- The Washington Times - Monday, April 8, 2002

Saddam vows to resist any U.S. offensive
BAGHDAD Iraqi President Saddam Hussein yesterday issued a strong message of defiance against the United States, saying his country would confront a U.S. military action with all means, state-run Iraqi television said.
"We will fight them with the reeds of the marshes, with stones, missiles and airplanes and with all that we have, and we will defeat them, God willing," Saddam said.
Saddam also said Iraq would continue support for the Palestinian intifada despite U.S. criticism.
He made the comments during a meeting with top military officials, including the defense minister and his youngest son, Qusay, who controls the elite Republican Guards.

Putin will pursue links with the West
MOSCOW President Vladimir Putin stood by his policy of closer ties with the West yesterday, saying he had no doubt it was in Russia's national interests and not a way to solicit particular rewards.
Speaking to Russian and German reporters ahead of next week's trip to Weimar, Germany, Mr. Putin said he often was asked if the rapid rapprochement with the West risked eroding his popular support, as had happened to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
"Parallels can of course be drawn, but in this case they are misplaced. Unlike before, Russia today is cooperating with the West not because it wants to please or get something in return for its position," Interfax news agency quoted Mr. Putin as saying.
"I am conducting this policy solely because I think that it fully suits Russia's national interests."

Kidnapped priest released by terrorists
ZAMBOANGA, Philippines An Italian missionary priest was freed in the southern Philippines early today after nearly six months in captivity, officials said.
The Rev. Giuseppe "Beppe" Pierantoni was seized Oct. 18 in Dimataling town, in Zamboanga del Sur province, by the so-called "Pentagon" group that is believed to be composed of former Muslim separatist rebels. The group is on Washington's list of terrorist organizations.
He was freed around 2 a.m. today in the coastal town of Tungawan, in adjacent Zamboanga Sibugay province, said Brig. Gen. Angel Atutubo, who has headed a military force assigned to obtain the priest's release. He was being flown to Manila.

Yugoslav party demands changes to bill
BELGRADE, Yugoslavia The junior partner in Yugoslavia's ruling coalition demanded changes yesterday to a draft law on the hand-over of war-crimes suspects, despite financial pressure from the United States for swift action.
The Socialist People's Party (SNP) from Montenegro, whose support is key to getting the bill through parliament, called for a provision allowing suspects to be tried in domestic courts in the bill regulating ties with the U.N. tribunal.
Belgrade has been in political crisis for the past week after missing a March 31 deadline imposed by the U.S. Congress to transfer suspects to the tribunal in The Hague. As a result, some $40 million has been frozen.

Venezuela's Chavez fires seven oil executives
CARACAS, Venezuela President Hugo Chavez fired seven dissident state oil company executives yesterday, cracking down on an escalating labor protest that was endangering oil output and shipments in the world's No. 4 petroleum exporter.
Blowing a whistle and repeating "That's enough," the president announced the firings in a live television and radio broadcast in which he also brushed aside a call by labor opponents for a one-day national strike tomorrow.
Mr. Chavez is in a 6-week-old dispute with Petroleos de Venezuela, Latin America's biggest oil company, where dissident executives and employees are demanding the resignation of a new management board appointed by Mr. Chavez.

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