- The Washington Times - Monday, February 23, 2004

AFGHANISTAN

Private helicopter comes under attack

THALOQAN — An attacker sprayed a U.S. company’s helicopter with gunfire as it prepared to take off from an Afghan village yesterday, killing the Australian pilot and seriously wounding an American woman who was helping set up health clinics in the region.

Four foreigners and an Afghan interpreter had come to inspect the construction of a health clinic in the village of Thaloqan, about 40 miles southwest of Kandahar. The group was about to leave when a man attacked the helicopter with a Kalashnikov assault rifle and fled.

The helicopter belonged to the Louis Berger Group Inc., an engineering firm based in East Orange, N.J., that oversees infrastructure projects in southern Afghanistan.

WEST BANK

U.S. aid conditioned on security efforts

JERUSALEM — To get more aid from the United States, Palestinians must show a greater commitment to improving security and bring to justice those behind the deaths of three Americans in the Gaza Strip, a U.S. official said yesterday.

Washington has barred its officials from visiting Gaza since three U.S. diplomatic security guards were killed in a roadside bombing in October.

“For us to continue to be involved in projects, it’s important to ensure the security of those who work on projects,” Alan Larson, U.S. undersecretary of economic, business and agricultural affairs, said in Jerusalem.

PAKISTAN

Security net reaches remote tribal area

WANA — Pakistan is preparing for a military campaign to capture Taliban and al Qaeda suspects who have taken shelter among local tribes in a border region where Osama bin Laden may be hiding, military officials said yesterday.

Paramilitary forces stepped up patrols in the rugged and historically autonomous region, guarding key roads and taking positions in sandbagged bunkers in this town in tribal South Waziristan, near the border with Afghanistan.

Although bin Laden was not the immediate target, authorities hope that the sweep through the vast territory in Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province will turn up clues that ultimately would lead to his capture.

FRANCE

Chirac standing slips in face of scandals

PARIS — President Jacques Chirac’s popularity has hit the lowest point since his re-election two years ago, reflecting resurgent concern over corruption in high places, a poll published yesterday showed.

The poll by the Ifop agency showed that Mr. Chirac’s approval rating had sunk below the 50 percent mark for the first time since he won a second term in May 2002, falling six points to 47 percent.

NETHERLANDS

Milosevic trial judge resigns, cites health

THE HAGUE — The presiding judge in Slobodan Milosevic’s war-crimes trial will resign because of poor health, the United Nations’ tribunal said yesterday.

British Judge Richard George May will step down May 31 because of a recent illness that “will make it increasingly difficult for him to continue the performance of his duties,” a statement said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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