- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 28, 2002

Pressure on Pakistan 'failing,' says leader

NEW DELHI U.S. pressure on Pakistan to end support for Islamic militants blamed for attacks in India appears to be failing, Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee said Thursday.

His comments came two days after Muslim gunmen attacked a Hindu temple in the western Indian state of Gujarat and massacred 28 persons before being fatally shot by commandos. Asked by reporters if efforts by the United States and India to press Pakistan to stop supporting militants were failing, Mr. Vajpayee replied: "It seems so."

India blamed Pakistan for the temple assault and said it was carried out by attackers apparently bent on avenging Muslim deaths in religious riots in Gujarat in February and March.

Prisoner exchange awaited in Sri Lanka

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka A prisoner-of-war swap to raise confidence in Sri Lanka's peace process will take place today, officials said.

The exchange of prisoners between government forces and the Tamil Tigers was due earlier this month before a first round of peace talks aimed at ending two decades of war, but it was delayed by legal problems.

"It will take place [today] at the Omanthai checkpoint," military spokesman Sanath Karunaratne said, referring to the crossing point into rebel-held territory in the north of the island.

The government will hand over 11 rebels to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and get seven Sri Lankan military personnel in exchange.

Uzbekistan's media rated as timid

TASHKENT, Uzbekistan Media freedoms are still largely ignored in this country, despite the regime's pledges that it will forge ahead with democratic reforms, a conference heard this week.

Journalists and editors at the Freedom of the Media conference, organized by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), said freedom of speech is still restricted in Uzbekistan, which has emerged as a key ally of the United States.

President Islam Karimov's government abolished censorship in May. But delegates at the media gathering said the task had simply been taken over by editors and owners of newspapers, who fear carrying the responsibility for articles they publish.

Weekly notes

Australia's Foreign Minister Alexander Downer is to visit Burma next week, but no dramatic outcomes are expected from the highest level Western visit to Rangoon in years. Mr. Downer will visit Burma Oct. 2-3 to meet with top military leaders and pro-democracy opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, reopening ministerial-level relations with the ruling military junta for the first time since 1983. Afghan President Hamid Karzai cast doubt this week on estimates that opium output has risen more than tenfold since the Taliban regime fell last year, but said his government is committed to the fight against drugs. A report Thursday from the British anti-drug group DrugScope said Afghan opium production would be between 1,900 and 2,700 metric tons in 2002, up from 185 tons in 2001.

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