Wednesday, March 6, 2002

Syria gives backing to Saudi peace plan
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia Syrian President Bashar Assad held talks with Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah yesterday and expressed support for the Saudi proposal to end the Arab-Israeli conflict, the official Saudi Press Agency reported.
It quoted a Saudi official as saying the talks, which took place in the Red Sea port of Jeddah, were “positive and successful and the points of views were convergent on all issues discussed.”
Syria wants any proposal to emphasize demands for an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights, occupied in 1967.

China rejects report on rights abuses
BEIJING China expressed “strong opposition and dissatisfaction” yesterday over U.S. accusations of religious repression and discrimination against the country’s Muslim Turkic minority.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan denounced the claims made in the State Department’s annual human rights report as an “attack on China’s legal system, nationalities policies, and human rights situation.”
In its report on human rights practices worldwide for 2001, the State Department accused China of continuing a harsh crackdown on underground Protestant and Catholic groups, Turkic Muslim Uighurs and Tibetan Buddhists, an issue raised by President Bush during his visit last month.

Fire delays trial of Milosevic
THE HAGUE Slobodan Milosevic’s trial was postponed yesterday after a fire in the cafeteria of the U.N. war-crimes tribunal filled the corridors with smoke, prompting the evacuation of the building.
Guards and security personnel escorted 800 staff members outside just before the 9 a.m. start of hearings in the Milosevic case. Hearings in four other war-crimes cases also were postponed.
The fire was quickly put out, damage was restricted to the canteen area and no injuries were reported.

Russian arms merchant denies sales to al Qaeda
MOSCOW Victor Bout, a Russian air cargo magnate who has been accused of running guns to al Qaeda and the Taliban, said in an interview published yesterday that the charges were “nonsense.”
U.N. officials and others have also said Mr. Bout used a fleet of planes and contacts from his days in the Soviet air force and possibly the KGB to buy weapons in formerly communist Eastern Europe and deliver them to rebel groups in Africa.
Peter Hain, Britain’s minister for European affairs and a leader in international efforts to halt gunrunning to Africa, has called Mr. Bout a “merchant of death” for helping fuel wars in Sierra Leone, Congo, Angola and Rwanda, and said he supplied al Qaeda and the Taliban with arms.

U.S. soldier dies of wounds in Kosovo
PRISTINA, Yugoslavia An American peacekeeper has died of a gunshot wound at a U.S. military base in Kosovo, an official said yesterday.
The body of Pfc. Gary S. Kalinofski, 21, was discovered Monday by fellow soldiers at Camp Magrath, 30 miles east of the province’s capital, Pristina.
The cause of Pfc. Kalinofski’s death remained unknown but did not result from any engagement with hostile forces, said Maj. James Crews, a spokesman for the U.S. peacekeepers in Kosovo.

N. Korea blames U.S. for lack of dialogue
SEOUL North Korea said yesterday that the United States was blocking prospects for dialogue by plotting to dismantle its communist system.
“North Korea’s stand on dialogue is to get its political system recognized by the U.S., not to allow itself to be disarmed or abandon its system,” said the North’s state news agency, Korean Central News Agency.
During a visit to South Korea last month, President Bush offered to resume talks with North Korea, but he also criticized the North as a “despotic regime” that builds weapons of mass destruction while starving its people.

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