- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 27, 2002

Ravalomanana gets U.S. support

ANTANANARIVO, Madagascar The United States endorsed Marc Ravalomanana as president of the Indian Ocean island of Madagascar yesterday after a bloody 6-month-long tussle for power.

The move is a potentially decisive shift in efforts to stem Madagascar's descent into chaos after months in which the outside world has recognized neither Mr. Ravalomanana nor his rival, veteran ruler Didier Ratsiraka, as president.

U.S. Ambassador Wanda Nesbitt said she gave Mr. Ravalomanana a letter from President Bush confirming Washington saw him as president of the divided island of 16 million.

Mr. Ravalomanana welcomed the U.S. move, as well as a related U.S. decision to release Madagascan assets frozen in the Federal Reserve as a precaution when the crisis erupted earlier this year.

Two Argentines killed in anti-government riots

BUENOS AIRES Two Argentines were shot fatally yesterday as hundreds of anti-government demonstrators fought pitched battles with police in the worst riots since an elected government was toppled in December.

President Eduardo Duhalde, at the bottom in polls and fighting for his political future, had vowed a get-tough approach on protests as he struggled to convince a skeptical International Monetary Fund to grant an aid pact vital to stem a spiraling social crisis and four-year recession. Economy Minister Roberto Lavagna is scheduled to meet senior IMF officials in Washington today.

Riot police fired rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse unemployed protesters, some wearing ski masks and holding slingshots, who tried to block highways into the city.

Wife of former king of Afghanistan dies

ROME The wife of the former king of Afghanistan died in Rome yesterday, two months after her husband, Mohammed Zahir Shah, ended 29 years of exile and returned to his native country.

Homaira Shah, 84, had lived in Rome since 1973, the year the king was overthrown in a bloodless coup while on a vacation.

Mr. Zahir, 87, put an end to that exile in April this year when he returned to Afghanistan to try to help rebuild the country.

The former king's wife, who bore him nine children, was set to follow Mr. Zahir to Kabul in the coming weeks. Her body is expected to be returned to Afghanistan for burial.

Belgian court rejects case against Sharon

BRUSSELS A Belgian appeals court dismissed a war-crimes complaint against Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon yesterday.

The ruling was the second setback this year for the 1993 law granting Belgian courts "universal jurisdiction" over war crimes committed elsewhere, after a decision by the Netherlands-based World Court in February blocked Belgium from prosecuting a former Congolese foreign minister.

While that ruling turned on diplomatic immunity, the three Belgian appeals court judges said the case against Mr. Sharon could not proceed because he does not live in Belgium.

Mr. Sharon was Israel's defense minister in 1982 when hundreds of Palestinian civilians in the refugee camps near Beirut were slaughtered by Lebanese Christian militias supported by Israel.

An Israeli inquiry found Mr. Sharon indirectly responsible, prompting his resignation as defense minister in 1983.

Jordan's king pardons former legislator

AMMAN, Jordan Jordan's King Abdullah yesterday pardoned former legislator Toujan Faisal, the only woman elected to the country's parliament, who was sentenced to prison on charges of slandering the government, officials said.

They said a royal decree was issued for a special pardon. The former member of parliament, who lost a race for re-election in 1997, is the most prominent dissident sent to prison during King Abdullah's three-year reign.

The monarch issued the pardon after an appeal by leading figures from her minority Circassian community asked that she be released on humanitarian grounds.

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