- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 7, 2002

Castro warns embassy intruders

HAVANA President Fidel Castro pledged that any Cuban who invades a diplomatic mission here will never be allowed to leave the island and said that about 130 people arrested in last week's occupation of Mexico's embassy will be tried as criminals.

He said in a late-night television appearance Tuesday that those arrested in the embassy invasion could expect to face charges in Cuba's courts.

"We will guarantee the security of the embassies," Mr. Castro said in the three-hour speech. "Anyone who enters an embassy by force will never, ever leave," he said. "We will not make any concessions."


Commonwealth asked to stop fudging on Mugabe

LONDON British Prime Minister Tony Blair warned the Commonwealth yesterday it risked becoming an irrelevance by dodging high-profile problems such as Zimbabwe.

"The fudging will have to stop," said Mr. Blair, days after the Commonwealth agreed to a painfully-crafted compromise on Zimbabwe, with white nations pushing a tough line and African nations reluctant to confront President Robert Mugabe.

Mr. Blair, who expressed regret at the Commonwealth leaders' decision to defer possible action against Mr. Mugabe until after presidential elections during the weekend, insisted that if elections are not fair, action must be taken.


Pilgrims flock to miracle statue

MESSINA, Sicily The faithful and the curious flocked to a church in the Sicilian city of Messina yesterday after a report that a statue of a monk due to be made a saint in June was shedding tears of blood.

Residents said they saw liquid emerging from a 6-foot bronze statue of Padre Pio shortly before midnight Tuesday. Priests and police have been called to investigate.

Padre Pio was a renowned mystic Italian monk who was said to have borne the wounds of Christ. He lived most of his life at a monastery in southern Italy and died in 1968 at age 81.


Morocco king rejects W. Sahara compromise

RABAT, Morocco Morocco's King Mohammed, visiting the Western Sahara, declared yesterday that his country would not give up "a single inch" of the disputed territory and accused neighboring Algeria of "expansionist" aims.

The Polisario Front, which seeks independence for the former Spanish colony, described the Moroccan king's 48-hour trip to the territory as provocative and called on the United Nations to halt what it called a "dangerous escalation."

The king's visit came two weeks after the United Nations published a report proposing partition of the territory as one of four options to solve the 26-year dispute pitting Morocco against the Algerian-backed Polisario. Morocco has rejected the proposal.


Japan reforms get boost with budget

TOKYO Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's wobbly reform agenda got a lift yesterday when Japan's lower house approved the government's 2002 budget plan in a decisive late-night vote.

Passage of the streamlined budget was an important test of Mr. Koizumi's pledge to rein in wasteful public spending and cap spiraling government debt.

The endorsement of the lower house means that the spending bill becomes law in 30 days regardless of an upper-house vote expected this week or next.


Algeria kills 11 terror suspects

ALGIERS, Algeria Algerian security forces killed 11 suspected members of a militant Islamic group in an anti-terrorism sweep, and 15 other persons were found dead after two separate attacks in the troubled North African nation, reports said.

The 11 militants were suspected members of the Salafist Group for Call and Combat, whose leader, Hassan Hattab, is on a list of people the United States says are top terrorists with ties to al Qaeda and wants dead or captured, newspaper reports said.

They were killed in separate operations by armed forces near Setif, 185 miles east of Algiers, and Djelfa, 170 miles southeast of the capital, the daily El Khabar reported Tuesday.


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