- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 17, 2002

Thailand and Burma to reopen border

BANGKOK Burma and Thailand will begin reopening their border checkpoints as early as tomorrow, ending a three-month closure sparked by skirmishes that kicked off a diplomatic row, officials said this week.

"Myanmar said it will definitely reopen the border checkpoints, but there is no date set yet," government officials quoted Thai Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai as saying, using the name the military junta in Rangoon uses for Burma.

Mr. Surakiart added that the checkpoints, which Burma slammed shut after its troops clashed with ethnic rebels in May, were to reopen one by one, with the first to be cleared as early as tomorrow.

Bin Laden linked to Masood killing

KABUL, Afghanistan Osama bin Laden ordered the assassination of Afghan opposition leader Ahmed Shah Masood days before the September 11 attacks, a former Taliban official says the first time a Taliban insider has discussed bin Laden's role.

Gen. Masood, military chief of the Northern Alliance, was mortally wounded Sept. 9 when two suicide attackers posing as television reporters detonated a bomb during an interview at Khodja Bahauddin, in Takhar province.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Mullah Mohammed Khaksar, the former Taliban deputy interior minister, said bin Laden ordered two suicide bombers to be diverted from a trip to Indonesia and sent them on the mission.

Colombo prepares for Tamil negotiations

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka The government is preparing an agenda for peace talks next month with Tamil Tiger rebels in an effort to end one of Asia's longest-running wars, according to a Cabinet minister.

The talks, the first in seven years, would address a conflict that has claimed about 64,000 lives since fighting erupted in 1983, said Constitutional Affairs Minister G.L. Peiris.

"We are close to finalizing it. We want to discuss substantive issues first," Mr. Peiris told reporters Thursday a day after peace broker Norway said talks would start between Sept. 12 and 17.

Tomb hunters accused of defiling Mongol site

ULAN BATOR, Mongolia An American-financed expedition to find the tomb of legendary conqueror Genghis Khan has stopped work after being accused by a prominent politician of desecrating historic graves.

Genghis overran much of Asia before his death in 1227, gaining a reputation for ferocity. But at home, he is the hero of Mongolia a reminder of an era before this sparsely populated land was dominated by its giant Chinese and Soviet neighbors.

Genghis' burial site is one of archaeology's enduring mysteries. The latest search financed by private investors and led by a University of Chicago professor said last year it had found a possible tomb site.

But work stopped this summer after ex-Prime Minister Dashiin Byambasuren wrote President Natsagiin Bagabandi, accusing the team of driving cars over sacred soil and erecting buildings near a historic wall. Mr. Byambasuren also said they defiled remains of the dead.

Weekly notes

Eight staffers from the United Nations' refugee agency were locked in a bathroom by armed robbers, who broke into a safe and stole communications equipment at Ghazni in central Afghanistan. "Three men armed with Kalashnikovs jumped the fence and entered our office compound in Ghazni at around 8 p.m. on Tuesday," UNHCR spokeswoman Makiko Shinohara told reporters. … Kashmiris in the Pakistani zone of the disputed Himalayan region held protest rallies Thursday to mark India's Independence Day. Hundreds of people marched in Muzaffarabad, capital of the Pakistan-administered part of the divided state, wearing black armbands and chanting anti-India and pro-Pakistan slogans.

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