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World Briefs: Stoner voters targeted in Dutch election campaign

- - Tuesday, September 4, 2012

THE HAGUE — With slogans like "Don't let your vote go up in smoke," owners of the freewheeling cafes where bags of hashish are sold alongside cups of coffee are mounting a get-out-the-stoner-vote campaign ahead of next week's Dutch election.

The campaigners are calling on their sometimes apathetic dope-smoking clientele to get out and support political parties that oppose the recently introduced "weed pass" that is intended to rein in the cafes known as coffee shops and close them altogether to foreign tourists.

At a coffee shop in The Hague, a member of the staff selling weed wears a T-shirt emblazoned with a modified Uncle Sam style poster calling on smokers to "Vote against the weed pass on Sept. 12."

Under the new system, coffee shops become member-only clubs, and only Dutch residents can apply for a pass to get in. The cafes are limited to a maximum of 2,000 members.

The online vote2smoke.nl campaign offers cannabis and marijuana users voting advice by showing which political parties support dumping the "weed pass," which came into force in the southern Netherlands earlier this year and is intended to roll out over the whole country in coming years.

AFGHANISTAN

NATO vows action on insider attacks

BRUSSELS — NATO's top official vowed to "do everything it takes" to prevent more insider attacks in Afghanistan, saying they are threatening to undermine trust between international troops and their Afghan allies.

Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Tuesday the surge of attacks by Afghan soldiers and police on their foreign partners will not derail the transition process.

Afghan forces are scheduled to take over security for the country by the end of 2014, when NATO forces will withdraw.

Additional measures to prevent so-called "green-on-blue" attacks may include strengthened vetting and screening procedures, improved counter-intelligence, as well as cultural awareness training, Mr. Fogh Rasmussen said.

Insider attacks have killed 45 international service members this year, most of them Americans. There were at least 12 such attacks in August alone, resulting in 15 deaths.

INDIA

China, India agree to resume military drills

NEW DELHI — The defense ministers of India and China agreed Tuesday to resume joint military exercises that were frozen two years ago, signaling a thaw between the Asian giants even as regional relations are tense over the disputed South China Sea.

The two countries have a tangled relationship dating to a 1962 border war, unresolved territorial disputes and competing efforts to take leadership across the vast continent. They also are vying for energy sources to supply their growing economies and huge populations.

China's Liang Guanglie and India's A.K. Antony agreed to restart joint exercises frozen in 2010 after Beijing denied a visa to an Indian general who worked in Indian-controlled Kashmir, the Himalayan-controlled region jointly claimed by Pakistan.

They also decided to hold high-level official exchanges, conduct joint maritime search-and-rescue exercises and strengthen anti-piracy operations off the coast of Somalia, where pirate attacks pose a threat to shipping.

Dates for the exercises were not set.

COLOMBIA

Peace talks to open in Oslo next month

BOGOTA — Peace talks will begin next month between Colombia's government and largest rebel group in a bid to end Latin America's longest-running armed conflict, President Juan Manuel Santos said Tuesday.

The talks "will begin in Oslo in the first half of October" before moving to Havana afterward, Mr. Santos said, adding that the talks "will be measured in months, not years."

During the peace talks the army will keep up operations against the guerrillas, known as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, and there will be no demilitarized zone set up, as was the case during the last talks a decade ago, the president said in an address to the nation.

Mr. Santos said these points feature in an agenda agreed to by the rebels in preliminary talks.

AFGHANISTAN

25 mourners killed in suicide bombing

KABUL — A suicide bomber killed at least 25 civilians and wounded another 30 at a funeral for a village elder in a remote part of eastern Afghanistan, Afghan officials said.

Ahmad Zia Abdul Zai, a spokesman for the provincial governor, said the attack took place Tuesday in the village of Shagai in the Durbaba district of eastern Nangarhar province. He and other officials said at least 25 people were killed.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but there has been fighting against Taliban and other insurgents in the mountainous region located just across the border from some of Pakistan's lawless tribal areas.

The Taliban often target government officials at public functions, including funerals and weddings.

INDIA

Owner will rename 'Hitler' clothing shop

AHMADABAD — The owner of the "Hitler" clothing shop in western India says he will remove the sign and rename his store after hearing people's complaints.

Rajesh Shah said Tuesday he had chosen the name in memory of his grandfather, a strict disciplinarian whom the family referred to as "Hitler."

The shop in Ahmadabad, the main city in Gujarat state, opened last month with a huge sign reading "Hitler" and a Nazi swastika inside the dot in the letter "i."

From wire dispatches and staff reports