- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 1, 2007

AFGHANISTAN

British troops raid Taliban stronghold

SANGIN VALLEY — British troops pushed into a Taliban stronghold awash with opium poppies yesterday, drawing mortar-shell and machine-gun fire, in the latest NATO drive to help the government take control of southern Afghanistan.

As Operation Silicon got under way, the U.S. military reported killing 136 rebels during three days of clashes in the once-stable west, the deadliest fighting in the country since January.

The operation in the southern province of Helmand and the bloodshed in the western province of Herat show how Taliban militants have been able to regroup in the five years since a U.S.-led invasion drove them from power.

IRAQ

Insurgents obtain Green Zone passes

Documents captured in recent fighting in Baghdad included two identification cards for access to the fortified Green Zone, which contains Iraqi government headquarters, and one for access to the U.S. Embassy, the Pentagon said.

The area where the documents were captured — west of the Green Zone — has been a stronghold of Sunni extremists linked to al Qaeda, said Army Col. Steven Townsend, commander of 3rd Stryker Brigade that led the operation.

Col. Townsend, speaking to reporters at the Pentagon yesterday in a video conference from Baghdad, did not mention the discovery of the ID cards. Pentagon officials provided that information after he spoke.

VENEZUELA

Chavez to pull out of World Bank, IMF

CARACAS — President Hugo Chavez announced yesterday that he would formally pull Venezuela out of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, a largely symbolic move because the nation has paid off its debts to the lending institutions.

“We will no longer have to go to Washington nor to the IMF nor to the World Bank, not to anyone,” said the leftist leader, who has long railed against the Washington-based lending institutions.

Mr. Chavez said he wanted to formalize Venezuela’s exit from the two bodies “tonight and ask them to return what they owe us.”

UNITED NATIONS

Council seeks talks on Western Sahara

NEW YORK — The U.N. Security Council called on Morocco and Western Sahara’s independence movement yesterday to start U.N.-sponsored talks over the territory, and diplomats said both sides had accepted the call.

Morocco and the Algeria-based Polisario had submitted to the council rival plans for the future of Western Sahara, occupied by Morocco after Spain withdrew in 1975.

AUSTRALIA

Blind pilot soars 13,500 miles

SYDNEY — A blind British adventurer touched down in Sydney yesterday to end an epic 13,500-mile flight by microlight aircraft from London.

Miles Hilton-Barber braved snowstorms, freezing temperatures and torrential downpours during his 54-day journey under the supervision of sighted co-pilot Richard Meredith-Hardy.

Mr. Hilton-Barber, who lost his eyesight to a hereditary condition about 20 years ago, is hoping the trip will raise $2 million for the charity Seeing is Believing, which works for the prevention of blindness in developing countries.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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