- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 28, 2004

AFGHANISTAN

Elections delayed until September

KABUL — Afghanistan’s landmark national elections, which were scheduled for June, will be delayed until September, President Hamid Karzai said today.

Mr. Karzai said the delay was needed to allow the United Nations to hold both presidential and parliamentary elections at the same time. “We are ready to manage both elections, for the parliament and presidency, in September,” he said.

Officials had warned repeatedly that the elections might be delayed because of logistical problems and security fears.

NORTH KOREA

U.S. demand on nukes rejected

SEOUL — North Korea yesterday rejected a U.S. demand for a “complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantling” of its nuclear weapons programs, calling it a plot to start a war and overthrow the government.

The North’s reiteration of its hard-line posture comes after Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing met reclusive North Korean leader Kim Jong-il earlier this week.

Mr. Li later said the two agreed to “push forward” toward a third round of six-nation talks on North Korea’s nuclear programs.

North Korea’s state-run Radio Pyongyang, monitored by South Korea’s Yonhap news agency, said yesterday that it would never accept the U.S. demand that it first dismantle its nuclear facilities.

North Korea says it will allow nuclear inspections and dismantle its atomic facilities only if the United States provides economic aid and written guarantees that U.S. forces will not invade.

IRAN

U.N. inspectors return after ban

TEHRAN — U.N. nuclear agency inspectors returned to Iran yesterday for the first time since Tehran reversed a decision to bar them because of accusations the country was hiding some banned activity.

The International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors will inspect two nuclear facilities and quiz top Iranian officials on the country’s atomic program. They are trying to verify Iran’s claims that its nuclear activity is for peaceful purposes only.

NIGERIA

Election violence leaves 40 dead

LAGOS — Nigerians stayed away from local council polls yesterday after at least 40 persons were killed in two days of violence, undermining confidence in the country’s 5-year-old democracy.

Turnout for the first local elections since the end of military rule in 1999 was low across Africa’s most populous country, witnesses said, as people stayed at home to avoid trouble amid widespread disillusionment with recent votes.

The latest killings topped two months of rising violence in the West African oil exporter by rival factions vying for control of municipal governments and the share of the nation’s oil wealth that goes with it.

KUWAIT

Shi’ite cleric favors ‘Passion’ screening

KUWAIT CITY — A top Shi’ite cleric yesterday urged Kuwait to let Mel Gibson’s controversial film, “The Passion of the Christ,” be shown in this conservative Muslim state because it “reveals crimes committed by Jews against Christ.”

Movie theaters in this small oil-rich state are owned by a state company, and the Information Ministry has to approve films to be screened.

Ayatollah Mohammed Baqer al-Mehri, who heads the congregation of Shi’ite clerics in Kuwait, told the Associated Press that Sunni Muslims, who control Kuwaiti politics, do not approve of personalizing prophets in movies, but many senior Shi’ite clerics do not object.

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