- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 18, 2003

INDONESIA

Military starts attack on Aceh rebels

BANDA ACEH — Indonesian war planes today fired rockets at a rebel base in the restive province of Aceh, signaling the start of a military offensive just hours after the breakdown of peace talks.

Three planes fired the rockets at a stronghold of the Free Aceh Movement some 12 miles east of the provincial capital of Banda Aceh. A military spokesman said 15 warships had moved into waters close to the northern town of Lhokseumawe, an area that is heavily populated with rebels.

Earlier, six C-130 Hercules transport aircraft released 458 soldiers over an airstrip close to Banda Aceh in a show of force after Indonesia announced a military crackdown and martial law in the province.

The state of emergency was announced at midnight last night after talks in Tokyo aimed at salvaging a Dec. 9 cease-fire accord broke down. Armed with the new powers, the military immediately arrested five senior rebels who had played a key role in negotiating the December peace deal in Geneva.

BELGIUM

Left returns to power as far right makes gains

BRUSSELS — Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt claimed victory yesterday after the ruling Liberals and Socialists won a parliamentary majority in a general election that also produced big gains for a far-right party.

The anti-immigration Vlaams Blok won the largest vote in its 25-year history, five months after race riots rocked the port city of Antwerp. But it stood no chance of entering government.

The Liberals and Socialists registered gains in both parts of the linguistically divided country of 10 million people, despite the collapse of their Greens coalition partners.

SOUTH KOREA

Students slam president or pro-U.S. tilt

SEOUL — President Roh Moo-hyun yesterday faced protests from students and criticism from supporters after he joined President Bush in vowing to thwart North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

Mr. Roh and Mr. Bush said in Washington that inter-Korean exchanges would be “conducted in light of developments on the North Korean nuclear issue.” The comments were seen as a toughening of Mr. Roh’s stance on North Korea.

PHILIPPINES

President targets rebels before visiting Washington

MANILA — Air force planes and helicopters pounded Muslim rebel strongholds yesterday in a new offensive against insurgents in southern Philippines as the country’s leader visited the United States.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo authorized air strikes against “embedded terrorist cells” of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, or MILF, before she left for the United States, where she was scheduled to attend a state dinner in her honor at the White House, officials said.


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