- The Washington Times - Friday, May 7, 2004


Top official resigns over pension scandal

TOKYO — The right-hand man to Japan’s prime minister resigned yesterday after admitting he failed to make mandatory payments into the national pension fund, fueling a government scandal just two months before parliamentary elections.

The decision by Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda — so influential he was known as the “shadow foreign minister” — surprised many lawmakers and raised questions about whether his absence would weaken Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

Mr. Fukuda’s resignation highlighted the damaging disclosure over the past two weeks that more than a third of the Cabinet members failed to pay their pension premiums — just as the government is trying to pass a bill that would hike the premiums paid by most citizens and lower retirees’ benefits.


Government denies ethnic cleansing

CAIRO — The Sudanese government yesterday rejected a human rights report that said it was responsible for crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing in the troubled western province of Darfur.

A report by Human Rights Watch said government forces “oversaw and directly participated” in massacres, summary executions of civilians, the burning of towns and villages and the forcible depopulation of areas long inhabited by Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa tribes.

Aid workers have warned of a humanitarian disaster in the vast and remote region where rebels launched an armed revolt against the government in February 2003, calling for a fairer share of power and the country’s resources.

The United Nations says regional conflict has forced more than 1 million people from their homes, while 100,000 Sudanese refugees or more have crossed into neighboring Chad.


Prime minister quits after street protests

KATMANDU — Nepal’s royalist prime minister, Surya Bahadur Thapa, announced his resignation on national television yesterday, a move the opposition said could open the way to resolving a long-running political crisis.

King Gyanendra had accepted Mr. Thapa’s resignation and had begun talks to find a replacement, the Royal Palace said.

Mr. Thapa’s resignation came after weeks of sustained and sometimes violent street protests by opposition groups.


U.S. measures termed ‘brutal’

HAVANA — Cuba’s communist government yesterday denounced President Bush’s plans to hasten its demise as “brutal” interference in another country’s affairs.

Mr. Bush took measures Thursday to reduce the flow of dollars to cash-strapped Cuba while stepping up propaganda broadcasts and support for opponents of President Fidel Castro, in power since a 1959 revolution.

The ruling Communist Party newspaper Granma reported the U.S. decisions under a banner headline: “Brutal economic and political measures against our country and against Cubans residing in the United States.”

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