- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 11, 2004

ISRAEL

Powell to meet Palestinian official

JERUSALEM - The Palestinian foreign minister said yesterday he will meet with Secretary of State Colin L. Powell this week after President Bush sent a reassuring letter to Palestinians.

The talks would be the first high-level meeting between the two sides since Mr. Bush angered Palestinians last month by declaring that Israel could hold on to some West Bank territory in a peace agreement and that Palestinian refugees could return to a Palestinian state but not to Israel.

Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath said the meeting would take place Saturday during an international economic forum in Jordan. There was no immediate comment from Washington.

NETHERLANDS

Iraq role reviewed after soldier’s death

AMSTERDAM - The Netherlands is reviewing its participation in the U.S.-led stabilization force in Iraq after a Dutch soldier was killed in a grenade attack, the prime minister said yesterday.

Jan Peter Balkenende said the death of the soldier Monday, the first casualty among the 1,300-strong Dutch contingent in southern Iraq, was not by itself a reason to leave the country.

RUSSIA

Putin visits Chechnya after leaders killing

MOSCOW - President Vladimir Putin sought to seize the initiative in Chechnya with a lightning visit to the troubled province two days after separatist rebels assassinated its Kremlin-backed leader.

Mr. Putin ordered his government to boost the number of police in Chechnya by 1,000 and said he was dispatching an economic team to look at ways of rebuilding the region, devastated by a decade of war with Moscow.

A bombing in Grozny on Sunday killed Chechen President Akhmad Kadyrov, a key player in Mr. Putin’s peace plan for the region.

PAKISTAN

Opposition leader returned to exile

LAHORE - Exiled opposition leader Shahbaz Sharif flew into the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore yesterday, but the government immediately deported him amid an intense crackdown that has seen hundreds of his supporters arrested.

Mr. Sharif’s brother, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, was toppled by President Pervez Musharraf in a bloodless coup in 1999.

The government has said the Sharif family was exiled to Saudi Arabia in 2000 for 10 years in a deal struck after Nawaz Sharif was convicted of trying to assassinate Gen. Musharraf as the coup unfolded.

INDIA

WHO warns of AIDS ‘tidal wave’

GENEVA - India, where an estimated 4.5 million people carry the HIV virus, faces an AIDS “tidal wave” and might have overtaken South Africa as the world’s most infected country, health specialists warned yesterday.

China, where officials said over the weekend that AIDS was spreading rapidly, is also a major concern with 840,000 estimated HIV infections amid unreliable data in some areas, they added.

Senior officials from the World Health Organization, the UNAIDS agency and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria were speaking at a press conference to release WHO’s annual World Health Report.

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