- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 20, 2001

Yemen resumes search for bin Laden operatives

ADEN, Yemen Troop reinforcements yesterday moved into the remote hills of central Yemen where government forces have battled armed tribesmen in an assault to capture suspected operatives of Osama bin Laden.

There was sporadic gunfire, but no reports of fighting in the provinces of Shabwa and Marib.

There were heavy clashes Tuesday in the two areas as the government tried to capture five suspected bin Laden loyalists being protected by the Abida tribe.

Both provinces are known strongholds of Islamic militants.

Government security officials said it wasn't clear when the troops would begin another assault on villages in the rugged mountains and hillsides.

NATO troop reduction threat to Bosnian peace

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina A U.N. official said yesterday that a U.S. proposal to cut Bosnia's NATO-led peacekeeping force by a third would hamper the Balkan country's 6-year-old peace process.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld suggested in Brussels on Tuesday that the Stabilization Force, or Sfor, which has secured peace in Bosnia since the country's 1992-95 war, be cut next year by 6,000 soldiers from the current 18,000.

But Stefo Lehmann, spokesman for the U.N. police mission in Bosnia, said such a move would be premature and that NATO's presence "should not be reduced until the job is done."

Fox sees border deal with U.S. next year

MEXICO CITY Mexican President Vicente Fox said yesterday he expects to reach a deal with the United States in the first half of 2002 on according legal status to some 3.5 million undocumented Mexicans living in the country.

Mr. Fox said he was optimistic about a final deal to recognize and improve the treatment of illegal Mexicans because of the support of President Bush, as well as the positive stance of leading Democratic lawmakers.

"This would be truly historic, a great step forward on the road to greater integration with the United States and Canada," Mr. Fox told a local radio station.

War-crimes trial no political problem

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia Former President Slobodan Milosevic will remain head of Serbia's Socialist Party until 2004, despite being in U.N. custody for trial on war crimes and genocide charges, a senior party official said yesterday.

Ivica Dacic, a top-ranking party leader in Serbia, dismissed reports that the party will name a new leader early next year to replace Mr. Milosevic, ousted by popular unrest last October and extradited to the International War Crimes Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague.

Tiger rebels declare Christmas cease-fire

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger rebels yesterday declared a month-long, unilateral cease-fire starting Christmas Eve as a goodwill measure to advance the peace process.

The government said it will probably reciprocate.

The rebel statement was issued hours after the opening of a new parliament, dominated by the United National Front of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who has promised to pursue peace talks to end an 18-year war that has killed more than 64,000 people.

Gay Egyptian gets reduced sentence

CAIRO An Egyptian court yesterday reduced a 16-year-old boy's sentence for practicing homosexuality from three years in prison to six months, in a case that brought widespread condemnation from homosexual rights groups.

The court's decision means that Mahmoud Abdel-Fatah Ibrahim, who has been jailed since May 11, will be released this week and will be on probation for six months.

Ibrahim was the youngest of 52 men arrested aboard a Nile riverboat restaurant in Cairo.

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