- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 17, 2002

TAIWAN
Buddhist group returns missing sculpture
TAIPEI A Taiwanese Buddhist group yesterday returned to China a 1,300-year-old sculpture of Buddha's head that looters stole from a pagoda in 1997.
During a brief ceremony at a temple in northern Taipei, Buddhist Master Sheng Yen said that returning the sculpture to China could improve relations between the rivals.
Master Sheng said that earlier this year a group of lay disciples donated the head stolen in 1997 from the Four Gate Pagoda in the city of Jinan to his Dharma Drum Mountain, a Buddhist group.

HONG KONG
Muslims protest police exercise
Muslim leaders accused Hong Kong's police of insensitivity yesterday after an exercise that involved the mock rescue of hostages from officers posing as Middle Eastern terrorists.
Police held the anti-terrorism exercise last week at Hong Kong's Chek Lap Kok airport in response to concerns about terrorism after the September 11 attacks and the more recent bombings on the Indonesian resort island of Bali linked to Muslim extremists.

SWITZERLAND
Court orders release of account details
LAUSANNE Switzerland's highest court yesterday rejected an attempt to prevent U.S. investigators from obtaining information about a Zurich bank account that funneled money to an Islamic charity with purported links to al Qaeda.
The Federal Tribunal said Swiss authorities could release details about the account, from which $1.4 million was transferred between June 2000 and September 2001 to Chicago-based Benevolence International Foundation.
The tribunal said that the decision to hand over the details was justified because of the seriousness of the suspected crimes.

BRITAIN
Con man repents for Blair scandal
LONDON An Australian con man who helped British Prime Minister Tony Blair's wife close a $790,000 property deal apologized yesterday for embroiling the Blairs in scandal, but said he would tell all in an autobiography.
Peter Foster insisted that neither Cherie Blair nor he had done anything wrong when he helped her save $109,000 on two apartments in Bristol, west of London.

TURKEY
Troops deployed to Iraqi border area
TUNCELI Turkey has deployed troops and engineers near its border with Iraq to prepare for any U.S.-led war on Baghdad, a senior military official said yesterday.
The official, in the border province of Sirnak, gave no details about the size of the deployment, but local sources put it at 10,000 to 15,000 troops. From wire dispatches and staff reports

NICARAGUA
Detained woman believed head of smuggling ring
MANAGUA Police have arrested a woman who U.S. authorities say is the head of a smuggling ring that has helped thousands of illegal immigrants sneak through Nicaragua on their way to the United States.
Enma Urania Laguna Maldonado, 38, was arrested Sunday in a raid on a home in Tipitapa, 12 miles north of Managua, the capital, police said.
She was accused of helping to bring illegal immigrants from Ecuador, Colombia, Peru and other South American countries to Nicaragua, where they received forged travel documents and headed north.

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