- The Washington Times - Monday, February 23, 2004

NORTH KOREA

Pyongyang upbeat on eve of talks

BEIJING — North Korea sounded an upbeat note today on the eve of six-party talks aimed at resolving the crisis over its nuclear-weapons programs, saying the circumstances were better than at the first round in August.

Analysts have held out scant hope of a breakthrough at the talks starting tomorrow.

China’s Xinhua news agency quoted North Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Kim Gye-gwan as saying the North’s plans for resolving the crisis were “in line with U.S. President George W. Bush’s political interests.” He did not elaborate.

The United States wants the North to commit to the “complete, irreversible and verifiable” scrapping of its atomic programs.

ZIMBABWE

Employees fired at opposition paper

HARARE — The company that operates Zimbabwe’s embattled Daily News, which is critical of President Robert Mugabe, said yesterday it was firing most of its 250 employees “with immediate effect” because the government is preventing it from publishing.

The Daily News, which was launched about five years ago, was closed down by armed police in September. At the time, the paper had a readership of 900,000.

IRELAND

HIV rates soar in Europe, Central Asia

DUBLIN — The virus that causes AIDS is spreading again in Western Europe and is rampaging through Eastern Europe and Central Asia, where it infected 250,000 people last year, a U.N. health official said yesterday.

Eastern Europe and Central Asia are experiencing the fastest-growing HIV epidemic in the world, said Peter Piot, executive director of the United Nations AIDS organization.

INDIA

Explosion kills six at space center

MADRAS — An explosion and fire in a research facility at India’s main space center yesterday killed at least six persons and seriously injured three others, police said.

Flames erupted at the solid propellant fuel plant at the government’s Dhawan Space Center on Sriharikota Island, just off India’s southeastern coast, said the center’s spokesman, K. Ravindran.

The space center has been used to launch Indian, German, Korean and Belgian satellites.

COLOMBIA

Death toll hits 66 in latest rebel clashes

BOGOTA — At least 66 persons died in weekend clashes among Colombian troops, leftist rebels and right-wing paramilitary forces, the army chief said yesterday.

Soldiers on Saturday killed 22 members of a faction of the outlawed United Self-Defense Forces, or AUC, near Villanueva, some 200 miles southeast of Bogota, said Gen. Martin Orlando Carreno. He said 10 soldiers also died in the fighting.

SPAIN

Algerian arrested in al Qaeda plot

MADRID — Spanish police arrested an Algerian-born man yesterday on suspicion of forging passports for one of the suspected masterminds of the September 11 attacks, the Interior Ministry said.

Khaled Madani, detained in the tourist resort of Torrevieja in Alicante province, is suspected of supplying false documents, such as passports and visas, to members of al Qaeda’s Hamburg, Germany cell, where the attacks were planned.

A second suspect, Moussa Laouar, who is accused of helping Madani, was picked up in Murcia in southeastern Spain.

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