- The Washington Times - Monday, December 22, 2003

KUWAIT

Terror, Iraqi debt dominate Gulf summit

KUWAIT CITY — Fighting Islamist terror and Iraq’s enormous debt top the agenda of U.S.-allied Persian Gulf Arab states meeting yesterday for the first time since the fall of Saddam Hussein.

Leaders of the oil-rich Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) arrived in Kuwait for two days of talks. Foreign ministers met first, followed by rulers and heads of state who gathered for a closed session.

Saudi Arabia planned to propose “a new approach” to dealing with Islamist extremism in the region, said officials.

AFGHANISTAN

Progress asserted toward new charter

KABUL — Afghanistan’s grand council made progress yesterday toward adopting a post-Taliban constitution despite divisions over such issues as human rights and presidential powers.

Eight days into the council, or loya jirga, the chairman said he was ready to assess proposed amendments to the draft, which would then be put to a vote.

“The brothers and sisters have done a great job,” Chairman Sibghatullah Mujaddedi said at a news conference. “I expect and hope that this debate won’t take much longer, because everyone has had ample chance to express their views.”

MALAYSIA

Deportation delayed in terrorism case

KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysian officials called off plans yesterday to deport a person suspected of being the leader of terror group Jemaah Islamiyah to Indonesia, where he is expected to walk free.

Iqbal Muhammad Rahman, an Indonesian accused by the United States of being the main recruiter for the Asia-based Jemaah Islamiyah, which has been linked to terror network al Qaeda, has been jailed without trial in Malaysia for more than two years.

CHINA

Government defends record on rights

BEIJING — China yesterday rejected U.S. criticism of its religious-rights record as unfair, saying the United States should put its own house in order and stop meddling in the practices of other nations.

The U.S. State Department’s Annual Report on Religious Freedom said China tried to restrict religious practice to state-sanctioned groups while others suffered “interference and harassment.”

VENEZUELA

Troubled Chavez to welcome Castro

CARACAS — Cuban President Fidel Castro will fly to Venezuela today to talk cooperation with his biggest regional ally, Hugo Chavez, at a time when the Venezuelan president is facing a campaign by foes to vote him out of office.

Mr. Chavez announced the surprise visit by his political ally during his weekly “Hello President” television show.


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