- The Washington Times - Monday, March 18, 2002

Saudi prince agrees to visit Washington
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah has accepted an invitation from President Bush to visit Washington, nine months after the kingdom's de facto ruler snubbed a similar invitation over perceived pro-Israel bias by the United States.
Vice President Richard B. Cheney, on an 11-nation Middle East tour, said yesterday he delivered the invitation to the prince during a meeting on Saturday.
The official Saudi Press Agency said earlier that the prince had "accepted the invitation, whose date will be set later." Mr. Cheney was the most senior official in the Bush administration to meet the royal figure.

French navy intercepts hundreds of immigrants
PARIS France said yesterday its navy had intercepted, in an operation coordinated with Italy, a merchant ship in the eastern Mediterranean carrying hundreds of suspected illegal immigrants.
Prime Minister Lionel Jospin's office said sailors from a French frigate boarded the vessel, the Monica, in the southern Ionian sea between Italy and Greece yesterday after it falsely claimed to be registered under the Sao Tome and Principe flag. Sao Tome and Principe are islands to the west of Africa in the Gulf of Guinea.
It remained unclear where the ship was going or where its passengers came from, but the French government said the ship's crew had indicated it was heading toward an unspecified location on the southern Mediterranean coast.

Center-right opposition leads Portuguese poll
LISBON Portugal's opposition Social Democrats ousted the Socialists in national elections yesterday but fell short of a parliamentary majority, according to exit polls.
State-run and private networks said the exit results showed that the center-right Social Democrats still were short of the 44 percent of the vote seen as necessary to take an overall majority in the 230-seat parliament.
Campaigning in Portugal, one of the European Union's poorest countries, was dominated by concern over the economy and the nation's failure to keep up with the rest of the bloc despite billions of dollars in EU aid.

British minister rebels over threat against Iraq
LONDON A British Cabinet minister said yesterday the United States would be foolish to attack Iraq and hinted she would resign if Prime Minister Tony Blair, Washington's staunch ally, backed a military strike.
International Development Secretary Clare Short said "crude military action" would not solve the problem of Iraq's suspected program to rebuild an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. She called the idea of military action "very unwise."
Separately, Home Secretary David Blunkett was reported in a Sunday newspaper to have warned Mr. Blair of civil unrest if Iraq was attacked over its refusal to allow access to U.N. weapons inspectors.

Russian defense chief softens on nuclear arms
NEW YORK Russia could agree to a new nuclear arms pact that would allow the United States to store some decommissioned weapons for potential future use instead of destroying them, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said in an interview broadcast yesterday.
Mr. Ivanov's comments on NBC's "Meet the Press" suggested a softening of the Kremlin position on what Russian officials have called the main sticking point in progress toward a deal on nuclear arms cuts. Both sides hoped to secure the deal in time for President Bush's visit to Russia in May.
The two countries announced in December plans to sharply reduce their arsenals of long-range nuclear warheads. Russian officials, however, objected to U.S. plans to store but not destroy decommissioned weapons.


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