- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 26, 2002

China begins crackdown on N. Korea refugees
BEIJING Chinese authorities are catching North Koreans and sending them home, police said yesterday, beginning a crackdown after 25 asylum-seekers were allowed to leave for South Korea in an incident that embarrassed Beijing.
The roundup comes after international appeals for Beijing to give refugee status to North Koreans fleeing famine and repression in their communist homeland. It also comes as South Korea plans to send a presidential envoy to the North next week for talks marking a resumption of the reconciliation process on the divided peninsula.
Police and residents in five Chinese towns along the North Korean border reported new efforts to catch North Koreans, though police there confirmed detaining fewer than a dozen so far.
Thousands of North Koreans have streamed across the border in recent years. China carries out periodic roundups, insisting that the North Koreans are illegal immigrants that it is bound by treaty to send home.

Ailing pope moves on with busy schedule
VATICAN CITY A day after knee pain forced him to skip celebrating Palm Sunday Mass, Pope John Paul II went ahead with his public schedule yesterday, with papal aides wheeling him to an audience hall on a mobile platform.
Aides have wheeled John Paul to public events using the device before, to help conserve his strength and protect his right knee. A couple of years ago, he started using a similar wheeled "chariot" to navigate the vaster spaces of St. Peter's Basilica.
On Sunday, the pope let a cardinal celebrate the Mass in St. Peter's Square before tens of thousands of people an indication that health problems are more frequently shaping the pope's activities.
The Vatican says the pope suffers from the joint disease arthrosis in his right knee, and the ailment has been blamed for a number of changes or cancellations in the pope's busy schedule in the last few weeks.

Berenson case said to be 'totally closed'
LIMA, Peru President Alejandro Toledo told President Bush that the issue of Lori Berenson, an American jailed here on terrorism charges, is "totally closed," Peru's vice president said yesterday.
Raul Diez Canseco said Mr. Bush brought up the New York native's case in closed-door talks with Mr. Toledo on Saturday. Berenson, 32, was sentenced in June to 20 years in prison for collaborating with leftist rebels in a thwarted plot to seize Peru's Congress in 1995.
According to Mr. Diez Canseco, Mr. Bush was "respectful" of the court decision and said that the trial was fair. But he also suggested "something about clemency" for Berenson, the vice president said.
Mr. Toledo replied that "for us, that issue is totally closed," Mr. Diez Canseco told cable news station Channel N.

Glitch grounds British helicopter
LONDON The British Army's latest and most expensive attack helicopter, the U.S.-designed Apache, has been grounded on fears that it could be damaged by its own missiles, the Defense Ministry said yesterday.
The army has nine of the $40 million attack helicopters and plans to buy 64 eventually, but says it must overcome glitches with their U.S.-built Hellfire missiles before they go into action.
"There is a problem with the Hellfire … and damage to the aircraft from motor debris upon firing," a Ministry of Defence spokeswoman said. "We're looking at what needs to be done to resolve that issue."
Although the United States has found a solution, as many as 12,000 missiles, or 60 percent of its own arsenal, need fixing, according to the defense journal, Jane's Missiles and Rockets.

Russia begins talks on Chechnya peace
MOSCOW Russian lawmakers have begun a dialogue with Chechen political figures in an effort to bring the Kremlin and Chechen rebels together for talks on ending the war in Chechnya, participants said yesterday.
The Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly and the State Duma, Russia's lower parliament house, organized a forum called the Chechen Consultative Council, which had its first meeting in Moscow last week.
The forum has not been endorsed by President Vladimir Putin, and neither Chechnya's Kremlin-backed civilian administration nor separatist Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, the leading rebel figure, sent representatives to the meeting.
Nonetheless, participants said they hope the discussions will create a framework for the resumption of direct contacts between the Russian government and the rebels, which have been on hold since a single, unproductive meeting last fall.

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