- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 24, 2004

AFGHANISTAN

Rivals demand president step down

KABUL — A dozen challengers to Afghan President Hamid Karzai in the country’s first presidential election threatened yesterday to boycott the vote unless he resigns, giving up an office they say gives him an unfair advantage.

Former Education Minister Yunus Qanooni, regarded as the strongest of the 17 candidates challenging Mr. Karzai in the Oct. 9 election, was among those demanding the president step down to create a more level playing field.

An interim council should be set up to run the country until an elected government can be formed, said fellow candidate Latif Pedram. Mr. Karzai’s rivals charged that he enjoys strong international backing because of his close association with the Bush administration.

EQUATORIAL GUINEA

Accused mercenaries tried in failed coup

MALABO — Fourteen suspected mercenaries went on trial in Equatorial Guinea yesterday, accused of plotting to topple the oil-rich nation’s president with the help of 70 men detained in Zimbabwe, officials said.

The eight South Africans and six Armenians were arrested in March and stand accused of going to Equatorial Guinea’s capital, Malabo, as an advance party to prepare the ground for the arrival of a plane with the second group of men and weapons.

The trial is expected to last three days, with the verdict due over the weekend.

GERMANY

Court acquits aide to deadly ‘Jackal’

BERLIN — A German court yesterday, citing insufficient evidence, acquitted an imprisoned aide of the terrorist Carlos the Jackal of involvement in a deadly series of bombings in France in the early 1980s.

Johannes Weinrich, 57, once headed European operations for Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, the man known as Carlos. Weinrich, already serving a life sentence for a 1983 attack on a French cultural center in then-West Berlin that killed one man, will remain in prison.

In his second trial, which opened in March 2003, Weinrich was charged with six counts of murder and 22 counts of attempted murder.

TAIWAN

Lawmakers approve plan to cut seats

TAIPEI — Taiwan’s parliament yesterday approved a major political reform to halve the number of lawmakers and revamp the electoral system in a move aimed at boosting efficiency and creating two-party politics.

With overwhelming public support, lawmakers voted 200-1 in favor of a constitutional amendment to slash the number of parliament seats from 225 to 113. The move will take effect in three years.

Analysts say the reform could favor the two largest parties — the Democratic Progressive Party headed by President Chen Shui-bian and the opposition Nationalists — at the expense of smaller rivals.

ISRAEL

Army switches ammo to reduce fatalities

JERUSALEM — The Israeli army is to begin using nonlethal shells in its tanks, a defense official said yesterday, three months after conventional tank fire killed eight Palestinian demonstrators in the Gaza Strip.

The official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the new “stun shells” would disintegrate in the air, generating a huge noise in an effort to disperse crowds.

Made of fiberglass, the shells are produced by state-owned Israel Military Industries, and are to be in use within several months.


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