- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 16, 2003


Prime minister quits; replacement named

LIMA — President Alejandro Toledo named a party ally as his fourth prime minister in 2 years yesterday after popular Beatriz Merino quit over a volley of media attacks on her reputation.

Carlos Ferrero, 62, was a former head of Congress and lawmaker for disgraced former President Alberto Fujimori. He switched over to Mr. Toledo in 2000 after accusing Mr. Fujimori of increasing authoritarianism.

Mrs. Merino, who quit at the president’s request, said she had been a victim of a campaign this month to smear her reputation , when media published unnamed sources accusing her of everything from corruption to lesbianism.


Chechen gunmen raid neighboring region

MAKHACHKALA — At least 25 gunmen from breakaway Chechnya raided a remote mountain village in Dagestan yesterday, killing at least nine border guards and escaping with four hostages, officials said.

The gunmen opened fire at a border checkpoint from a car and quickly turned back, a Russian spokeswoman said. When the border guards rushed to pursue the car, militants fired from the roadside, killing an officer and eight troops.

The gunmen then entered the village of Shauri and fired shots in the air to frighten residents. They took four hostages, all men, and headed toward the border with Georgia about 6 miles to the south.


U.S., China delay nuclear-crisis talks

WASHINGTON — The United States and China have decided not to resume six-party talks on North Korea’s atomic-weapons program this year, but hope to restart them early in 2004, the Bush administration said yesterday.

China delivered a plan to North Korea last week in which the United States, South Korea and Japan offered a blueprint for resolving the nuclear dispute. The other nation involved in the talks is Russia.

North Korea rejected the proposal yesterday and warned that Washington’s “delaying tactics” would only prompt it to step up its nuclear program.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the Chinese, who helped organize the first round of talks in Beijing in August, told the Americans it would be impossible to convene a meeting this week as they had been trying to do.

“So we’re now looking at holding a round early in the new year,” Mr. Boucher said.

North Korea wants a deal that would trade its nuclear-weapons program for security assurances and economic aid from the United States. Washington wants North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons first.


Funeral for Aliyev draws huge crowds

BAKU — Hundreds of thousands paid tribute yesterday to Haydar Aliyev as he was buried in a place of honor alongside his wife in the Caspian Sea capital, from which he ruled oil-rich Azerbaijan for three decades.

National leaders from across the former Soviet Union and key Western countries with close ties to the important oil supplier paid respects to Mr. Aliyev, who died Friday of congestive heart failure in the United States.

The former president and Soviet-era strongman was 80 and had been hospitalized for months.

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