- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 3, 2002

India announces dates for Kashmir elections

NEW DELHI India announced yesterday it would hold state legislative elections in September and October in its part of the disputed Himalayan province of Kashmir, claimed by nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan.

Chief Election Commissioner J.M. Lyngdoh told a news conference that voting for the 87 seats in Kashmir's state assembly would be held in four phases, on Sept. 16 and 24 and Oct. 1 and 8.

Indian officials hope that a high voter turnout and peaceful and fair process will ease violence and deflate support for separatists fighting to split mainly Muslim Kashmir from mainly Hindu India or merge it with Pakistan.

U.N. urges war on Afghan locusts

ROME The U.N .Food and Agriculture Organization is calling for another crackdown against locusts in the "breadbasket" region of northern Afghanistan in 2003 after a successful campaign this year.

After this year's $800,000 campaign to combat the worst locust plague to hit northern Afghanistan in 30 years, the organization estimated crop losses in the three most seriously affected provinces of the war-torn country at about 7 percent.

But the agency said control operations needed to start early next spring to avoid "another locust emergency," the Rome-based organization said in a statement yesterday.

No head scarves in passport photos

MOSCOW A court in the largely Muslim Russian region of Tatarstan rejected yesterday a bid by three women who demanded the right to cover their hair in photographs for their Russian passports, in accordance with Muslim custom.

"The court has refused their bid," a spokeswoman for the court said from the Tatar capital, Kazan.

Many of the ethnic Tatars, who make up more than half of the Volga region's population, have re-embraced their traditional faith since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.

Floods bring sickness to eastern India

GUWAHATI, India Doctors battled disease in eastern India as the death toll from weeks of flooding, landslides and illness in South Asia passed 570, while in Bangladesh, surging rivers marooned thousands more people.

Health authorities in the northeastern Indian state of Assam say the big threat now is illness, as floods, which at their peak left 2.6 million people homeless and inundated half the tea-and-oil-rich province, have receded.

Weekly notes

Slippers believed to have been worn by the prophet Muhammad were stolen this week from the renowned Badshahi mosque in Lahore, Pakistan. Police were questioning eight employees of the 17th-century mosque, which contains several relics thought to have belonged to Muhammad, including a green turban. Afghan President Hamid Karzai rejected a preliminary U.N. report that said the United States had covered up evidence of airstrikes on a village wedding reception that killed dozens of civilians. "It is not a correct report. I was just there," Mr. Karzai said in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar.

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