- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 2, 2004

NORTH KOREA

Pyongyang seen as drug dealer

The United States said yesterday its “axis-of-evil” foe North Korea almost certainly was running state-sanctioned drug-trafficking operations for profit.

The seizure last year of a North Korean ship off Australia implicated in drug trafficking and a string of other incidents “reflect official involvement in the trafficking of illicit narcotics for profit,” the State Department said.

Such evidence makes it “highly likely, but not certain, that Pyongyang is trading narcotic drugs for profit as state policy,” the department said in its annual International Narcotics Control Strategy report.

GAZA STRIP

Arafat adviser killed in power struggle

GAZA CITY — Gunmen killed a well-known adviser to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in Gaza City early today, security officials said.

Khalid al-Zaben was the best-known Palestinian to be killed in what appears to be growing power struggles in Gaza City. There is concern that with the weakening of Mr. Arafat’s Palestinian Authority and a planned Israeli pullout from most of the Gaza Strip, a chaotic situation might result, with Islamic militant groups angling for power there.

Mr. al-Zaben, 59, was hit by 12 bullets as he left his office in the Sabra neighborhood, hospital and security officials said.

RUSSIA

U.S. turns over seven from Guantanamo

MOSCOW — The United States has turned over seven Russian citizens who were being held at the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, U.S. and Russian officials said yesterday.

Russian authorities have charged the men with illegally crossing borders, mercenary activity and participating in a criminal group, the Interfax new agency reported. They were captured in Afghanistan and accused of fighting alongside the Taliban.

The detainees were turned over on Saturday under an agreement reached earlier by Washington and Moscow, and were in the custody of Russia’s Justice Ministry, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

CHINA

Democracy effort costs U.S. millions

The United States has shelled out more than $39 million over five years in a bid to promote democracy in communist-ruled China, a report says.

Money has flowed to grass-roots democracy projects and financed some joint initiatives with arms of the Chinese government and judicial authorities, said the report by the General Accounting Office (GAO).

The report was compiled at the request of members of the House International Relations Committee, said the GAO, which acknowledged that the issue of democratic aid to China often was contentious.

Congress authorized the provision of U.S. funds for democracy programs in China in 1999.

BELGIUM

Trial begins in schoolgirl murders

ARLON — Belgium’s “most hated man,” Marc Dutroux, went on trial yesterday, eight years after his arrest for the abductions, rapes and murders of several girls in a series of crimes that horrified the world.

An impassive Dutroux, speaking in a flat voice via a microphone from behind bulletproof glass, addressed the court only to confirm his name and that he was unemployed.

The 47-year-old former electrician, a convicted child rapist, appeared to doze off at one point as the court spent the first day of the trial choosing a jury.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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