- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 12, 2003

VENEZUELA
Chavez foes to meet U.S. officials, Annan
CARACAS Opponents of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, staging a 6-week-old strike that has crippled Venezuelan oil exports and rattled energy markets, welcomed U.S. backing yesterday for a proposal that would involve other nations in efforts to break the stalemate over the president's rule.
Opposition negotiator Timoteo Zambrano and union boss Carlos Ortega, a bitter Chavez foe, headed to the United States yesterday for meetings with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the U.S. State Department.
The United States said Friday that it supports forming a group of key regional nations that could nudge both sides to an electoral solution to end their bitter impasse. U.S. officials said they hoped to bolster talks brokered by the Organization of American States that have so far not reached an accord.

ZIMBABWE
Harare mayor held over meeting
HARARE Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change said yesterday that police had detained Harare Mayor Elias Mudzuri and at least 21 other city officials for purportedly holding a public meeting without authority.
Some of the controversial laws introduced by President Robert Mugabe bar political meetings without authorization.
Mr. Mudzuri, an MDC member, said he was addressing residents on civic matters when more than a dozen police officers halted the city council meeting in the capital's Mabvuku township. Critics say the government uses laws on public meetings to muzzle the opposition.

ITALY
Rightists attack Muslim leader on air
VERONA Members of a far-right group burst into a television studio and attacked a controversial Muslim activist while he was on the air.
Adel Smith of the Italian Muslim Union was appearing on a talk show when about 25 members of Forza Nuova stormed into the studio of the local TeleNuovo channel in Verona, about 75 miles east of Milan, on Friday night. They threw eggs at him, beat him and gave his assistant a broken cheekbone and a black eye. Police arrested six of them.
Mr. Smith got into another TV punch-up last Sunday, with conservative editorialist Carlo Pelanda. That fight broke out after Mr. Smith questioned Israel's right to exist and said some criticism of Osama bin Laden was invented by the CIA.

IVORY COAST
Western rebels to join talks
ABIDJAN Western rebels reversed their decision to pull out of peace talks set for next week in Paris, saying yesterday that they would attend despite what they said were continuing government attacks.
Rebel Sgt. Felix Doh also said he would sign a countrywide cease-fire before the talks.
Mr. Doh's Ivorian Popular Movement of the Greater West offered no immediate explanation for its change of heart. The faction is one of two rebel movements on what is now the most active front in Ivory Coast's nearly 4-month-old war, which has split the world's largest cocoa producer.

BRITAIN
Terrorism fears led to royal 'panic rooms'
LONDON Fears of an al Qaeda terrorist attack prompted Queen Elizabeth II to install "panic rooms" at Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle, the Sunday Times newspaper reported today.
The high-security rooms are encased in 18-inch-thick steel walls and are designed to protect senior members of the royal family from poison gas, bomb attacks or assassination by terrorists.
The rooms, built after a security review after the September 11 attacks, cost $1.6 million and replaced smaller, sparsely furnished rooms.

DJIBOUTI
Ruling alliance retains assembly
DJIBOUTI Djibouti's ruling alliance won all 65 parliamentary seats in the first election held under a multiparty system in the tiny Horn of Africa state, the interior ministry said yesterday.
Djibouti, on the Red Sea and being used as a base by U.S. troops mounting anti-terrorism patrols in the region, introduced the multiparty system in September.
The pro-government Union for the Presidential Majority won 62 percent of the ballots in Friday's vote, and the opposition Union for a Democratic Alternative won 37 percent, a ministry statement said. Spoiled ballots accounted for 1 percent.

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