- The Washington Times - Monday, March 22, 2004

PAKISTAN

Mediators visit al Qaeda holdouts

WANA — Military forces agreed yesterday to allow a 25-member tribal council free passage into a battle zone to negotiate a deal with elders sheltering hundreds of al Qaeda fighters, but insisted that they would never back off a demand that the militants be handed over.

The military thinks that a “high-value” target is hunkered down in the besieged area in South Waziristan, but says it is not certain whether it is Ayman al-Zawahri, or another terrorist.

The tribal peace council is to travel to the region today under the protection of a white flag, said Brig. Mahmood Shah, chief of security for the area.

FRANCE

Ruling party suffers in regional vote

PARIS — Voters dealt a solid blow to France’s governing conservatives yesterday in the first round of regional elections, giving the leftist opposition about 40 percent of the vote and boosting the extreme right, according to unofficial results.

Exit polls showed the party of President Jacques Chirac receiving 34 percent of the vote, while the extreme right received about 17 percent.

EL SALVADOR

Conservative asserts win in presidential vote

SAN SALVADOR — The American-backed candidate in El Salvador’s presidential election declared victory yesterday over a former Communist Party guerrilla leader, based on the first official returns.

With about 36 percent of the vote counted, Tony Saca of the Nationalist Republican Alliance, or ARENA, won 59.3 percent of the vote, enough of a margin to avoid a May 2 runoff, according to the returns. His challenger, Schafik Handal of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, or FMLN, received about 32.8 percent, according to the first results announced by the Supreme Electoral Council.

Mr. Saca took calls of congratulations on his cell phone from Guatemalan President Oscar Berger and Nicaraguan President Enrique Bolanos while making the announcement at a news conference before any national vote returns were announced.

SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO

Boys interred amid high tension

CABRA — Thousands of mourners gathered at a wind-swept hilltop cemetery yesterday to bury two ethnic Albanian boys whose drowning sparked Kosovo’s deadliest violence in five years.

As many as 7,000 mourners attended despite NATO checkpoints every 10 miles along the road to Cabra, where people were warned to turn back.

The drowning of Egzon Deliu, 12, and Avni Veseli, 11, triggered days of rioting by ethnic Albanian mobs against Serbs they blamed for the deaths.

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