- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 5, 2002

Sri Lanka talks make shaky progress

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka Tamil Tiger rebels released a Sri Lankan soldier two days ago, meeting a demand of Nordic truce monitors, but kept six others pending the release of two of their cadres held by the police.

The soldiers were taken last week by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who want freedom for two of their men arrested for carrying weapons in government territory. "His condition was just fine. The LTTE was giving the soldiers food and drinks and cigarettes," said Teitur Torkelsson of the neutral Sri Lankan Monitoring Mission.

Meanwhile, President Chandrika Kumaratunga made clear she wants the Tigers to lay down their guns quickly and for the talks to move to core issues proposals that could derail the talks.

Mrs. Kumaratunga, elected separately from the government, has been critical of the speed and direction of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe's bid to end 19 years of war.

Burma's Suu Kyi skeptical of promises

BANGKOK Burmese's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi is skeptical about the ruling military junta's promises of democratic reforms, Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said Thursday after visiting Burma.

"She made it clear to me that she was skeptical about commitments that were made to me and that have been made to others," he said during a stopover in the Thai capital. Mr. Downer, the first senior member of a Western government to travel to Burma in years, was on a mission to advance reconciliation talks between the generals and Mrs. Suu Kyi that began in October 2000.

41 in Bangladesh splashed with acid

DHAKA, Bangladesh Forty-one Bangladeshis, most of them women, were attacked with acid in September, an increase from the previous month, a human rights group reports.

Twenty-four women, nine children and eight men were victims of acid attacks last month, with two of the women dying from the burns, Democracywatch said in a report. Women are generally attacked with acid for refusing men's companionship or marriage proposals, or as part of domestic problems including disputes over dowries.

Seeking to halt the practice, Bangladesh has made assault with acid a capital offense. At least a dozen people have been jailed for acid attacks but none has been sentenced to death.

Weekly notes

The Taiwan government has resolved to drop Mongolia from its map, despite the constitution that still considers it part of the Republic of China, as Taiwan calls itself. The Interior Ministry in Taipei has quietly updated its guidelines for revision of the ROC map, which for the first time excludes Mongolia, the United Daily News said, adding, "The move is tantamount to recognizing Mongolia." The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees has labeled Turkmenistan's opposition leader Gulgeldy Annanyyazov a political refugee, media in Kazakhstan report. The reports said the United States is ready to welcome Mr. Annanyyazov, 42, being held in a detention facility for illegally crossing into Kazakhstan, but only after he is cured of tuberculosis.

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