- The Washington Times - Friday, January 23, 2004

SRI LANKA

Tamils said taking more children for war

COLOMBO — Tamil Tiger rebels have stepped up the recruitment of child soldiers and are holding more than 1,300 of them, UNICEF said two days ago amid fears the country could slide back into war.

The rebels recruited 709 underage fighters last year, bringing their number to 1,301 at the end of December, the United Nations children’s agency said in a statement appealing for their release.

The rise in child combatants came after the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) agreed to a Norwegian-brokered truce with the government in February 2002 and despite pledges not to enlist combatants below age 18.

The UNICEF statement came as the LTTE warned of a return to war following President Chandrika Kumaratunga’s alliance on Tuesday with a radical party that opposes granting autonomy to minority Tamils in exchange for ethnic peace.

AFGHANISTAN

Guns need permits in main north city

MAZAR-E-SHARIF — Starting today, unauthorized weapons will be banned from this main northern city, police chief Mohammad Akram has announced.

Anyone found carrying weapons without a permit will be arrested and disarmed, he said Thursday. “They must carry an individual permit, which includes a photo, produced by the police. If they don’t have this, police will confiscate their arms as well as their vehicle.”

The decision was made by the security commission for northern Afghanistan, which includes the main armed factions of the north, the British army, the United Nations and the central government, a U.N. spokesman said.

BURMA

Karens OK truce; more talks slated

BANGKOK — Burma’s largest armed ethnic rebel group has agreed to a cease-fire but more negotiations are needed with the ruling military junta in Rangoon, according to a rebel official.

A Karen National Union (KNU) delegation led by Vice Chairman Bo Mya reached a verbal cease-fire agreement with the junta, David Tarkerpaw, the KNU’s foreign secretary said Thursday. “The delegation discussed a wide range of issues with the … government and they agreed to meet again within one month to explore further details,” Mr. Tarkerpaw said from the Thai border town of Mae Sot.

At the weeklong talks in Rangoon, the two sides discussed demarcation for forces of both sides and plans to repatriate refugees along the border back to their homelands in Burma, he said.

Weekly notes

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw will visit Kazakhstan starting Feb. 5, the Kazakh Foreign Ministry said this week. The vast ex-Soviet republic is taking an increasing role in world affairs as it holds major Caspian mineral resources and is strategically located among China, Russia, Europe and unstable southern neighbors like Afghanistan. … The United Nations Development Program and the Soros Foundation are giving $2 million to help fund reforms in ex-Soviet Georgia, the donors announced in Davos, Switzerland, this week. The money will be mainly used to give civil servants more attractive salaries in order to combat corruption, Georgian President-elect Mikhail Saakashvili said in a news conference at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Mr. Saakashvili won the Jan. 4 election called after Eduard Shevardnadze quit.

From wire dispatches and staff reports


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