- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 1, 2003


Amnesty International allowed in by junta

RANGOON Military-ruled Burma, eager to break out of its economic and political isolation, allowed representatives from human rights watchdog Amnesty International into the country Thursday for the first time.

Government officials told Reuters news agency that two Amnesty representatives had arrived in the capital for a 10-day stay, but gave no further details of their visit. The United Nations says Burma has about 1,200 political prisoners, many of whom were detained when the army refused to accept a 1990 landslide election victory by nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy.

Human rights groups and Western governments also accuse the regime of atrocities in a war against ethnic-minority separatists, using forced labor and drafting child soldiers. Under intense international political pressure, the junta released Mrs. Suu Kyi from house arrest last May but has not discussed a political transition in the impoverished country.


Negotiator warns against peace hope

COLOMBO The government warned two days ago against "premature euphoria" over the Norwegian-led peace talks and said trust between the warring sides is not enough to heal decades of battle wounds.

Government negotiator Milinda Moragoda said the big challenge facing authorities is managing the expectations of a majority that wants a quick settlement to a conflict that has claimed more than 60,000 lives since 1972.

Mr. Moragoda told parliament that Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe's government has begun modernizing the armed forces with foreign help and said preparing for war could ensure peace. "Until we have built a lasting trust … we must be prepared for a return to war," he said. He also ruled out disarming the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) before a final peace accord, dashing demands by the main opposition.


'Romeo-Juliet' tie ignites tribal war

PESHAWAR Rival tribes in Pakistan's rugged northwest border region have been battling each other on mountain peaks with rockets, missiles and heavy machine guns for two days in a dispute sparked by a forbidden romance, residents and officials said Wednesday.

"Fighting started when a woman of one tribe ran away with her boyfriend from the other tribe," Hajji Nazir, an elder of the tribal district of North Waziristan, told Agence France-Presse by phone. "In response, the woman's tribe kidnapped two women from the other tribe."

The Wazir and Mahsood tribes were battling from mountaintops in the inaccessible Shawal 109 miles south of Peshawar. At least five persons had been killed in the fighting by Tuesday, and a council of elders had been unable to halt the clashes.

Weekly notes …

Sweden will contribute $5.9 million to help Afghanistan repay debts from the 1960s and '70s to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, the government announced Thursday. The pledge is in addition to a $118 million aid package Sweden promised to Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban. … Bangladesh's former Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed and six other officials were charged two days ago with corruption in the purchase of Russian-made MiG-29 fighters in 1999. Sheikh Hasina, whose Awami League was in power between 1996 and 2001 and who was replaced by her archrival and current Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, has repeatedly denied wrongdoing in the purchase, saying the state-to-state deal saved the national exchequer millions of dollars.

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