- The Washington Times - Monday, January 5, 2004

NORTH KOREA

Offer to end nuclear program

SEOUL - North Korea offered today to refrain from producing nuclear weapons as a “bold concession” in trying to rekindle six-nation talks on the standoff over its nuclear-weapons programs. Pyongyang also said it was willing to halt its nuclear activities for peaceful purposes.

The move comes as the United States, China, Russia, Japan and the two Koreas scramble to arrange a new round of negotiations, with South Korea and Russia saying they are unlikely this month.

North Korea has said before it is willing to freeze its “nuclear activities” in exchange for U.S. aid and being delisted from Washingtons roster of terrorism-sponsoring nations.

ISRAEL

Sharon heckled by hard-liners

TEL AVIV — Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, facing down rightist hecklers at a meeting of his Likud Party, vowed to pursue unilateral steps to disengage from Palestinians if a U.S.-backed “road map” peace plan fails.

His initiative to dismantle some isolated Jewish enclaves while retaining larger settlement blocs behind a West Bank barrier has split the Likud, whose members range from the moderate to ultra hard-line.

His speech was interrupted at one point by hard-line hecklers who reject any thought of a Palestinian state and are outraged at his statements that some Jewish settlers will have to move whatever plan is put into effect.

WEST BANK

U.S. aid refused over antiterror terms

RAMALLAH — Palestinian aid groups have refused to accept money from the U.S. government because of a requirement that they sign a pledge that the money would not be used for terrorism, organizers said yesterday.

The U.S. Agency for International Development has given Palestinian groups $1.3 billion in the past decade and is a key source of funding for the cash-strapped organizations.

But USAID enacted the antiterrorism-pledge requirement at the end of 2002.

The Non-Governmental Organization Network, an umbrella group that includes 89 Palestinian aid groups, is leading the effort against signing the document, saying the United States should not be allowed to define terrorism.

IRAQ

Reporters freed from U.S. detention

BAGHDAD — Three Iraqis working for Reuters news agency and one employed by NBC were released yesterday after being detained by American soldiers since last week.

The four were taken Friday near Fallujah, west of Baghdad, close to where a U.S. Kiowa helicopter had been shot down. One pilot was killed and one wounded.

Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, the senior U.S. military spokesman in Iraq, said on Friday that guerrillas posing as journalists had fired on American paratroopers.

AFGHANISTAN

Gunmen attack U.N. refugee agency

KANDAHAR — Gunmen attacked the office of the U.N. refugee agency yesterday, throwing a grenade and firing shots but causing no injuries.

In a day of violence, U.S. forces engaged in a firefight and bombarded a secret drug laboratory.

The attack on the Kandahar office, shortly after 9 p.m., was the latest in a series of assaults on the United Nations and other aid organizations that have made much of the country off-limits for development workers.

LIBYA

U.S. sanctions remain in place

President Bush yesterday refused to lift U.S. sanctions against Libya, saying Col. Moammar Gadhafi must take concrete steps to fulfill a pledge to scrap his country’s chemical and nuclear weapons programs.

Mr. Bush said he was keeping in force a declaration of national emergency issued by President Reagan in 1986 when Washington blocked Libyan assets in the United States, accusing Col. Gadhafi’s regime of sponsoring terrorism.

The U.S. sanctions have denied Libya access to hundreds of millions of dollars in property and bank assets, according to U.S. estimates.

Mr. Bush said in a written notice that Libya’s promise last month to abandon weapons of mass destruction marked “an important and welcome step toward addressing the concerns of the world community.”

“Libya’s agreement marks the beginning of a process of rejoining the community of nations, but its declaration of December 19, 2003, must be followed by verification of concrete steps,” he said.

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