- The Washington Times - Monday, March 8, 2004

AUSTRIA

Haider surprises foes in provincial ballot

KLAGENFURT — Ultranationalist figurehead Joerg Haider won a surprise electoral victory in his home province of Carinthia yesterday, strengthening his grip on an ailing party and his influence on the coalition government.

A provisional result showed that his Freedom Party had clearly beaten its Socialist rival in a vote that should see Mr. Haider remain governor of Carinthia.

Mr. Haider, who in the past has provoked uproar by praising Nazi employment policy and former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, promised to serve his term as governor rather than try to return to national politics.

SYRIA

Minister urges U.S. to rethink sanctions

DAMASCUS — Syria’s economy minister urged the U.S. administration yesterday to reconsider plans to sanction Syria for backing Palestinian and Lebanese militant groups.

“We hope that the administration would reconsider. There is nothing better than dialogue,” said Ghassan al-Rifai, adding that sanctions could harm the interests of U.S. firms that have contracts with Syria, mainly in the oil industry.

Congressional officials said the Bush administration is leaning toward economic rather than diplomatic sanctions.

IRAN

Official urges end to U.N. nuclear probe

TEHRAN — Hassan Rohani, secretary-general of the Supreme National Security Council, called yesterday for the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency to finish a 13-month probe of its nuclear program and confirm Iran’s innocence.

The IAEA board of governors, meeting this week in Vienna, Austria, will consider a new report showing that Iran failed to report sensitive research involving advanced uranium enrichment centrifuges and potential weapons-related experiments.

Mr. Rohani said the world must accept the Islamic republic’s right to develop nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.

AFGHANISTAN

Human rights monitor accuses U.S. of abuses

KABUL — U.S. forces used excessive force during the arrests of suspected Islamic militants, resulting in avoidable civilian deaths and possibly violating international law, Human Rights Watch said in a report to be released today.

The group said at least 1,000 Afghans and foreigners had been detained since 2002 by U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan, some of them subjected to torture and denied the right to challenge their detention.

A U.S. military spokesman said coalition forces take seriously any report of wrongful behavior, but that they “are in full compliance with the law of armed conflict.”

MEXICO

Extraditions to U.S. rise sharply

MEXICO CITY — The number of suspects extradited from Mexico to the United States has jumped in the past three years, judicial officials said yesterday.

Mexico approved an average of 43 extraditions to the United States annually from 2001 to 2003, compared with an annual average of 13 in the four years to 2000, the attorney-general’s office said.

Cooperation with the United States on fighting drug trafficking and other crime has improved since Vicente Fox took over as president in 2001. He met President Bush at a summit in Texas during the weekend.

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