- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 9, 2001

Fox seals political pact with opposition parties

MEXICO CITY Mexican President Vicente Fox and seven opposition parties cemented a national pact Sunday that outlined common economic and social goals, an accord that may help break the gridlock that has stalled a reform program.

Mr. Fox and the heads of Mexico's parties also agreed to collaborate in the "design and application" of policies against terrorism and organized crime. This will involve promoting job creation, advancing structural reforms such as an energy-sector overhaul, redrawing the tax system and combatting the poverty affecting 40 percent of Mexico's population.

Pastrana extends rebel safe haven

BOGOTA, Colombia President Andres Pastrana has extended until January 20 a rebel safe haven created three years ago to promote peace talks with Marxist insurgents.

Announcing the renewal, Mr. Pastrana warned Sunday that "if the purpose for which the zone has been created is not respected, I will not hesitate in ending it at any moment."

The decision was anticipated after the government reached an 11th-hour agreement Friday to continue the shaky peace effort with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

The 16,500-strong FARC has held sway in the 16,800-square-mile swath of jungle and savannah in southern Colombia since troops withdrew in November 1998 in an effort by Mr. Pastrana to achieve peace.

Friday's agreement said "the only purpose" of the zone is "to move forward dialogue and negotiation."

De la Rua faces losses in Congress

BUENOS AIRES Argentina's unpopular center-left government, already split over an austerity plan to save a crisis-stricken economy, faces an election test and likely drubbing in the Oct. 14 midterm congressional elections.

In a survey of pollsters published Sunday by La Nacion newspaper, the Peronists, the largest opposition party and already in control of the Senate, will likely become the biggest bloc in both houses.

The elections could mean that President Fernando de la Rua, whose term ends in 2003, would need increasing opposition support to end deficit spending, widely seen as the only way to stop a default on Argentina's $132 billion debt.

Weekly notes

Colombia's first lady, Nohra Puyana de Pastrana, led a nationwide prayer for peace in Bogota Sunday as hundreds of Colombians throughout the country observed a minute of silence at noon for a peaceful conclusion to 37 years of strife. At the Vatican, Pope John Paul II acknowledged the prayer for peace in his weekly appearance at St. Peter's Square. Hurricane Iris, upgraded yesterday to a Category 4 hurricane, was expected to make landfall last night between Honduras and the Yucatan Peninsula, threatening coastal areas of Belize. "We are taking this threat very seriously and taking all necessary steps," said Tracy Taegar, Belize's director of tourism.

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