- The Washington Times - Friday, May 16, 2003

AFGHANISTAN

Armed escort needed for U.N. staff travel

KABUL — The United Nations announced Thursday that its staff would travel with armed government escorts in southern Afghanistan after gunmen fired at a mine-clearing vehicle in the country’s east, wounding two Afghan workers.

A British soldier was also wounded Thursday here in the capital when an Afghan man threw a grenade at a British peacekeeping base, a spokeswoman for the multinational force said.

Meanwhile, a suspected terrorist accidentally blew himself up while trying to plant a land mine outside a government office in southern Afghanistan near the border with Pakistan, a senior security official said.

AFGHANISTAN

Norwegian mediators fail to break deadlock

COLOMBO — Norwegian Foreign Minister Jan Petersen failed to break the stalemate in Sri Lanka’s troubled peace process despite a high-profile meeting two days ago with Velupillai Prabhakaran, top leader of the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Mr. Petersen, accompanied by his deputy, Vidar Helgesen, traveled to the rebel-held Wanni region in a military helicopter and held nearly three hours of talks with the LTTE chief. Rebel sources said Mr. Prabhakaran insisted on key conditions before returning to negotiations and attending a crucial donor conference next month in Tokyo.

KYRGYZSTAN

6 held in bombings that claimed 8 lives

BISHKEK — Security forces have detained six members of a suspected terrorist cell accused of organizing two bomb attacks in the past five months that killed eight persons, the Interior Ministry told reporters at midweek.

The first of the bombs ripped through a crowded market here in the capital last December, killing seven persons. The second blast occurred at a currency exchange and killed one person.

Of those detained, four are from neighboring Uzbekistan and two are Kyrgyz citizens, suggesting a possible link with the radical Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), which seeks to create an Islamic state in the Ferghana Valley, a ministry spokesman said.

Weekly notes …

NATO Secretary-General George Robertson visited the former Soviet republic of Georgia this week and said after talks with President Eduard Shevardnadze in the capital, Tbilisi, he sees the country as “the key ally” in the Caucasus, which he called a “region of crucial importance for stability in the whole Euro-Atlantic area.”… A Dutch flower producer has named a new strain of dahlia after Turkmenistan President Saparmurat Niyazov, dubbed a “little Saddam” by his critics. The “deep-red mother-of-pearl-flecked blooms” have been named “President Turkmenbashi” by the Dutch firm Royal Sluis, a subsidiary of U.S. seed company Seminis Inc., out of respect for Mr. Niyazov’s “great contribution to the stability of the Asian region and the whole world,” Neutralny Turkmenistan reports.

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