- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 2, 2002

Sri Lanka wants a permanent peace


COLOMBO, Sri Lanka The Sri Lankan government wants an agreement sealing a permanent end to hostilities with separatist Tamil Tigers as hopes grow of a formal cease-fire, a senior official said at midweek.

"Ideally, more than a cease-fire, we would like a cessation of hostilities agreement," Constitutional Affairs Minister G.L. Peiris said at a weekly news conference. "A cessation of hostilities is a more permanent arrangement," he said.

The Tigers and the government have unilateral truces in place that expire this month, and both have said they want a formal agreement before the start of peace talks to end a nearly two-decade-long war. Hopes of ending the conflict had grown after the new government, with a clear pro-peace mandate, was elected in December.


Burmese junta frees political prisoners

RANGOON, Burma The ruling military junta has released a handful of political prisoners from democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy, officials said this week.

The regime said in a statement on Thursday that party members Ohn Myint, Ar-Kar, Maung Seint, Shwe Aye and Tin Win were freed from various prisons around the country, bringing the number of releases since the beginning of last year to 212.

"They are in good health and back with their families," the statement said. The latest releases come after media reports that the top junta leader, Senior Gen. Than Shwe, and Mrs. Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace laureate, met on Jan. 22.


Abusive clergyman rejailed in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan The Supreme Court voted Thursday to return a Muslim clergyman to prison for 15 years for torturing his wife in a case that provoked a national outcry over the treatment of women.

The high court ordered that Mohammad Sharif, former prayer leader of a mosque in the central province of Punjab, be rearrested and jailed for an attack on his wife in 1994. He originally was sentenced to 30 years but was released last year after subsequent rulings reduced his sentence to five years.

He was found guilty of causing multiple injuries to his wife, who was tied up and tortured with red-hot iron bars after an argument. The woman, then 24, was treated in a London hospital but has not fully recovered.


Weekly notes

Jamir Uddin Sircar, speaker of Bangladesh's Parliament, called on the opposition to end its boycott as he opened a session Thursday of the House elected last year. Members of the Awami League, swept out of power on Oct. 1, have taken oaths but have refused to attend Parliament until supposed "religious and political persecution" ends nationwide. Kishor Shrestha, editor of the Nepali communist newspaper Jana Astha (People's Faith), was released late Wednesday, a day after being arrested at his office in Katmandu. His release was announced by Gopal Budhathoki, general secretary of the Press Forum of Nepal, which had denounced Mr. Shrestha's arrest and demanded his immediate release.


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