- The Washington Times - Monday, February 9, 2004


Arafat considers declaring state

RAMALLAH, West Bank — A senior Palestinian official said yesterday that Yasser Arafat’s government is considering declaring a state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem if Israel tries to impose a boundary on the Palestinians.

Zalman Shoval, a senior aide to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, warned that Israel could annex disputed territories in response.

The possibility of the declaration of a state was raised at a meeting of Palestinian leaders over the weekend, said Palestinian official Yasser Abed Rabbo.

Meanwhile, the Israeli Supreme Court heard petitions yesterday from two human rights groups against the West Bank barrier, a day after the government said it would change its route to minimize hardship for Palestinians.


Annan says vote study will end in week

NEW YORK — The work of a U.N. team studying whether elections are possible in Iraq was going “extremely well” and it would wrap up its visit in about a week, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said yesterday.

The team arrived in Baghdad on Saturday to see whether elections could be held, as Shi’ites want, or recommend alternatives for selecting an interim Iraqi government before the U.S.-led coalition relinquishes power June 30.

President Bush wants U.N. help to arrange an early transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqis to try to ease the postwar violence in the country and dispel concerns of extended U.S. rule as he faces a tough re-election fight in November.

Mr. Annan said the team, led by veteran U.N. official Lakhdar Brahimi, a former Algerian foreign minister, had met with members of the coalition and the Iraqi Governing Council and was now meeting with other Iraqis.


Woman rescued week after building collapse

ANKARA — A critically injured 24-year-old woman was pulled out alive yesterday after a week buried in the rubble of a collapsed apartment building — a dramatic rescue that came after teams heard her scraping her fingernails against shattered concrete and pleading, “water, water.”

Yasemin Yaprakci, covered in dust, was carried on a stretcher into an ambulance as relief workers applauded. The rescuers worked for four hours to free her feet, which were trapped under decaying bodies.

Rescue workers dug out 14 bodies yesterday, raising the death toll to 89.


Panel backs payoffs to kin of WWII Jews

PARIS — France should pay remaining compensation requests worth $154 million to families of Jews looted during the Nazi occupation of World War II, a government panel said yesterday.

The recommendation by the Commission for the Indemnity of Victims of Despoliation was not binding and goes to the government for a final review.

A French government report in 2000 found Jews were looted of a total of $1.5 billion in money and possessions during the occupation. Compensation has already been paid on about 90 percent it.


7 held in drowning of Chinese workers

LONDON — Seven persons have been arrested on suspicion of manslaughter in the deaths of 19 Chinese workers who drowned while searching for shellfish in a notoriously dangerous English bay, police said yesterday.

The deaths of the cockle pickers at Morecambe Bay on Thursday has highlighted the exploitation of immigrants by so-called “gangmasters” in the multimillion-dollar cockling industry, leading to calls for tighter regulation.

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