- The Washington Times - Monday, August 17, 2009

MYANMAR

Freed prisoner joins Sen. Webb

BANGKOK | Myanmar freed an ailing American whom it had sentenced to seven years of hard labor and handed him to an influential U.S senator Sunday, a move that could help persuade Washington to soften its hard-line policy against the military regime.

Sen. Jim Webb, Virginia Democrat, who secured John Yettaw’s freedom, said he thinks years of sanctions have failed to move the Southeast Asian country toward democratic reforms or talks with detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Mr. Webb said he would discuss his conclusions and recommendations with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and others on his return to Washington. He declined to speculate on what the Obama administration, which is reviewing its policy toward Myanmar, would do. In the United States, Mr. Yettaw’s family said he has been hospitalized in Bangkok.

KOREA

Kim Jong-il meets Hyundai leader

SEOUL | North Korean leader Kim Jong-il held talks with the head of South Korea’s Hyundai Group, the North’s state media reported Sunday, in a rare meeting that could warm prospects for a resumption of stalled cross-border projects.

Meanwhile, North Korea warned the United States and South Korea of “merciless retaliation” over sanctions imposed on the communist country, and nuclear attacks in response to any atomic provocation.

Mr. Kim and Hyun Jeong-eun, Hyundai’s chairwoman, had a “cordial talk” on Sunday, the Korean Central News Agency reported in a brief dispatch from Pyongyang, though it provided few details.

Just days earlier, the North freed a Hyundai worker whom it had detained for months. Pyongyang accused the worker of denouncing North Korea’s government.

IRAQ

8 civilians killed in blast

BAGHDAD | Bombs hidden in plastic bags near a falafel stand exploded at a market in a mainly Shi’ite area in Baghdad on Sunday, killing at least eight civilians and wounding 21, Iraqi officials said. It was the latest in a series of bombings targeting Shi’ites and minorities in the capital and northern Iraq.

The U.S. military has said insurgents are trying to reignite sectarian bloodshed that pushed the country to the brink of civil war but Shi’ites so far have shown restraint.

The bags packed with explosives were left among a pile of garbage and exploded shortly before 8 p.m. as the district was crowded with people enjoying the evening.

The spike in violence follows the June 30 withdrawal of U.S. troops from urban areas, heightening concerns about the ability of Iraqi forces to protect the people.

HONDURAS

U.S. denies role in coup

TEGUCIGALPA | The U.S. military says its troops in Honduras did not know of and played no part in a flight that took ousted President Manuel Zelaya to exile following a military coup.

Mr. Zelaya says the Honduran military plane that flew him to Costa Rica on June 28 stopped to refuel at Soto Cano, a Honduran airfield where 600 U.S. troops are based. He has charged there may have been U.S. involvement in the coup.

Southern Command spokesman Robert Appin says U.S. forces at Soto Cano “were not involved in the flight that carried President Zelaya to Costa Rica on June 28.”

He said in an e-mail to the Associated Press that U.S. troops “had no knowledge or part in the decisions made for the plane to land, refuel and take off.”

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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