- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 25, 2002

Sri Lanka needs time to repay war debt

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka The country will have to repay its huge war debt for six more years, even if peace with Tamil Tiger rebels comes immediately, said Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.

The prime minister told ruling-party lawmakers on Thursday that the government hopes to announce a major policy initiative to revive the economy after a meeting in early June with foreign donor countries and agencies. "Even if we end the war with Tamil Tigers immediately, we are stuck with a huge debt till 2008 to repay the loans taken to buy arms and ammunition," Mr. Wickremesinghe said.

Opposition belittles Krygyz 'half-measure'

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan The opposition dismissed Thursday the government's abrupt resignation as a "half-measure" that failed to address who should take responsibility for the deaths of five demonstrators in March.

Prime Minister Kurmanbek Bakiyev and his government stepped down Wednesday amid intense street protests, with Mr. Bakiyev saying he would take responsibility for riots in the southern city of Asky, where the five were killed.

Bangladesh violence claims city official

DHAKA, Bangladesh Unidentified gunmen shot dead a newly elected city council member here in the capital the second to be killed this month.

Binoy Kumar Sarkar Bina, 38, of the ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP)-led alliance was killed while he was taking a cycle rickshaw to his office in old Dhaka's Tanti Bazar district late Wednesday, police said.

Aung San Suu Kyi wants negotiations

RANGOON, Burma Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi said Thursday that a transition to democracy is unlikely to follow a "rigid timetable," but she wants negotiations with Burma's military government to begin as soon as possible.

Mrs. Suu Kyi, who spent 19 months under house arrest before being released May 6, told the Associated Press her National League for Democracy would have a clearer picture of how reforms could progress once it gauged the country's humanitarian and political situations.

Weekly notes

More than 500 Taliban prisoners have been freed from a jail in northern Afghanistan that has been likened to the Auschwitz Nazi death camp of World War II, the International Committee of the Red Cross said. More than 1,500 members of the country's former Taliban rulers had been held at Shebarghan, the fiefdom of warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum, deputy defense minister in the interim administration. Main opposition leader Sheik Hasina Wajed returned to Bangladesh Thursday after a monthlong trip that took her to Europe and America. Senior leaders of her Awami League, which has boycotted Parliament since losing power to its archrival, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, after last year's general election, greeted her on arrival from London.

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