- The Washington Times - Monday, July 21, 2008

COLOMBIA

Rallies staged for rebel captives

BOGOTA | Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets Sunday in Bogota and other world capitals seeking the release of captives still held by leftist rebels in the Colombian jungle.

Crowds gathered in 1,000 towns and cities all across Colombia on the country’s national day, demanding the liberation of hundreds of hostages still held by Marxist rebels following last month’s dramatic rescue of French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt and 14 others.

In Paris, Mrs. Betancourt led chants of “No more hostages!” as she addressed a crowd of several thousand people who came to watch artists perform in a square near the Eiffel Tower.

Madrid and other European cities saw smaller rallies in support of the hostages, but the main events were to be held in Latin America, which included a concert in Colombia by pop star Shakira.

ISRAEL

Visiting British leader sees chance for peace

JERUSALEM | British Prime Minister Gordon Brown insisted Sunday that the gap between Israel and the Palestinians can be bridged and that a landmark Middle East peace deal is achievable.

After talks in Jerusalem and Bethlehem with leaders from both sides, Mr. Brown said he was confident that all outstanding issues preventing an agreement could be hammered out.

The British prime minister clashed with his Israeli counterpart, Ehud Olmert, over his demand to freeze the building of settlements in the West Bank and pledged new aid to the Palestinians as part of efforts to kick-start their economy.

Mr. Brown was making his first visit to Israel and the West Bank since taking office in June last year. U.S.-sponsored talks between the two sides are aimed at resolving the conflict before President Bush leaves office in January.

INDIA

U.S. pact hinges on parliament vote

NEW DELHI | India’s parliament begins debate on a vote of confidence in the Congress-led government Monday after its communist allies ended their crucial support in protest of a civilian nuclear deal with the United States.

The vote, due Tuesday, is so close that several lawmakers who are ill may be flown or wheeled in from their sickbeds, and others have been granted temporary release from jail.

If Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government falls, there will be early elections, possibly by the end of the year. This would almost certainly lead to the collapse of the U.S. nuclear deal, seen by both capitals as the centerpiece of a new strategic relationship.

SUDAN

Top Arab diplomat backs president

KHARTOUM | Arab League chief Amr Mussa headed Sunday to Khartoum with a plan aimed at stalling possible legal moves against Sudanese President Omar Bashir, accused by an international tribunal of masterminding genocide in the rebellious Darfur region.

Lt. Gen. Bashir, who was to receive Mr. Mussa late Sunday, has been bolstered by an accord from Arab foreign ministers to seek a political solution to the row sparked when the International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor sought an arrest warrant for Gen. Bashir.

The Arab League Saturday backed Sudan, slammed ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo as “unbalanced” and said Sudanese courts should try those accused of war crimes during Darfur’s five-year conflict.

Mr. Moreno-Ocampo accuses the Sudanese leader of personally instructing his forces to annihilate three non-Arab ethnic groups in Darfur, authorizing the use of killings, torture and rape to commit genocide.

CAMBODIA

Temple focus of border spat

PHNOM PENH | Cambodia has complained to the U.N. Security Council about its military standoff with Thailand over an ancient temple on their disputed border.

Hundreds of Thai and Cambodian troops faced each other at the Preah Vihear temple for a sixth day Sunday, a standoff that some fear could turn violent.

In a letter sent to council members Friday and released to the press Sunday, Cambodian U.N. Ambassador Sea Kosal said Thai troops had been occupying Cambodian territory about 300 yards from the 900-year-old temple since last Tuesday.

The temple, perched on a jungle-clad escarpment that forms a natural boundary between the two nations, has been a source of tension since the International Court of Justice ruled in 1962 that it belonged to Cambodia, a decision that still angers Thais.

CHINA

Capital begins Olympics smog plan

BEIJING | With the Olympics less than three weeks away, Beijing began restricting car use and limiting factory emissions Sunday in a final drastic effort to clear its smog-choked skies.

Under the two-month plan, half of the capital’s 3.3 million cars will be removed from city streets on alternate days, depending on whether the license plate ends in an odd or even number.

In addition to the traffic plan, chemical plants, power stations and foundries had to cut emissions by 30 percent beginning Sunday. Dust-spewing construction in the capital was to stop entirely.

While the government has said it hopes to reduce vehicle emissions, one of Beijing’s chief sources of pollution, it is unclear how the effectiveness of the plan will be gauged. The government has not made public a specific target for emissions levels or said how it will measure air quality.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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