- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 23, 2003

COLOMBIA

Rebels free British, Israeli hostages

SIERRA NEVADA — Colombian Marxist rebels yesterday released four Israeli hikers and a British backpacker they kidnapped 100 days ago, handing them over to a church-led humanitarian commission.

Israelis Benny Daniel, Ido Guy, Erez Altawil and Orpaz Ohayon and Briton Mark Henderson appeared in good health as they boarded helicopters in the northern Sierra Nevada Mountains, according to a Reuters new agency reporter.

“It’s something that we’ve all been waiting for for three months. And now it’s finally going to happen,” Mr. Henderson said at the secret jungle turnover site shortly before embarking.

RUSSIA

MOSCOW DEPLOYS NUCLEAR MISSILES

MOSCOW — RUSSIA HAS DEPLOYED A FRESH BATCH OF ITS TOP-OF-THE-LINE STRATEGIC NUCLEAR MISSILES AFTER A BREAK CAUSED BY A FUNDING SHORTAGE, AND MILITARY OFFICIALS PRESENTED AMBITIOUS PLANS YESTERDAY FOR BUILDING EVEN MORE POTENT WEAPONS.

RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTER SERGEI IVANOV INAUGURATED THE NEW SET OF TOPOL-M MISSILES AT THE TATISHCHEVO MISSILE BASE IN THE CENTRAL SARATOV REGION SUNDAY, DESCRIBING THEM AS A “21ST-CENTURY WEAPON” UNRIVALED IN THE WORLD.

“THIS IS THE MOST ADVANCED STATE-OF-THE-ART MISSILE IN THE WORLD,” MR. IVANOV SAID IN REMARKS BROADCAST BY RUSSIAN TELEVISION STATIONS YESTERDAY.

“ONLY SUCH WEAPONS CAN ENSURE AND GUARANTEE OUR SOVEREIGNTY AND SECURITY AND MAKE ANY ATTEMPTS TO PUT MILITARY PRESSURE ON RUSSIA ABSOLUTELY SENSELESS,” HE SAID.

LITHUANIA

IMPEACHMENT BODY TO REPORT BY FEB. 13

VILNIUS — LITHUANIA’S PARLIAMENT SET UP A SPECIALIST PANEL YESTERDAY TO REPORT BY FEB. 13 ON PRECISE LEGAL GROUNDS TO IMPEACH PRESIDENT ROLANDAS PAKSAS FOR REPORTEDLY BEING INFLUENCED BY MOBSTERS.

FORMAL CHARGES, BACKED LAST WEEK BY 86 DEPUTIES FROM THE 141-MEMBER CHAMBER, SAY MR. PAKSAS VIOLATED THE CONSTITUTION BY FAILING TO SAFEGUARD STATE SECRETS, ILLEGALLY INFLUENCING PRIVATE FIRMS AND OBSTRUCTING THE WORK OF STATE INSTITUTIONS.

A THREE-FIFTHS MAJORITY IN PARLIAMENT, OR 85 DEPUTIES, MUST SUPPORT AT LEAST ONE OF THE CHARGES AT THE END OF IMPEACHMENT PROCEEDINGS TO OUST MR. PAKSAS, WHO CALLS THE MATTER A “CONSPIRACY” AND DENIES ANY WRONGDOING.

SAUDI ARABIA

MORE IRAQIS ALLOWED AT HAJJ PILGRIMAGE

BAGHDAD — SAUDI ARABIA HAS MORE THAN DOUBLED THE NUMBER OF IRAQI PILGRIMS IT WILL ALLOW TO PERFORM THE ANNUAL HAJJ PILGRIMAGE AFTER THE FALL OF SADDAM HUSSEIN.

GOVERNING COUNCIL MEMBER IBRAHIM AL-JAAFARI TOLD A NEWS CONFERENCE THAT IRAQ AND SAUDI ARABIA REACHED A DEAL THAT WILL ENABLE 30,000 IRAQI PILGRIMS TO VISIT THE HOLY MUSLIM CITIES OF MECCA AND MEDINA IN THE KINGDOM DURING THE PILGRIMAGE.

NEXT YEAR’S PILGRIMAGE IS DUE IN EARLY FEBRUARY. IT ALWAYS SPANS A FORTNIGHT. MORE THAN 2 MILLION MUSLIMS FROM AROUND THE WORLD ARE EXPECTED TO TAKE PART.

KUWAIT

GULF LEADERS FORMANTITERROR PACT

KUWAIT CITY — LEADERS OF ARAB COUNTRIES FROM THE PERSIAN GULF AGREED YESTERDAY TO FORM A PACT TO COMBAT TERRORISM AND PRAISED WASHINGTON FOR PLANNING TO TRANSFER POWER TO IRAQIS BY MID-2004.

THE LEADERS OF THE SIX GULF COOPERATION COUNCIL STATES — KUWAIT, SAUDI ARABIA, QATAR, BAHRAIN, OMAN AND THE UNITED ARAB EMIRATES — ENDED A TWO-DAY SUMMIT WITH THE AGREEMENT.

COUNCIL SECRETARY-GENERAL ABDULRAHMAN AL-ATTIYAH SAID THE PACT WAS A “BIG ACHIEVEMENT THAT WILL BENEFIT THE GULF AND THE WHOLE WORLD.”


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