- The Washington Times - Monday, December 29, 2003

JAPAN

Most Iraq debt can be forgiven

TOKYO — Japan is willing to forgive the “vast majority” of its Iraqi debt if other Paris Club creditor nations do the same, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement during a visit by U.S. envoy James A. Baker III.

Iraq owes Japan $4.1 billion, along with an additional $3.5 billion in penalty fees. The United States has been encouraging creditors to assist Iraq by relieving part of its crushing debt.

Mr. Baker, who has already won agreements on Iraqi debt relief from Germany, France and Russia in visits to those countries, met early today with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi amid reports that Tokyo was considering some relief.

BRITAIN

Actor Alan Bates dies of cancer

LONDON — British star of stage and screen Alan Bates died at 69 on Saturday after losing a long fight with cancer, his agent said yesterday.

Mr. Bates came to fame as one of a new breed of gritty actors as Britain threw off its postwar shackles — the “Angry Young Man” era — and was knighted earlier this year after a career spanning six decades.

He played classical leads on the stage in “Hamlet,” “Richard III” and “Antony and Cleopatra.”

He starred in films such as “Zorba the Greek,” “Far From the Madding Crowd,” “Women in Love” and, most recently, in Robert Altman’s picture “Gosford Park.”

PAKISTAN

Kashmiris, Afghans blamed for attack

ISLAMABAD — A network of Kashmiri and Afghan militants was behind Thursday’s assassination attempt on President Pervez Musharraf, Pakistani officials said yesterday.

Sheik Rasheed Ahmed, the information minister, said investigators were close to arresting those behind the attack.

“It’s a huge network of terrorists having tentacles from Kashmir to Afghanistan. They also have international ties,” he told Reuters news agency.

Meanwhile, Cypriot police said they had arrested five Pakistanis under antiterrorism laws after they were found loitering at a small airport on the eastern Mediterranean island.

IRAN

Hostage takers free Europeans

TEHRAN — Three European cyclists abducted in Iran earlier this month have been released, the Interior Ministry said yesterday.

“They are free,” a spokesman told Reuters news agency.

The cyclists, two Germans and an Irishman, were kidnapped on Dec. 2. Iran said they were snatched by bandits or drug runners in Iran’s rugged eastern border region.

Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi was quoted on state television as saying the three were in good health.

According to the official Islamic Republic News Agency, the Intelligence Ministry reported the hostage takers had said the kidnap was organized from outside Iran.

BULGARIA

Country to mourn Iraq casualties

SOFIA — Bulgaria will observe a day of national mourning tomorrow for five of its soldiers killed in a multiple car-bomb attack in Iraq during the weekend, Deputy Prime Minister Lidia Chouleva said.

Defense Minister Nikolai Svinarov left for Iraq with army Chief of Staff Gen. Nikola Kolev yesterday to repatriate the bodies of the five, the first casualties from Bulgaria in Iraq.

Mrs. Chouleva said a joint ceremony for the slain servicemen would be held in the capital before separate funerals for each of the five in their respective hometowns.

GUATEMALA

Conservative favored in vote

GUATEMALA CITY — Voters turned out yesterday to choose between a conservative former mayor backed by the rich and a center-leftist engineer running as a champion of the poor.

Official turnout numbers were not available for the runoff presidential vote, but pre-election polls showed former Guatemala City Mayor Oscar Berger leading by at least 15 percentage points over Alvaro Colom, a former vice economy secretary and ordained Mayan minister.

Voting centers appeared nearly empty — a sharp contrast to a Nov. 9 contest when 58 percent of more than 5 million registered voters cast ballots for president, national legislators and local officials.


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