- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 24, 2004

RUSSIA

Moscow, Tokyo fail to set treaty date

MOSCOW — Russia and Japan failed yesterday to set a timetable for securing an elusive peace treaty ending their territorial dispute, which has severely damaged trade and investment, during a visit by Japanese Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov pledged to step up the dialogue with Japan ahead of a visit to Tokyo early next year by President Vladimir Putin but held out little hope of substantial progress. After nearly four hours of discussions with Miss Kawaguchi, Mr. Lavrov told reporters: “I would not like to speak of a date when a peace agreement can be reached.”

Talks on reaching a World War II peace treaty remain deadlocked by Moscow’s refusal to return the Kurils — four Pacific islands between northern Japan and the tip of Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula seized by Russia in the closing days of World War II. The issue has prevented the two countries from signing a formal peace treaty since 1945.

AUSTRALIA

American survives 300-foot fall

SYDNEY — Rescuers yesterday described a 21-year-old American Mormon missionary’s survival after a 300-foot fall as “a miracle.”

Emergency services workers found Matthew Weirich alive but semiconscious and suffering from a fractured skull more than 20 hours after he fell from the Grand Canyon Lookout in Morton National Park south of Sydney.

Mr. Weirich was found in a hypothermic-induced delirium after shedding most of his clothes to leave a trail that eventually led rescuers to him. “We’re amazed. We didn’t expect a live person at the other end,” said paramedic Michele Frank. Rescuers said the fitness of Mr. Weirich, an All-American pole vaulter, probably helped him survive. A thick tree canopy is believed to have cushioned his fall.

VIETNAM

Imprisoned monk gets Swedish asylum

HANOI — Thich Tri Luc, 50, a Buddhist dissident kidnapped from Cambodia and forcibly returned to Vietnam in 2002 was allowed to leave Vietnam for Sweden on Tuesday, officials said.

“The Vietnamese government agreed that he could leave the country,” said Vu Anh Son of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). “We organized for him to go to Sweden. The process took some time, but we managed to organize everything, and it actually happened smoothly.”

Mr. Luc left Vietnam Tuesday with his wife and son after the UNHCR petitioned several countries and Stockholm accepted them. Mr. Luc was sentenced to 20 months in prison and soon was released for time served. He is a member of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam, which was outlawed in 1981 after refusing to come under communist control.

Weekly notes

A claim by former President Bill Clinton that his wife was named after New Zealand’s Edmund Hillary, the first man to climb Mount Everest, has been questioned, the New Zealand Press Association said yesterday. In his autobiography, “My Life,” published this week, Mr. Clinton recalls visiting New Zealand in 1999 and wrote that his “biggest thrill” of the trip was meeting Mr. Hillary, for whom he said Hillary Rodham Clinton was named. But the New Zealander reached the summit of the world’s highest mountain in 1953, about six years after Mrs. Clinton was born. … The volume of freight transported by Russia’s Trans-Siberian railway between Europe and the Far East is to increase by one-third by 2010, Russian Transport Minister Igor Levitin said yesterday at a meeting in the Pacific port of Vladivostok. The volume of freight carried by the Trans-Siberian reached a record 676,000 tons last year, and should reach between 900,000 and 1,050,000 tons in 2010, he said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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