- The Washington Times - Monday, March 1, 2004

PAKISTAN

Opposition politicians protest shootings

ISLAMABAD — Opposition politicians walked out of the Senate yesterday to protest the shooting deaths of 13 persons by security forces in a remote tribal region of Pakistan, scene of a recent military operation to capture al Qaeda suspects.

Troops fired on a minibus that failed to stop Saturday at a roadblock in tribal South Waziristan, outraging residents of the semiautonomous region and prompting President Pervez Musharraf to announce an investigation into the killings.

The president said yesterday that the government would pay $1,750 in compensation to each of the families of those killed and half that for the injured, an indication that the government acknowledged the victims were innocent civilians.

ISRAEL

Sharon sends envoys to U.S.

JERUSALEM — Prime Minister Ariel Sharon sent envoys to Washington to seek support for unilateral steps in the West Bank and Gaza Strip if a U.S.-backed peace plan stalled by violence fails, a political source said yesterday.

In a bid to get Israel’s main ally behind his plan to “separate” from the Palestinians after three years of violence, Mr. Sharon sent top aide Dov Weisglass and senior security adviser Giora Eiland to Washington to meet with U.S. officials.

ITALY

Reforms minister insults pope

ROME — Leaders across Italy’s political spectrum attacked Reforms Minister Umberto Bossi yesterday after the outspoken politician took a swipe at Pope John Paul II and said “thieving” cardinals should go back to being barefoot monks.

Mr. Bossi, the firebrand leader of the federalist Northern League party, regularly stirs Italy’s political waters, but now he has taken aim at the Roman Catholic Church and Polish-born John Paul.

After the pope improvised a message in Roman dialect to visiting priests, Mr. Bossi ridiculed him and said he would send the pontiff three dictionaries of northern Italian dialects so the pope could speak something other than Polish and Roman.

CYPRUS

Washington pledges generous peace aid

NICOSIA — The United States will donate “generously” toward Cyprus’ reunification costs if an accord is reached between its two sides, a U.S. special envoy said yesterday.

Greek and Turkish Cypriots are working under a tight U.N. deadline to unite the ethnically divided island before it joins the European Union on May 1.

A donors conference for Cyprus is scheduled for April 15, six days before islanders vote on the U.N. proposal for uniting the island.

SPAIN

Truck-bomb capture averts massacre

MADRID — Spanish police averted a massacre by intercepting a van carrying more than 1,100 pounds of explosives yesterday that Basque separatist guerrilla group ETA planned to detonate in Madrid, the government said.

Two suspected ETA members were arrested two weeks before a general election and 11 days after ETA declared a partial cease-fire limited to the northeastern region of Catalonia.

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