- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 24, 2003

TERRITORY OF NEW CALEDONIA

Chirac tiptoesaround independence

NOUMEA — President Jacques Chirac said yesterday that he hopes France and New Caledonia can work “hand in hand,” but avoided direct comment on the thorny issue of the French Pacific territory’s independence.

“I do not want to anticipate the decision of the New Caledonians” on the referendum for independence made possible by the 1998 Noumea Accord, he said at the Tjibaou Cultural Center, named after slain pro-independence leader Jean-Marie Tjibaou.

“Is independence the best solution?” he asked. “I will not say, and anyway, my opinion does not count.” The matter, he said, is best decided by the New Caledonians.

A population census is to be held in New Caledonia next week.

MALAYSIA

Sea piracy, killingssoar this year

KUALA LUMPUR — Sea piracy surged 37 percent this year to a record 234 attacks from January to June, with 16 seafarers killed, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) reports.

Ships were boarded in 165 instances and nine ships were hijacked, said the IMB Piracy Reporting Center, based here in the Malaysian capital. The number of seafarer deaths worldwide went from six in the first half of last year to 16 this year; 52 were injured this year compared with 21 during the same period last year.

Indonesian waters were the most dangerous during the first half of this year, “accounting for over one-quarter of the world total, with 64 incidents.”

JAPAN

Opposition delays billon troops for Iraq

TOKYO — Opposition parties turned to delaying tactics in the national Diet yesterday in a last-ditch effort to derail passage of a bill that would allow the government to send troops to Iraq to help with reconstruction.

The ruling coalition voted down a nonbinding censure motion submitted by the four opposition parties against Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi. The motion had brought the Iraq bill’s slow progress to a halt earlier in the day. The ruling coalition later voted down another censure motion against Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba.

The government remained upbeat about its chances of passing the bill, which has been approved by the lower house, before the close Monday of the Diet session.

Weekly notes

U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Jose W. Torres, 21, pleaded guilty yesterday to beating and raping a Japanese woman on Okinawa island two months ago, his attorney said, and faces three years to life in prison. Torres, whose hometown was not revealed, attacked the 19-year-old during the early hours of May 25, breaking her nose with a punch before raping her in an alley. … Days before Cambodia’s elections Sunday, King Norodom Sihanouk has fired a broadside at an impending international tribunal — organized by the United Nations — on Khmer Rouge crimes, and accused a U.S.-funded “figure” of attempting to link him and his wife, Queen Monineath, with Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot as early as 1973. In a letter posted on his Web site, the 80-year-old monarch declared: “I’m asking the U.N. that they don’t play with me this tribunal’s petty comedy and that a more credible justice in The Hague should judge me.”

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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