- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 1, 2002

Sri Lanka talks with Tigers may slip

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka The government says the start date for peace talks with Tamil Tiger rebels might slip to July, but are on track despite disputes about a truce that began in February.

Norwegian-brokered peace talks to end the bloody two-decade civil war are set for late June, but the government and rebels have accused each other of violating the cease-fire.

Norway's deputy foreign minister, Vidar Helgesen, said this week that it would be a mistake to rush the talks, but the Sri Lankan government said the schedule is still broadly in place.

"It is our expectation that very shortly, in the last week of June or the first or second week of July, the talks will commence," Constitutional Affairs Minister G.L. Peiris told reporters.

Turks find bodies of 19 from Asia

TUNCELI, Turkey Police discovered two days ago the bodies of 19 illegal immigrants, nine of them children, who froze to death while crossing the rugged mountains of eastern Turkey.

Police said they believe the immigrants were smuggled by human traffickers from Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan, and died several weeks ago in a remote area on the Iranian border, a spokeswoman for the governor of Van province told Reuters news agency.

Police said they began searching for the victims after learning from other illegal immigrants that a group of people had vanished in bad weather without food or water.

Hundreds of thousands of people enter Turkey illegally each year, paying smugglers as much as $3,000 in the hope of eventually reaching prosperous European Union countries.

Firefights flare on Thai-Burma line

BANGKOK Thai troops exchanged mortar fire with unidentified soldiers across its border with Burma on Thursday as Rangoon maintained a stony silence on efforts by the Thai government to arrange talks to defuse simmering tension.

Thai Defense Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, who has often boasted that his close ties with Burma's ruling generals can aid diplomacy between the two countries, said the Rangoon junta had yet to respond to an offer of talks.

But at a news conference in Rangoon, the junta's deputy chief of military intelligence said there had been no formal approach from Thailand about Mr. Chavalit's proposed talks.

Weekly notes

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf will visit Tajikistan tomorrow, officials in Dushanbe said Thursday. Mr. Musharraf will hold talks with Tajik President Emomali Rakhmonov tomorrow before leaving Monday for a regional Asian conference in the Kazakh capital of Almaty. Indian Defense Minister George Fernandes will attend a security conference in Singapore, despite border tensions with Pakistan, the Defense Ministry in New Delhi said. "The defense minister leaves Delhi Thursday night for Singapore on a four-day official visit to attend the Asian security conference," said a ministry statement. "Later, he will meet Singapore government leaders separately."

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