- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 14, 2004

ISRAEL

Netanyahu backs referendum on Gaza

JERUSALEM — Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s attempt to speed up a withdrawal from the Gaza Strip was undercut yesterday by his main political rival, Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who called for a national referendum that could delay or even scuttle the pullout.

Mr. Sharon’s minority government could fall over a crucial budget vote in March, and he is trying to move up the evacuation of 21 settlements in Gaza and four in the West Bank from late next year to the beginning of 2005.

Critics said Mr. Netanyahu’s real motive was to postpone the pullout past March, hoping that a new government would kill it.

Political sources said Mr. Sharon remained opposed to a referendum on the issue.

Meanwhile, the Israeli military killed three members of Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, linked to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s Fatah faction, in an air strike in the West Bank city of Jenin.

AFGHANISTAN

U.N. workers quit Herat; 22 militants die

KABUL — U.S. troops and helicopter gunships killed 22 militants, including three Arab fighters, in the southern province of Zabul, the military said yesterday, the latest bloodshed ahead of historic Afghan elections next month.

Meanwhile, the United Nations withdrew dozens of staff from the western city of Herat a day after mobs ransacked its offices. The mob violence came after President Hamid Karzai fired the city’s warlord governor.

NORTH KOREA

Regime ‘committed’ to new nuke talks

BEIJING — North Korea is committed to holding talks with the United States and four Asian powers aimed at resolving the crisis over its nuclear-weapons program, but has not indicated when it will return to negotiations, British Foreign Office Minister Bill Rammell said today.

Mr. Rammell briefed reporters in China after a four-day visit to Pyongyang.

“At the end of those discussions, what was clear to me was that the North Koreans were saying they were still committed to the six-party talks process, but weren’t prepared to commit to a date,” he said.

“I simply said to them, ‘You have got to come back to the table.’” the British diplomat said.

SUDAN

Europe threatens sanctions over Darfur

BRUSSELS — The European Union said yesterday it will impose sanctions on Sudan if it does not take adequate steps to disarm Arab militias accused of pursuing a campaign of killings, rape and pillage in western Darfur region.

The United Nations underlined the dramatic effects of the conflict in Sudan’s Darfur region in a report yesterday that said up to 10,000 people were dying each month from disease and violence inside camps for the dis-placed.

ITALY

‘Peace tent’ on hostages defaced

ROME — Giant photographs of two Italian charity workers held hostage in Iraq were stolen early yesterday, and a “peace tent” set up near one of their homes was also vandalized, officials said.

Authorities vowed to replace the pictures, which were on display outside the provincial government in Rome in a show of support for Simona Pari and Simona Torretta, who were kidnapped last week in Baghdad.

Rainbow “peace” flags that had covered a “Peace Tent” near the home of Miss Torretta were ripped down and swastikas drawn on it.

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