French envoy meets with faction leaders
BEIRUT — Some rival Lebanese leaders met face to face for the first time in months during a lunch at the French Embassy in Beirut yesterday, the only tangible result of a three-day mediation visit by France’s foreign minister.
Bernard Kouchner said the lunch signaled a new phase in French efforts to resolve Lebanon’s eight-month-old political crisis and the start of dialogue between the Western-backed government and the Hezbollah-led opposition.
He said the leaders engaged with one another but much more needed to be done before a breakthrough could be reached. He said he might return to Beirut in the second half of August.
Iraq troop extension remains in question
WARSAW — Poland has not decided whether to extend its military mission in Iraq beyond the end of the year, the president said yesterday.
“It depends on a lot of factors, above all on how the situation there is going to develop and how our cooperation with the United States is going to shape up,” President Lech Kaczynski said.
Poland, a staunch U.S. ally, contributed troops to the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, and has since led a multinational division south of Baghdad. About 900 Polish troops are stationed there training Iraqi personnel.
First lady on track for first-round win
BUENOS AIRES — Argentina’s first lady, Sen. Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, is likely to win in the first round of October’s presidential election despite government setbacks, according to opinion polls and political analysts’ comments published yesterday.
A powerful senator, Mrs. Kirchner has drawn more than 40 percent of voter support for months, although corruption charges against government officials, along with energy shortages and inflation, were seen hurting her politically.
Leading newspaper Clarin published three polls yesterday showing Mrs. Kirchner with between 44 percent and 47.8 percent support, while her two closest contenders attracted between 8.4 percent and 18.1 percent.
ASEAN draft charter omits rights body
MANILA — Southeast Asian diplomats have completed the first draft of a landmark charter for the region but left out a provision creating a human rights body after a dispute, a senior official said yesterday.
The issue now will be decided at a meeting of foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) today in Manila.
The first draft, a copy of which was shown to Reuters news agency, agreed to maintain the bloc’s traditional way of deciding issues through a consensus and made no mention of sanctions for member states guilty of serious violations of the charter.
Subs make test dive on way to North Pole
MOSCOW — Two Russian deep-sea submersibles made a test dive in polar waters yesterday ahead of a mission to be the first to reach the seabed under the North Pole, the ITAR-Tass news agency said.
Tass said it took an hour for Mir-1 and Mir-2, each carrying one pilot, to reach the seabed at a depth of 4,301 feet, 47 nautical miles north of Russia’s northernmost archipelago, Franz Josef Land in the Barents Sea.
As the Arctic ice cap thins as a result of global warming, a race is looming to claim ownership of the rich energy resources under the North Pole.
From wire dispatches and staff reports