- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 16, 2004


Communist Party discusses succession

BEIJING — China’s Communist Party opened a four-day, closed-door meeting yesterday that will decide whether military chief Jiang Zemin completes a leadership succession by passing on his last post to party chief Hu Jintao.

Behind-the-scenes rivalry between Mr. Hu, 61, who succeeded Mr. Jiang as party chief in 2002 and president in 2003, and his aging but still influential predecessor has emerged subtly in recent weeks.

But analysts said the rivalry was unlikely to blow up into a full power struggle because both see stability as indispensable to sustainable growth in the world’s seventh-largest economy.


President escapes assassination attempt

GARDEZ — Afghan President Hamid Karzai escaped an assassination attempt yesterday when a rocket was fired at his U.S. military helicopter as it was landing in the southeastern town of Gardez.

The rocket flew over Mr. Karzai’s helicopter as he was about to touch down at a school, where a crowd of about 400 supporters had gathered to meet him. No one was injured, witnesses said.

The incident was the most serious known threat to Mr. Karzai since he escaped a Sept 5, 2002, assassination attempt in the southern city of Kandahar.


Palestinian official kidnapped, then freed

GAZA CITY — Palestinian gunmen kidnapped a top security official and held him for several hours in the Gaza Strip yesterday in a fresh challenge to Palestinian President Yasser Arafat’s rule amid a wave of unrest.

Brig. Gen. Mohammad Al-Batrawi, an Arafat appointee and chief of financial surveillance for his security apparatus, was released unharmed after being abducted by armed men from the Palestinian leader’s own Fatah movement, witnesses said.

Unprecedented turmoil has been fueled by a power struggle ahead of a planned Israeli pullout from occupied Gaza Strip and by growing disaffection after four years of an uprising that has brought bloodshed but little prospect of a Palestinian state.


Human rights called a low priority

LONDON — North Korea’s government acknowledges that it puts a lower priority on human rights than the West, a British minister just back from Pyongyang said yesterday.

Foreign Office Minister Bill Rammell said he showed the North Korean government satellite photos of prison camps and urged it to accept a visit by U.N. rights inspectors.

“North Korean ministers admitted to me that they attach a much lower priority to human rights than we do. And they admitted the existence of ‘re-education’ through labor camps,” he said.

Mr. Rammell became the first British minister to visit North Korea, after the communist government there agreed to include human rights on the agenda for discussion.


‘Da Vinci Code’ banned for insulting Christians

BEIRUT — Deeming its contents insulting to Christianity, Lebanese authorities have banned “The Da Vinci Code,” a novel that has drawn harsh criticism — and millions of readers — with its depiction of Jesus Christ marrying Mary Magdalene and fathering a child.

American author Dan Brown’s fast-paced, globe-trotting thriller was pulled off shelves around Lebanon on the orders of the General Security Department this week after the Catholic Information Center, which speaks for Lebanon’s Catholic community, recommended that it be banned.

The 2003 work of fiction portrays Roman Catholic leaders as demonizing women for centuries and covering up the truth about the Holy Grail, which the book says is Mary Magdalene herself.

Mr. Brown’s book, which has sat atop the New York Times best-seller list for months, has sold more than 7.5 million copies worldwide and is expected to be made into a movie.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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