- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 16, 2005

INDONESIA

Government, rebels sign Aceh accord

HELSINKI — The Indonesian government and rebels from Aceh signed a truce yesterday aimed at ending nearly three decades of fighting in the province devastated by last December’s tsunami.

The deal, signed in Helsinki by Indonesian Justice Minister Hamid Awaluddin and Malik Mahmud of the Free Aceh Movement, provides for an amnesty and disarming of the rebels from Sept. 15 and restricts government troop movements in Aceh.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono called it a “very happy, thankful and historic day” and expressed gratitude to his “brothers” in the Free Aceh Movement for working to “reunite with the big Indonesian family to build a better future in Aceh.”

JAPAN

Quake rocks north, felt in capital

TOKYO — A major earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.8 jolted the northeastern coast of Japan this morning, prompting a tsunami warning.

Many people had been injured in Sendai, a regional city with a population of about 1 million, Kyodo news agency reported, citing local fire department officials. But other press reports said the damage was not extensive.

Buildings also swayed in Tokyo, nearly 200 miles away. An October 2004 earthquake with the same magnitude struck northern Japan, killing 40 persons and injuring more than 3,000.

ITALY

Pope wants crucifixes in public buildings

CASTEL GANDOLFO — Pope Benedict XVI yesterday encouraged the display of crucifixes in public buildings, saying that God needs to be present in community life.

In his homily in a parish church in Castel Gandolfo, the hill town outside Rome where the Vatican has its vacation retreat, Benedict mentioned no specific disputes, but the issue of whether religious symbols have a place in government buildings has been divisive in Italy and elsewhere.

A Muslim activist in Italy in past years turned to the courts, unsuccessfully, to seek the removal of crucifixes from public schools in Italy. Although Italy is officially secular, a 1924 law requires schools to display a crucifix.

UNITED NATIONS

Annan orders review over latest charges

NEW YORK — U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan ordered a new review of the U.N. procurement department in the wake of a senior officer’s guilty plea for taking bribes, the United Nations announced yesterday.

The procurement division has been under scrutiny for months by the internal U.N. watchdog, U.S. federal investigators and an independent probe investigating the scandal-tainted Iraq oil-for-food program.

On Aug. 8, senior procurement official Alexander Yakovlev, a Russian national, pleaded guilty to soliciting bribes from U.N. contractors. He was believed to have taken at least $950,000.

SRI LANKA

Thousands mourn slain official

COLOMBO — Sri Lanka cremated its slain foreign minister at a state funeral yesterday, and President Chandrika Kumaratunga blamed the killing on Tamil Tiger rebels.

Thousands paid their last respects to Lakshman Kadirgamar, whose assassination plunged a protracted peace process into its worst crisis since a 2002 cease-fire in the Tigers’ two-decade war for self-rule, although the government said the truce would hold.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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