- The Washington Times - Friday, August 29, 2003

AFGHANISTAN

Constitution approval hits time constraints

KABUL — War-shattered Afghanistan’s tentative journey toward democracy faces a new snag because moves to call a grand tribal assembly to approve a new constitution are behind schedule, officials report.

A traditional loya jirga was to convene in October to approve the new constitution and pave the way for elections next June, but the commission in charge of the process wants the meeting postponed until December.

Commission official Farooq Wardak told reporters preparations for the loya jirga would take up to four months, but with the presidential decree to commence work having been made in mid-July, there is insufficient time to elect 500 loya jirga delegates throughout the country.

INDIA

Vajpayee undertakes Kashmir-jobs project

SRINAGAR — Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee initiated a new effort on Thursday to provide 100,000 jobs to the people of the Indian-administered state of Kashmir.

Mr. Vajpayee began the $6.3 million initiative by handing over checks to the first 20 beneficiaries during a visit to the strife-torn region. Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed and other top officials were present for the occasion.

The prime minister had announced April 18 that his government would help create 100,000 jobs in the state in two years in sectors such as textiles, roads and information technology.

SRI LANKA

Marxists protest Tamil peace talks

COLOMBO — Thousands of Marxists marched in the Sri Lankan capital this week in a four-day protest against Norway’s peace mediation and talks between the government and Tamil rebels.

Slogan-shouting men and women of the People’s Liberation Front (JVP) were welcomed by President Chandrika Kumaratunga’s brother, Anura Bandaranaike, a key opposition legislator, Thursday in the Town Hall area.Weekly notes …

Burma’s leader, Senior Gen. Than Shwe, intends to remain in power indefinitely and will use his new prime minister as a shield against international criticism, a source close to the military junta said this week. The ramifications of the surprise appointment of the junta’s No. 3 man, Gen. Khin Nyunt, as prime minister Monday, a role formerly held by Than Shwe, are being hotly debated. Some believe Gen. Nyunt, the most outward-looking figure in the regime, may be given room to tackle the country’s two biggest problems — the stalemate with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and the collapsing economy. … Under pressure from the outside world for its human-rights record, Azerbaijan has granted amnesty to 86 prisoners, including some reported political detainees. The decree was signed by President Heidar Aliyev, 80, currently being treated in Ohio for heart and kidney problems.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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