- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 13, 2002

Rocket attacks bring warning from Israel
JERUSALEM Israel's defense minister warned yesterday that he may send troops to retake some Palestinian areas for extended periods if Palestinian militants fire more of the longer-range Qassam rockets at Israel.
Also, Israeli troops raided the West Bank town of Halhoul, near Hebron, killing a Palestinian gunman in an exchange of fire and destroying a house before withdrawing five hours later.
Defense Minister Binyamin Ben Eliezer issued his sternest warnings yet regarding the Qassam-2 rocket, which has a range of about three to five miles and can reach some Israeli population centers from the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Two such rockets, fired by the Islamic militant group Hamas from Gaza, landed Sunday in open fields in southern Israel, causing no injuries. In the past, Hamas has fired several shorter-range Qassam-1 rockets that caused no damage.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan yesterday appealed to Israel to end its confinement of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and strive to revive peace talks rather than focus solely on security issues.

Ban on child soldiers goes into effect
GENEVA A treaty banning the use of child soldiers took effect yesterday, and activists said they hoped it would turn the tide on a practice that sends more than 300,000 children to war worldwide.
The accord, which bans the recruitment of children younger than 18 by armies and rebel militias, was approved by the U.N. General Assembly in May 2000. It has been signed by 96 countries and ratified by 14.
"There can no longer be any excuses for using children for war," U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson said during a ceremony in Geneva.

Maluku factions sign a peace accord
JAKARTA, Indonesia Rival Christian and Muslim factions from Indonesia's Maluku province agreed yesterday to end their three-year war that has devastated the province and killed 10,000, a top Cabinet minister said.
The government says it is hoping the accord will emulate the success of a recent truce between Christians and Muslims from Sulawesi island that succeeded in ending a similar, though smaller, sectarian conflict.
"Both sides have agreed to end all conflicts and hostilities," said Welfare Minister Yusuf Kalla, who held the talks in the hill town of Malino in south Sulawesi, 1,000 miles northeast of Jakarta.

Russia 'regrets' Vatican diocese plan
MOSCOW The Russian Foreign Ministry expressed "regret" yesterday at the Vatican's decision to strengthen its official presence in this Orthodox Christian country without taking Russia's reservations into account.
Reacting to Pope John Paul II's announcement Monday that the Vatican would raise the status of its "administrative districts" in Russia to those of diocese, the ministry said, "We regret that such an important decision was reached without taking the Russian side's view into account."
The pope's decision has provoked fury in Russia's powerful Orthodox Church, which accused the Vatican of trying to convert the country to Catholicism.
Metropolitan Kirill, head of foreign relations at the Moscow Patriarchate, announced that the Russian Orthodox Church would retaliate by breaking off dialogue with the Vatican.
That statement appeared to suspend indefinitely a proposed historic visit to Russia by the pope long under negotiation aimed at healing a 1,000-year schism with the Orthodox Church.

Court OKs delay of Estrada trial
MANILA An anti-graft court today decided to postpone the arraignment of deposed Philippine President Joseph Estrada on perjury charges to give him time to recover from eye surgery.
"We have excused his appearance," Judge Minita Chico-Nazario said in response to a petition by Mr. Estrada's attorneys to put off his arraignment on charges of perjury and the illegal use of an alias.
Mr. Estrada's doctors said it was unsafe for him to move around for about 10 days after undergoing minor surgery Sunday.

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