- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 3, 2004

AFGHANISTAN

U.S. forces beef up border presence

KABUL — Coalition troops have begun strengthening their presence in Afghanistan’s lawless border regions in an attempt to crush Taliban and al Qaeda militants and gather intelligence on fugitives, including Osama bin Laden, U.S. military officials said yesterday.

The buildup comes just weeks after the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Lt. Gen. David Barno, announced a change in tactics — from brief missions in search of enemy fighters to extended stays in a particular area.

“That process is under way and is gaining steam,” military spokesman Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty told reporters in the capital, Kabul.

MALAYSIA

U.S. plea to control nuke exports rejected

KUALA LUMPUR — A high-ranking U.S. envoy urged Malaysia’s leaders yesterday to crack down on nuclear trafficking, but the country’s foreign minister said there was no immediate need to tighten export controls to prevent the spread of technology.

The discussions follow the seizure of a shipment of nuclear centrifuge parts made by a Malaysian company controlled by a son of Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

PHILIPPINES

Terror group claims link to ferry fire

MANILA — A man listed by the Muslim extremist group Abu Sayyaf as one of its suicide bombers was aboard a ferry carrying 899 persons that caught fire last week after an explosion, the coast guard chief said yesterday.

But Vice Adm. Arturo Gosingan said there was no indication that a bomb caused the blaze that gutted the Superferry 14 shortly after it left Manila on Friday. One body has been found, but at least 134 persons remain missing.

Abu Sayyaf claimed responsibility for the incident and identified the “suicide bomber” as Arnulfo Alvarado, 33, a newspaper reported. However, the government dismissed the claim as propaganda.

ITALY

26 protesters face trial for G-8 riots

GENOA — Antiglobalization protesters accused of wreaking havoc during the 2001 Group of Eight summit went on trial yesterday, while riot police outside the courthouse kept watch on hundreds of chanting demonstrators who blame authorities for the worst violence.

The 26 defendants, all Italian, are accused of vandalism, robbery and illegal possession of explosives.

RUSSIA

Chess grandmaster urges vote boycott

MOSCOW — A group of liberal Russian journalists and lawmakers led by chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov yesterday urged the public to boycott the March 14 presidential election, describing it as a farce.

The group called on challengers to President Vladimir Putin, who is all but certain to be re-elected for a second term, to quit the race.

Mr. Kasparov, considered the world’s finest chess player despite losing the champion’s title to Vladimir Kramnik in 2000, allied himself with opposition journalists and lawmakers who formed the 2008 Free Elections group after a landslide victory by Mr. Putin’s followers in parliamentary elections Dec. 7.

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