- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 15, 2003

U.S. request to expel Iraqis rejected
MOSCOW Russia has rejected a U.S. request to expel Iraqi diplomats accused by Washington of spying, the Foreign Ministry said yesterday.
But Hungary became the latest country to send Iraqi Embassy staffers home, following on the heels of Australia, the Philippines, Romania, Sweden and the United States itself. Belgium this week refused a similar U.S. demand.
The request "is unacceptable and, of course, the Russian side will not take such a step," a spokesman said. The United States has approached 60 countries, requesting the expulsion of about 300 diplomats it says are engaged in espionage.

Strike boss granted Costa Rica asylum
CARACAS Costa Rica granted asylum at its embassy yesterday to a fugitive Venezuelan union leader seeking to escape arrest on rebellion charges for organizing a crippling strike against President Hugo Chavez.
Costa Rica's ambassador, Ricardo Lizano, said Carlos Ortega was granted diplomatic asylum at the embassy in Caracas while it studied his application for political refuge in the Central American nation.

Militants take hostages at hotel; 7 killed
SRINAGAR Seven persons, including three civilians and a rebel, were killed yesterday in a fierce gunbattle with suspected separatists who were holed up in a hotel in Indian Kashmir, police said. The three dead civilians were trapped inside the three-story hotel when the gunbattle erupted in Poonch near a cease-fire line dividing Indian and Pakistan Kashmir, a police official said. During the clash, police fired a rocket at the hotel.

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