- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 20, 2005

IRAQ

Ukraine quitting U.S.-led coalition

KIEV — Ukraine began pulling its remaining 876 troops out of Iraq yesterday, the Defense Ministry said, making it the latest nation to wind down its presence in the U.S.-led coalition.

The multinational force has unraveled as the death toll rises and angry publics clamor for troops to leave. In the months after the March 2003 invasion, the coalition numbered about 300,000 troops from 38 countries: 250,000 from the United States and 50,000 from other countries.

Now the nearly 160,000-member U.S. force in Iraq is supported by fewer than 24,000 mostly noncombat personnel from 27 countries. Ukraine initially sent 1,650 troops to the U.S.-led force.

SYRIA

Damascus willing to discuss border

CAIRO — Syria said yesterday it is prepared to discuss with the Lebanese the issue of their common border, but only after bilateral relations improve.

“We should not pre-empt issues on the agenda of bilateral ties between Syria and Lebanon,” Foreign Minister Farouq al-Shara told reporters during a press conference with his Egyptian counterpart, Ahmed Aboul Gheit.

MOROCCO

Girls as young as 5 exploited as workers

RABAT — Tens of thousands of Moroccan girls, trapped by family poverty and lack of schooling, endure widespread abuses as maids toiling out of sight in the privacy of their employers’ homes, a human rights group said yesterday.

In a 60-page report titled “Inside the Home, Outside the Law: Abuses of Child Domestic Workers in Morocco,” New York-based Human Rights Watch cited cases of girls as young as 5 working 100 hours per week with no rest breaks or days off for 6.5 Moroccan dirhams [71 U.S. cents] per day.

Children working in Morocco, most of them in agriculture and the carpet industry, are officially estimated at 600,000, but human rights activists put their number higher.

Weekly notes …

Vice President Dick Cheney canceled a visit yesterday to Egypt, where he was to meet with President Hosni Mubarak, but did not provide an explanation. “The vice president was called to Washington on official business,” U.S. Embassy spokesman John Berry said. Mr. Cheney left Pakistan, where he offered U.S. support to earthquake victims, ending a tour that took him to Iraq and Afghanistan. … Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon yesterday left the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem, where he was taken Sunday after suffering a stroke. He declared himself fit for a March 28 election contest pitting him against archrival Benjamin Netanyahu. Mr. Sharon told reporters he was in a hurry to get back to work and telephoned Mr. Netanyahu to congratulate him on being elected.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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