- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 14, 2003


President pledges amnesty for rebels

LOME Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo said yesterday, ahead of peace talks in Paris tomorrow, that he was willing to grant amnesty to rebels who have fought his government but would not agree to early elections.

Mr. Gbagbo made the pledge after rebel factions signed an accord to halt fighting as a requirement for the talks. They are designed to end a conflict that has killed hundreds of people in the world's top cocoa-producing nation.

France has committed a 2,500-strong force to Ivory Coast its biggest intervention in Africa since the 1980s to stop the crisis from spiraling out of control. France has big business interests and up to 20,000 citizens there.


Four to stand trial on weapons charges

LONDON Four North Africans charged in Britain with having chemical weapons after the deadly poison ricin was found in a London apartment last week were ordered to stand trial and held without bail yesterday.

Police said last week that they found "small quantities" of ricin, a toxin that has no antidote, at a North London apartment. The news sparked fears among the public of a chemical attack.


Government hopes to end death penalty

NAIROBI Kenya's new government wants to abolish the death penalty within the next six months, its justice minister said yesterday.

More than 1,000 Kenyans who have been sentenced to death are locked up in the country's notoriously overcrowded maximum-security prisons, but the penalty by hanging has not been carried out since 1984.


Pope tells Russia to stop expelling priests

VATICAN CITY Pope John Paul demanded yesterday that authorities in Russia stop expelling Catholic priests and bishops from the country.

One bishop and several priests have been prevented from returning to their parishes or dioceses in Russia and been declared persona non grata while traveling outside the country.


Kabul signs up for international court

KABUL Afghanistan said yesterday that it had acceded to the International Criminal Court (ICC), opening the way for the extradition and trial of notorious warlords accused of human rights abuses in the country's turbulent recent past.

Afghanistan has been run by communists, mujahideen (holy warrior) factions and the hard-line Islamic Taliban regime in the past two decades.

The United States, which helped install the current government and has about 8,000 soldiers operating in Afghanistan, has refused to sign up to the court, fearing that it would be used for politically motivated attacks on U.S. troops.


Top drug lords offer to surrender

BOGOTA Colombia's government is studying a surrender offer from the country's most powerful drug lords and is on course to crush the world's biggest cocaine trade, its interior minister said yesterday.

Colombia's cocaine kings traditionally fear extradition to tough U.S. jails, preferring the prisons of their country, where the prevailing anarchy has often allowed them to live carefree.

The government of President Alvaro Uribe says it must crush the drug industry in part because cocaine pays for the arms used by leftist rebels and far-right paramilitaries fighting a four-decade-old war that claims thousands of lives every year.

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