- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 21, 2009

CHINA

Ex-soldier linked to Tiananmen held

BEIJING | A former soldier who took part in the 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square and called for a reassessment of the bloodshed was detained Friday, a human rights watchdog said, an indication of the government’s nervousness as the event’s 20th anniversary approaches.

Zhang Shijun, 40, was taken away three days after giving an interview to the Associated Press. Last week, he published an open letter on the Internet addressed to Communist Party leader Hu Jintao, calling on the party and government to reconsider its condemnation of the student-led protests.

The group Civil Rights and Livelihood Watch said Mr. Zhang was taken from his home in the northern Chinese city of Tengzhou about 2 a.m. Friday. Mr. Zhang’s unit was ordered on June 3, 1989, to drive through the square and get it cleared.

AUSTRIA

Nazi guard deported from U.S. set free

VIENNA | A former Nazi concentration camp guard who was deported from the United States on Thursday is now a free man because he cannot be prosecuted in Austria, the Austrian Justice Ministry said Friday.

Josias Kumpf, 83, who has admitted to participating in a 1943 massacre of 8,000 Jews in the Trawniki labor camp in Nazi-occupied Poland, arrived in Austria on Thursday after the United States deported him following the revocation of his citizenship.

A ministry spokeswoman said Vienna had warned U.S. authorities in the past that Austria would be unable to prosecute Kumpf because the statute of limitations relating to his crimes had expired. The fact he had never been an Austrian citizen and that the crimes he is accused of were not committed in Austria, also made prosecution in Austria impossible, she said.

Kumpf was born in the part of Yugoslavia that is now Serbia. He was deported to Austria because it was the country from which he came when he entered the United States in 1956, the ministry spokeswoman said.

SOMALIA

Clerics reject bin Laden call

MOGADISHU | A group of influential Somali Islamic clerics has rejected Osama bin Laden’s call to Somalis to overthrow the country’s new president, the group’s leader said Friday.

Bin Laden issued a statement Thursday that outlined al Qaeda’s ambitions in Somalia, which the United States has long feared to be a haven for the terror network. In the audiotape, bin Laden called Somali President Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed a turncoat and tool of the United States.

ETHIOPIA

AU suspends Madagascar

ADDIS ABABA | The African Union on Friday suspended Madagascar as the international community stepped up the pressure on the increasingly isolated island nation where the army forced the country’s president from power.

France, the former colonial power and Madagascar’s biggest donor, condemned the replacement of the nation’s president by an army-backed politician as a coup and the United States cut all non-humanitarian aid.

It was the first time that France had criticized the change of leadership since new leader Andry Rajoelina took power.

After months of street protests, Marc Ravalomanana resigned as Madagascar’s president Tuesday and placed power in the hands of the military. Within hours, the military announced it was making opposition leader Mr. Rajoelina the country’s new president.

ISRAEL

Soldier says rabbis pushed ‘religious war’

JERUSALEM | Rabbis in the Israeli army told battlefield troops in January’s Gaza offensive they were fighting a “religious war” against gentiles, according to one army commander’s account published Friday.

“Their message was very clear: we are the Jewish people, we came to this land by a miracle, God brought us back to this land and now we need to fight to expel the gentiles who are interfering with our conquest of this holy land,” he said.

The account by Ram, a pseudonym to shield the soldier’s identity, was published by the left-leaning Ha’aretz newspaper in the second day of revelations that have rocked the Israeli military. They were leaked from a Feb. 13 meeting of armed forces members to share their Gaza experiences.

Some veterans, alumni of an Israel Defense Forces military academy, told of the killing of civilians and their impression that deep contempt for Palestinians pervaded the ranks of the Israeli forces.

Ha’aretz and the daily Ma’ariv, which also published the accounts, quoted half a dozen soldiers and airmen. The institution’s director confirmed that Thursday’s published accounts were authentic.

ARGENTINA

Farmers block roads to protest tax

BUENOS AIRES | Argentine farmers blocked roads and called an anti-government strike Friday, reigniting a yearlong standoff over soy taxes and challenging the president three months before a mid-term vote.

The protests erupted a day after ruling party lawmakers refused to debate an opposition-led bill to cut the taxes, further dimming prospects of a quick resolution to a conflict that has weakened President Cristina Fernandez.

Her cash-strapped government is battling to retain some $4.9 billion in tax revenue from soy exports in the run-up to the congressional vote, which is expected in June.

NORTH KOREA

Military hot line with South restored

The North Korean military cut the communications line on March 9 to protest Seoul’s decision to hold joint military exercises with U.S. forces. The drills ended Friday.

“Officials of the two Koreas conducted a trial phone conversation,” after reconnecting the hot line Saturday morning, Unification Ministry spokeswoman Lee Jong-joo said. The hot line is the only means of quick communication left between the two Koreas and is vital for coordinating the passage of people and goods across their border.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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