- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 15, 2003

COLOMBIA
More U.S. aid sought in drug war
BOGOTA The United States should flex the massive military muscle now deploying in the Persian Gulf to strangle the illegal drug trade, Colombian President Alvaro Uribe said yesterday.
"I have seen the scale of the deployment of American troops in the Persian Gulf. When they've sorted that problem out, they should help us with an equivalent deployment in the Atlantic and in the Pacific to end the flow of drugs," Mr. Uribe told Reuters news agency in an interview.
Mr. Uribe, who took office in August vowing to crack down on drug trafficking and rebels, is a keen supporter of U.S. anti-narcotics aid totaling almost $2 billion in recent years.

VENEZUELA
Chavez loyalist troops seize police weapons
CARACAS Soldiers loyal to President Hugo Chavez seized submachine guns and shotguns from Caracas' police department yesterday in what the opposition mayor called a bid to undermine him.
Federal interference in the capital's police department is one reason Venezuela's opposition has staged a strike now in its 44th day demanding early elections. Yesterday's raids stoked already heated tensions in this polarized nation.
Greater Caracas Mayor Alfredo Pena said the weapons seizure stripped police of their ability to control street protests that have erupted almost daily since the strike began Dec. 2. Five persons have died in strike-related demonstrations.
A smaller district police force used tear gas yesterday to separate pro- and anti-Chavez protesters. Officials said two protesters were injured.

EUROPEAN UNION
All asylum seekers to be fingerprinted
BRUSSELS The European Commission today will begin operating an unprecedented system to record the fingerprints of all asylum seekers entering the European Union, officials said.
All asylum seekers older than 14 will be fingerprinted under the system in all 15 EU member states except Denmark. The program also will be implemented in Norway and Iceland.
Immigration is a politically sensitive subject in the 15-member European Union, where many movements warn about an influx of cheap labor and the drain on welfare services.

IVORY COAST
Peace negotiations open in France
PARIS Ivory Coast political party chiefs and rebel leaders are set to meet today at talks near Paris aimed at ending a 4-month-old conflict in the world's top cocoa producer that threatens to destabilize much of West Africa.
President Laurent Gbagbo, who rebels want removed from power, said he was confident the talks would allow his government to regain authority over rebel-held areas.
"If a solution isn't found, this could result in a catastrophe," French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin told a news conference in Paris.

JAPAN
Prime minister visits shrine to war dead
TOKYO Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi visited a shrine honoring Japan's war dead yesterday, drawing protests from China and South Korea and risking the ire of other Asian nations that Japan brutally occupied last century.
The Yasukuni shrine honors about 2.5 million Japanese war dead, including executed criminals such as war-era Prime Minister Hideki Tojo.

BRITAIN
Queen leaves hospital after knee surgery
LONDON Queen Elizabeth II yesterday left the London hospital where she underwent a successful knee operation a day earlier.
The 76-year-old monarch walked out of the King Edward VII hospital with the aid of a crutch and got into a car to travel to her Sandringham estate in eastern England. She hobbled slightly but walked on her own.


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