- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 4, 2004


U.S. expels diplomat from Washington

The State Department said yesterday a Cuban diplomat was expelled from Washington for “activities incompatible with his diplomatic duties.”

A State Department official said Roberto Socorro Garcia, who worked in the Cuban special interests section located in the Swiss Embassy, was declared “persona non grata” on Dec. 19 and given 10 days to leave the country.

The official did not elaborate on the accusations against Mr. Garcia.

The United States cut ties with the Communist island in 1961, but both countries have operated interests sections in Washington and Havana since 1977 under the protection of the Swiss Embassy to facilitate consular relations and dialogue.


Victory claimed over Muslim militants

LAGOS — After two weeks of running gunbattles that killed at least eight persons, Nigeria said yesterday it had routed a newly emerged Muslim militant movement fighting to create an Islamic state in Africa’s most populous nation.

Two police officers and at least six of the militants died in the clashes in three towns in northeast Yobe state, including the capital, Damaturu, said Ibrahim Jirigi, a Yobe state government spokesman.

The battles saw about 200 of the Islamic extremists raid two police stations for arms, burn another, and occupy a public school building that they renamed “Afghanistan,” Mr. Jirigi said.

Nigeria’s 126 million population is made up of a largely Islamic north and a heavily Christian south.


Death sentence upheld for militant

BALI — A court has upheld the death sentence of a man convicted of planning and carrying out the 2002 Bali bombings and extended an accomplice’s 12-year prison term by three years, their lawyer said yesterday.

The Bali High Court rejected an appeal by Ali Gufron on Thursday and imposed the additional three-year sentence for Hernianto yesterday, saying he “played an important role” in helping the bombers, attorney Qadar Faisal said.

Mr. Faisal said Gufron and Hernianto, who uses a single name like many Indonesians, will appeal to the Supreme Court.

Gufron is among three militants sentenced to death for planning and carrying out the 2002 attacks in a popular nightclub district on the tourist island of Bali that killed 202 persons. The victims, about half of them vacationing Australians, included seven Americans.


Official urges U.S. to change attitude

TEHRAN — The United States must abandon efforts to undermine Iran’s clerical establishment if it wants to see an improvement in ties between the two countries, an Iranian minister was quoted as saying yesterday.

Officials in both countries have hinted at a possible thaw in their decades-old enmity in recent days after Washington sent humanitarian aid and temporarily lifted banking restrictions on donations for victims of the devastating earthquake in the Iranian city of Bam.

But Intelligence Minister Ali Yunesi, speaking to a group of local reporters, said problems between the two arch foes would not be resolved until Washington changed its stance on Iran.

President Bush has welcomed Iran’s willingness to allow humanitarian flights into the country after the quake.

But the U.S. State Department said on Friday that Iran had declined a U.S. offer to send a humanitarian mission to Bam led by Sen. Elizabeth Dole, North Carolina Republican and former chief of the Red Cross.

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