- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 31, 2003


Official signals retreat from frozen far north

MOSCOW — Russia announced last week it is stepping up its retreat from the far north, relocating up to 600,000 people in a reversal of the Soviet-era policy of sending in “shock workers” to carve natural resources out of the frozen soil.

Some 200,000 to 600,000 people will have to be resettled from regions like Yakutia and Kamchatka, news agencies quoted Mukhamed Tsikanov, deputy economic development and trade minister, as saying.

“There are serious problems in the towns and villages based on single industries that have closed for one reason or another,” Novosti news agency quoted Mr. Tsikanov as saying. More than 10 million people — about 7 percent of Russia’s population — live in the 60 percent of the country’s land mass that is believed to hold most of its exportable raw materials.

Until very recently, the authorities rejected the idea of subsidizing people’s relocation from the far north.


Irish priest chosen to mediate for Basques

MADRID — An Irish Roman Catholic priest has been secretly summoned to Spain by Basque nationalists to negotiate a cease-fire between the Spanish government and the separatist terrorist group ETA.

The Rev. Alec Reid, who made his name brokering an IRA cease-fire, flew to Spain last Monday, shortly after the country held local elections.

According to conservative newspaper ABC, he is trying to broker a consensus between ETA, its banned political wing Batasuna, and the mainstream Basque Nationalist Party, which governs the region.

If successful, he is expected to mediate between the Basques and the Spanish government in an attempt to bring about an ETA cease-fire.

The presence of a “meddling priest” is said to irritate Spanish politicians who see no similarities between the Basque region and Northern Ireland.

Weekly notes …

Former Bosnian Serb President Biljana Plavsic, 72, sentenced to 11 years in prison for crimes against humanity in the 1990s Bosnian war, will serve her sentence in a Swedish prison, Swedish news agency TT reports. Plavsic, who had asked to serve her jail time in Sweden, is expected to be transferred within a few weeks to the Hinseberg women’s prison in Orebro. The U.N. War Crimes Tribunal at The Hague sentenced her in February after she admitted playing a leading role in the campaign of persecution against Bosnian Croats and Muslims during the 1992-95 war, which claimed more than 200,000 lives. … Italian TV broadcaster RAI enacts a bimbo blackout. Scantily-clad temptresses gyrating their way through quiz programs and talk shows on Italian state television may soon be banished from the airwaves. Lucia Annunziata, RAI’s new director, who came to office demanding “more news and fewer TV pinups,” has stood by her word and ensured company approval of a policy demanding more respect for women.

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