- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 12, 2002

Chirac says he'll run for re-election
AVIGNON, France President Jacques Chirac broke the worst-kept secret in French politics yesterday by announcing he would seek re-election this spring in a race likely to pit him against Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin.
"Yes, I'm a candidate," the veteran conservative told an audience of supporters in the southern city of Avignon.
There had been little doubt the 69-year-old leader would run for a second mandate in the two-round election beginning April 21.
But the move increased the pressure on Mr. Jospin, 64, to confirm his candidacy, which he already has said is "probable," but which he was not planning to announce before the end of the parliamentary session in two weeks.

N. Korea withdraws invite to U.S. delegation
North Korea has withdrawn an invitation to four former U.S. ambassadors to come to Pyongyang for informal meetings with North Korean leaders.
The former envoys, all of whom served in South Korea, believe the trip was canceled because of President Bush's State of the Union speech Jan. 29, in which he referred to North Korea, Iran and Iraq as an "axis of evil," said Robert Scalapino, professor of government at the University of California in Berkeley.
Mr. Scalapino would have gone to North Korea with the former ambassadors William Gleysteen, Richard Walker, Donald Gregg and Steven Bosworth.

Vatican expands in Russia
VATICAN CITY The Vatican announced the formation yesterday of dioceses in Russia, raising the profile of the Roman Catholic Church in that country and drawing a rebuke from the Russian Orthodox Church.
Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls described the creation of the four dioceses as normal administration prompted by "the need to improve the pastoral assistance to the Catholics present in that vast region, as they have insistently requested."
The Russian Orthodox Church immediately bristled at the Vatican's move, calling it part of the Roman Catholic Church's efforts to expand its influence and seek converts.

Church bells spark brawl in Egypt
CAIRO An argument about whether a church's bells tolled too loudly turned into a brawl that left 11 persons lightly injured and led to 50 arrests in southern Egypt, police said yesterday.
The violence broke out in the village of Beni Walmas, 135 miles south of Cairo, during the opening of the renovated Virgin Mary Church on Sunday.
Egypt's Christians, most followers of the native Coptic church, generally live in peace with Egypt's Muslim majority. But in January 2000, 23 persons mainly Copts were killed in sectarian strife in el-Kusheh and neighboring villages in Sohag province, 275 miles south of Cairo.

Women graduate Afghan training course
KABUL, Afghanistan Fifty-nine women graduated yesterday from a health care course offered by the Afghan Red Crescent Society a significant step for a nation where women had been banned from education under the radical Taliban regime and where medical care is sorely deficient.
The graduates from the Afghan Red Crescent Society's course in basic health care are all teachers, who are expected to go back to their villages or neighborhoods and teach other women health care practices, such as the necessity of childhood vaccines or how to treat children suffering from diarrhea, a leading killer of children in Afghanistan.

Putin scores police for lax enforcement
MOSCOW President Vladimir Putin assailed Russia's police force yesterday for allowing hundreds of thousands of criminals to roam free, while the country's top prosecutor urged a fiercer campaign against corruption including within law enforcement agencies.
Addressing a meeting of top prosecutors from across the nation, Mr. Putin said that 7,000 killers had escaped punishment last year and that hundreds of thousands of other criminals were at large.
Mr. Putin also criticized prosecutors for suspending 1,300 criminal investigations illegally, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported.

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