- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 15, 2004

BRITAIN

Bureaucrats target BBC independence

LONDON — Britain’s government is considering a plan to break up the British Broadcasting Corp. (BBC) and remove its independent status in the wake of a bitter row with the state-funded broadcaster over the Iraq war, a newspaper report said yesterday.

Government papers detailing possible changes to the BBC’s structure proposed breaking it into separate regional entities for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the Sunday Times said.

The documents, which the newspaper said had been drawn up by “senior civil servants,” also suggested that the job of ensuring the BBC’s impartiality could be taken away from the corporation’s board of governors.

The BBC, which is independently run despite being financed by public money through a compulsory television tax, is under fire for a report claiming that Prime Minister Tony Blair’s government deliberately exaggerated the threat posed by Iraq’s weapons.

JORDAN

Four charged in plot to attack Americans

AMMAN — Jordan has charged four men with plotting to carry out attacks on Americans in the kingdom, state security prosecutor Col. Mahmoud Obeidat said yesterday.

Col. Obeidat confirmed Jordanian news reports of the charges, but did not give further details.

IRAQ

Interim minister meets neighboring leaders

KUWAIT CITY — Iraq’s interim foreign minister tried to reassure his country’s neighbors about his government’s commitment to build a united Iraq as officials from its six bordering nations met yesterday in Kuwait City.

The meeting of representatives from Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey, Kuwait and Syria plus politically influential Egypt is the first one attended by an Iraqi delegate. The group met four times previously to discuss the repercussions of the developments in Iraq on their region.

PAKISTAN

Twin quakes kill 17 in remote region

ISLAMABAD — Two earthquakes struck a remote region of northern Pakistan yesterday, toppling walls and setting off landslides that killed at least 17 and injured 30 others. About 150 homes were damaged.

The temblors, measuring 5.7 and 5.5, were about 90 minutes apart with the first striking at 3:30 p.m. They were centered 125 miles northeast of Peshawar and were felt 90 miles away in the capital, Islamabad.

TAIWAN

China issue heats up presidential debate

TAIPEI — Taiwan’s leader Chen Shui-bian yesterday promised to protect the island from China, while his opponent argued that Mr. Chen couldn’t improve ties with the communist rival in the first-ever presidential debate in the nation’s history.

The two candidates waited until the end of the debate to clash over the China issue — one of the most important topics in the tight March 20 election.

Mr. Chen, the incumbent president of the Republic of China (Taiwan), accused his opponent, Lien Chan of the Nationalist Party, of flip-flopping on China relations.

AFGHANISTAN

Explosion kills American soldier

KABUL — A U.S. soldier died and nine others were wounded when an anti-tank mine exploded underneath their Humvee in eastern Afghanistan, the military said yesterday.

The soldiers were from the 10th Mountain Division, based in Fort Drum, N.Y.

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