- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 10, 2002

Defense minister of Madagascar quits
ANTANANARIVO, Madagascar Madagascar's defense minister resigned after the opposition party seized control of his offices in the capital, Antananarivo, national radio reported yesterday.
The resignation of Defense Minister Gen. Marcel Ranjeva late Friday came as a blow to incumbent President Didier Ratsiraka, who is fighting an uphill battle to stave off a coup by opposition leader Marc Ravalomanana.
Mr. Ravalomanana claimed he won the Dec. 16 presidential elections outright, declared himself president, and organized a series of protests and a strike aimed at forcing Mr. Ratsiraka to step down.
Opposition supporters have installed alternative Cabinet ministers appointed by Mr. Ravalomanana in their corresponding government offices except for the office of prime minister.
Mr. Ratsiraka first declared a state of emergency and then martial law in the capital after his opponent declared himself president. But with orders for a crackdown widely ignored, he moved his government to Toamasina, a port city on the island's eastern coast.
The military has declared its neutrality in the dispute.
Mr. Ravalomanana's alternative defense minister, Gen. Mamizara Jules, now occupies the armed forces headquarters.
Mr. Ravalomanana now has almost total control over the capital, but it is not certain how much support he has in the rest of the country.

Trimble calls for vote on united Ireland
BELFAST Northern Ireland's centrist Protestant leader David Trimble yesterday called republicans' bluff with a demand for a referendum on whether the province should remain a part of the United Kingdom.
Mr. Trimble, who earlier was re-elected as leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, said that a vote on whether to retain Northern Ireland's border with the Irish Republic would "copper fasten" [firmly secure] the province's current union with Britain.
Mr. Trimble made the call in Belfast at the annual meeting of his party's 900-strong ruling council.

Alpine tunnel reopens three years after fire
CHAMONIX, France Rebuilt and blessed, the Mont Blanc tunnel linking France and Italy reopened yesterday for the first time since a fire three years ago transformed the Alpine passage into an inferno that killed 39 persons.
After a formal religious blessing of the fully rebuilt 7.4-mile tunnel, the first car rolled through, 50 minutes after the scheduled noon opening. The Italian entrance opened at the same time, officials said.
However, signs that not all was well preceded the opening a predawn blast at the French entrance destroyed a maintenance truck. The explosion was thought to be the work of protesters opposed to truck traffic in the tunnel.
The tunnel was not to open to trucks, heavy users of the Alpine pass, until after Friday, the French Transport Ministry has said.
France refuses to bomb some Afghan targets
PARIS France has refused to allow its warplanes to attack some targets in Afghanistan assigned to them by U.S. commanders during the past week, arguing that the missions endangered civilians, Le Monde daily said.
The report in Le Monde's Sunday edition did not say how many missions the French had refused to carry out.
But it quoted responsible figures in the French military as saying French aircraft had completed around 20 missions in the Gardez region, attacking more than a dozen targets, in the past week.
Targets assigned to the French by the U.S. command are checked by the French command in the region, which is under instructions from President Jacques Chirac and Prime Minister Lionel Jospin.

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