- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 22, 2004

AFGHANISTAN

U.S. air raid kills six insurgents

KABUL — A U.S. air attack killed six rebels in southern Afghanistan in an exchange of fire after militants shot a rocket at an American helicopter on Monday, the U.S. military said yesterday.

Two U.S. soldiers on a routing patrol were wounded when a homemade bomb destroyed their Humvee in the Shinkay district of Zabul province, close to the Pakistani border.

The U.S. military, meanwhile, is investigating whether abuse by American soldiers killed an Afghan detainee last year at a base in the southeast, an official said yesterday.

TURKEY

Ruling party plans session on reforms

ANKARA — Turkey’s ruling party, under fire from the European Union over a delay in key legal reforms, hinted yesterday that it might allow parliament to reconvene early to pass the laws and keep its EU bid on track.

The Justice and Development Party (AKP) put a draft overhauling the penal code on hold last week amid a row over its plans to outlaw adultery. The move irked Brussels, just weeks before the European Commission issues a make-or-break verdict on Turkey’s candidacy, and unsettled financial markets.

Opposition parties are demanding that parliament reconvene on Sept. 28 to approve the draft. Senior AKP official Dengir Mir Mehmet Firat said the party’s parliamentary group “will take the necessary decision in the near future,” making clear that much hinges on Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s planned crisis talks with senior EU officials in Brussels tomorrow.

EU Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen says the penal code, which will bolster women’s rights and freedom of expression and increase penalties for rape and torture, must be passed if Turkey is to get a green light for EU accession talks.

ISRAEL

Sharon forges ahead as settlers sue

JERUSALEM — A defiant Prime Minister Ariel Sharon faced down detractors in his own party yesterday, insisting that he would implement his embattled Gaza Strip pullout plan, and rebellious settlers filed suit against a proposal to give advance payments to families who leave their West Bank and Gaza homes.

Mr. Sharon’s mere mention of the term “disengagement plan” at a Likud Party convention set off several minutes of boos and catcalls. The party has voted against the pullout twice in different frameworks, but Mr. Sharon was adamant.

Ignoring the protest, he said, “The disengagement plan … has started on its way, and it will be carried out exactly according to the timetable approved by the Cabinet.”

PAKISTAN

Security tightens at U.S. Consulate

KARACHI — Police increased security outside the U.S. Consulate in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi yesterday after receiving a tip that female suicide bombers might target it.

Police said they had no specific information about the women who might target the consulate, which was the scene of a car-bomb attack in June 2002 that killed 14 Pakistanis.

FRANCE

Suspect probed in 9/11 attacks

PARIS — French authorities yesterday placed a suspected Islamist under judicial investigation as part of an inquiry into the September 11 attacks in the United States, judicial sources said.

Muhammad Laraichi was arrested last week in the eastern French city of Colmar. Four persons arrested with him have been released without charge.

BRUNEI

Parliament to open after 20 years

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Brunei will reconvene its parliament Saturday for the first time in 20 years, as the oil-rich kingdom takes tiny steps toward democracy.

The Legislative Council has not actually sat since 1962, and was formally suspended in 1984 when Brunei gained independence from Britain.

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah will open the assembly, and the 21 appointed members of parliament will be asked to approve updates to the constitution behind closed doors before opening up debate.

Hassanal, who is prime minister, defense minister and finance minister, is expected to proclaim the constitution om Sept. 29.

AUSTRALIA

Howard cites visa given to 9/11 suspect

SYDNEY — Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, suspected of masterminding the September 11 strikes on the United States, was granted an Australian visa a month before the attacks, said Prime Minister John Howard.

Mr. Howard, facing a tight race in an Oct. 9 election that has been dominated by security concerns and Australia’s involvement in the U.S.-led Iraq war, said the revelation proved that al Qaeda had been interested in Australia before the country joined the Iraq war.

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