- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 14, 2004

AFGHANISTAN

Rival fighters clash, over 20 killed

KABUL — Fighters loyal to rival warlords clashed in western Afghanistan yesterday, sending tanks into the streets of a regional capital in the latest jolt to the country’s shaky security before national elections. More than 20 fighters were killed, according to one estimate.

The clashes pitched forces loyal to Herat Gov. Ismail Khan, one of the country’s most powerful warlords, against rivals in the north, east and south of the province.

The battles are the latest in a string of factional clashes across the north and west of the country and present a fresh security headache for U.S.-supported President Hamid Karzai and the U.S. military before the Oct. 9 presidential elections.

VENEZUELA

Jittery calm precedes vote

CARACAS — Starkly divided by class and politics, Venezuela was unified by anxiety yesterday as opponents and supporters of leftist President Hugo Chavez feared possible violence following the referendum vote today on his rule.

“Whichever side wins, the other won’t accept the result,” Rosalba Reto, a 46-year-old office worker, said as she lined up to buy food in a government-subsidized supermarket, one of many programs the populist president set up to help the poor.

“We’re lining up here because we don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow,” she said, explaining she was stocking up on food because her family went hungry for several days during unrest that followed a failed coup against Mr. Chavez in 2002.

Venezuelans will vote today in a referendum on whether to recall the president before his term ends in early 2007.

GAZA STRIP

Angry graduates demand jobs

GAZA CITY — About 100 unemployed university graduates stormed a Palestinian Authority building in a Gaza Strip refugee camp yesterday, holing up inside and demanding jobs.

The graduates, all of them unarmed, said the Palestinian Authority promised them employment and failed to live up to its obligation. Negotiations between police in the Khan Younis refugee camp and the protesters were under way.

Turmoil has plagued the Gaza Strip and West Bank in recent weeks.

Earlier last week, dozens of homeless Palestinians, led by gunmen, stormed the governor’s office in Gaza’s battered Rafah refugee camp, evicting officials and charging that Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Authority is not helping them.

MALDIVES

Opposition leader charges police abuse

MALE — A Maldives opposition leader yesterday accused the government of arresting more than 200 dissidents after it used tear gas to disperse a rare protest in this tightly controlled island nation.

The demonstrators staged their protest to demand the release of prisoners, outside police headquarters. Police freed four prisoners but later fired tear gas and began making arrests when the crowd swelled to about 3,000 people and refused to leave, witnesses had said on the condition of anonymity.

Opposition leader Mohamed Latheef of the Maldivian Democratic Party, speaking from Colombo, Sri Lanka, said police “are going around and arresting people, and our information is that over 200 people have been arrested.”

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