- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 13, 2002

Iraq seeks talks delay over Mideast crisis

NEW YORK Talks slated for this month between Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan have been postponed at Baghdad's request, Mr. Annan's spokesman said yesterday.

Iraq sought the delay because it didn't want to distract attention from the crisis in the Middle East, spokesman Fred Eckhard said.

No new date has been set for the talks originally scheduled for April 18-19 in New York. Mr. Annan and Mr. Sabri met March 7, their first high-level talks in a year. The secretary-general has said he hoped the new talks would focus on the return of U.N. arms inspectors to Iraq.

U.S. soldier sentenced in drowning of children

MANNHEIM, Germany A U.S. soldier convicted of murdering her two children by drowning them in the bathtub was sentenced to life in prison yesterday by a military judge.

The verdict allowed parole after 20 years for Spc. Lillie Morgan, 22, an Army finance clerk. She was found guilty Thursday of premeditated murder in the drownings of her children Joshua, 3, and Jazmin, 2 months, at her apartment in a military housing complex in Hanau, near Frankfurt on Sept. 18, 2001.

Morgan, of Marksville, La., will be sent to a military prison in Miramar, Calif., to serve her sentence.

In a tearful statement to Judge Lt. Col. Stephen Henley before he read the sentence, Morgan thanked him and said: "It was a fair and just decision I am guilty."

U.S. monitors talks on hostage release

U.S.-monitored negotiations are under way for the release of two American missionaries who have been held hostage by Philippine rebels for nearly a year, senior U.S. officials said.

The officials said the negotiations were being conducted by a group known to the rebels and that the talks were at a delicate stage. The negotiators were not identified.

The discussions involved possible payments of several hundred thousand dollars and other considerations, the officials said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. One official said the negotiations were being monitored by the highest levels at the White House, intelligence and law-enforcement agencies.

Abu Sayyaf, a Muslim extremist group with links to September 11 suspect Osama bin Laden, is holding Martin and Gracia Burnham of Wichita, Kan., and Ediborah Yap, a nurse from the Philippines.

The negotiations, first reported by The Washington Times, come less than a month after the State Department announced a change in the decades-old U.S. hostage negotiation policy.

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