

Dead inmate’s mother sentenced to 6 years

TASHKENT — A woman whose son was apparently boiled to death in prison was sentenced Thursday to six years in prison for “religious extremism” and “plotting against the state.”

The verdict against Fatima Mukhadirova, 62, was “unjust and slanderous,” one of her sons, Mirzahaim Avazov, said outside the district court here. During the trial, Mrs. Mukhadirova argued that the case was part of an official vendetta against her family because she sought redress from Uzbek and Western institutions for the death of her son, Muzafar Avazov, who died in 2002 at Jaslyk prison camp.

SRI LANKA

Prime minister angered by firings

COLOMBO — Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe accused President Chandrika Kumaratunga this week of “seriously jeopardizing” the country’s fragile peace in advance of the country’s third general election in four years.

He was reacting to the sacking Wednesday of 39 junior ministers of his government following last Saturday’s dissolution of parliament by Mrs. Kumaratunga. Among the non-Cabinet ministers fired by the president were three responsible for Hindu affairs, rehabilitation, resettlement and refugees and a minister working to rehabilitate the rebel-held Vanni district.

Weekly notes

France’s foreign minister told Afghan leaders two days ago that Paris would boost its military role and financial aid to their war-stricken country. Dominique De Villepin said France wants to increase its role in the international security force in Kabul and remain part of the separate U.S.-led coalition fighting Taliban-led militants. … Some 15,000 nurses and hospital staff in Turkmenistan will be fired this month and many free medical services will be abolished, President Saparmurat Niyazov decreed Wednesday. Ending free, universal health care, the decree said that after March 1, only urgent medical attention will be paid for by the state. Those fired — about 15 percent of health-care workers — are likely to be replaced by military draftees, Health Ministry officials said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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