- The Washington Times - Friday, March 8, 2002

Entry of Cyprus to EU expected

NICOSIA, Cyprus Cypriot negotiations to join the European Union will be completed by the end of the year, regardless of success in talks on reunifying the island, an EU official said yesterday.

Enlargement Commissioner Gunter Verheugen told reporters the EU would not be swayed by Turkey's demand that Cyprus be refused admission until there was a settlement between the Greek majority and Turkish minority.

"I would like to say that the timetable cannot change," Mr. Verheugen said after talks with Greek Cypriot President Glafcos Clerides.

Cyprus is among six nations expected to join the EU in 2003. The others are Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Malta and Latvia.

Turkey opposes Cypriot entry before a settlement and has threatened to annex the northern third of the island, which is controlled by 35,000 Turkish troops.

Falun Gong hijacks Chinese TV outlet

BEIJING Members of the banned Falun Gong spiritual group hijacked state television in a northeastern Chinese city to show a film protesting a government crackdown on their faith, locals said yesterday.

State television broadcasts in Changchun were interrupted Tuesday evening by footage of Falun Gong's U.S.-based leader, Li Hongzhi, and a film accusing the government of staging a self-immolation of suspected adherents in Tiananmen Square last year, locals said.

"There was a brief blackout and then there was Li Hongzhi speaking," a television viewer in Changchun said. The footage lasted about 50 minutes before normal state television programming resumed, he said.

It was one of the most daring protests by Falun Gong, whose once-regular demonstrations in Tiananmen Square have petered out in the past year.

Coalition partner quits Brazilian ruling alliance

BRASILIA, Brazil A key partner in Brazil's ruling coalition quit the government yesterday, ending a seven-year alliance and setting the scene for a bitter fight with President Fernando Henrique Cardoso's party at general elections in October.

The Liberal Front Party, or PFL, said it decided to withdraw from the unprecedented two-term coalition after authorities initiated a fraud probe into the business dealings of its presidential candidate, Roseana Sarney.

The investigation outraged leaders of the PFL, Mr. Cardoso's most important ally in the four-party coalition. Mrs. Sarney, who is governor of the northeastern state of Maranhao and Brazil's first female presidential candidate, shares the lead in polls with the opposition left-wing Workers Party in advance of the elections, in which Mr. Cardoso cannot seek re-election.

Havel asks 'big bang' on NATO expansion

PRAGUE Czech President Vaclav Havel threw his support yesterday behind a "big bang" expansion of NATO to include seven post-communist European countries when the Western military alliance meets in Prague later this year.

Mr. Havel, in the strongest statement to date that the Czechs will push hard for a broad enlargement of NATO, told reporters after meeting Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer that the two agreed on the position.

NATO leaders are due to meet in Prague in late November to discuss the bloc's enlargement.

Nine former communist countries Albania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and the Baltic republics of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia are aspiring to NATO membership. Mr. Havel backed the candidacy of all but Albania and Macedonia.

Venezuela boosts troops along Colombian border

CARACAS, Venezuela Venezuela has sent 2,000 troops to its border with Colombia to prevent the entry of rebels from that violence-wracked nation, the army's top commander said.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has been accused of sympathizing with the leftist rebels. He denies the charge.

Gen. Efrain Vasquez Velasco told the El Universal newspaper yesterday that there is "no type of friendship or support for the guerrillas."

Colombian President Andres Pastrana ended peace talks with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, last month after the rebels hijacked a civilian airliner and kidnapped a senator.

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