- The Washington Times - Friday, January 23, 2004

INDIA

Prime minister meets with separatists

NEW DELHI — Kashmir’s main political separatists met Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee for the first time yesterday and assured him they backed his bid to resolve the Kashmir dispute and make peace with Pakistan.

The landmark meeting came a day after leaders of the All Parties Hurriyat (Freedom) Conference held unprecedented talks with Deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishna Advani in New Delhi aimed at ending a revolt against Indian rule in the disputed region that has killed more than 40,000 people.

India rules 45 percent of Kashmir, Pakistan a third and the rest is under Chinese control. New Delhi accuses Islamabad of fomenting rebel violence in Indian Kashmir, a charge Pakistan denies.

JAPAN

Military units arrive for combat mission

ALI AL SALEM BASE, Kuwait — Standing in heavy rain, more than 100 Japanese servicemen got their first look yesterday at the Kuwaiti air base where they will be running supply and humanitarian missions into Iraq — Japan’s first mission in a combat zone since World War II.

The pilots, maintenance personnel and administrative staff are part of 1,000 troops that Japan has committed to sending to Iraq, a deployment that has faced widespread opposition at home.

SUDAN

Government, rebels reach accord

NAIROBI, Kenya — Sudan’s government and the main rebel group have reached an agreement on the status of two of three disputed regions in the center of Africa’s largest state, the chief mediator in peace talks in Kenya said yesterday.

The Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) has been claiming Nuba Mountains, the Southern Blue Nile and Abyei, although they are not geographically part of the south, where the rebel movement is based.

A spokesman for the SPLA, Yasser Arman, said that it had been agreed that the two areas would enjoy “self-rule, autonomy and popular consultation.” Khartoum and the rebels have already signed an agreement on an even split of the country’s wealth, particularly oil revenues.

BRITAIN

Famous physicist denies abuse

CAMBRIDGE, England — Famed astrophysicist Stephen Hawking said yesterday that allegations he was abused are “completely false,” but his ex-wife urged police to investigate reports that he suffered a series of unexplained injuries.

An inquiry was triggered by nursing staff who contacted police in the summer after Mr. Hawking — who is paralyzed and uses a wheelchair — was left stranded in his garden on the hottest day of the year and suffered severe heatstroke and sunburn.

“I firmly and wholeheartedly reject the allegations that I have been assaulted,” Mr. Hawking said in a statement issued through Cambridge University.

VENEZUELA

Chavez at center of rival protests

CARACAS — Tens of thousands of opponents and supporters of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez marched in Caracas yesterday in rival protests over whether the leftist leader should submit to a recall referendum.

As the banner-waving marchers flooded different parts of the capital, the country’s top electoral official rejected charges that the referendum process was being delayed.

National Electoral Council President Francisco Carrasquero said that if a December opposition referendum petition passed legal requirements, a recall vote would be held in May.

From wire dispatches and staff reports


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