Peace talks reach for Aceh agreement
HELSINKI — Peace talks between Indonesian government officials and Aceh rebels went into overtime in Helsinki yesterday as the two sides attempted to reach an agreement that would end their decades-long conflict that has cost nearly 15,000 lives.
The talks, which got under way on Tuesday, are set to end with a press conference held by former Finnish president and mediator of the talks, Martti Ahtisaari, this afternoon.
The ongoing round, which is the fifth held in the Finnish capital since January, has been described as decisive if the parties want to sign a final peace accord next month as anticipated.
Border security to be strengthened
MONTREAL — Canada will increase spending by $355 million and recruit 270 new agents over the next five years in a program to strengthen border security, Minister of Public Safety Anne McLellan announced.
The plan will expand efforts by the Canada Border Services Agency to better address security concerns while reducing congestion at key border crossings and airports in the country, Mrs. McLellan said Friday.
One focus will be on programs that expedite border clearance for pre-approved, low-risk truck drivers, carriers and importers. The plan also targets Toronto’s Pearson International Airport for improvements in security and services.
Former prime minister called security threat
DAKAR — Former Senegalese Prime Minister Idrissa Seck, under investigation for overspending a road budget by tens of millions of dollars, was arrested yesterday as a possible threat to state security, prosecutors said.
Mr. Seck’s lawyers said that the arrest was politically motivated.
Female candidate scraps campaign
CAIRO — A feminist Egyptian presidential aspirant said she was pulling out of September elections because a recent constitutional amendment sets restrictions that make the emergence of viable candidates impossible.
Nawal el-Saadawi, 73, announced her intention to run in fall elections to try to force the government to accept multiple candidates, but the constitutional amendment that passed to allow Egypt’s first multi-candidate elections was labeled too restrictive by the opposition.
Mrs. el-Saadawi, a novelist and psychiatrist, complained about recently passed laws she said restrict political freedom. She also said she was banned from giving lectures, holding meetings in her village or appearing on state radio or TV.
Hostility against U.S. unpopular, poll shows
CARACAS — More than 70 percent of Venezuelans believe President Hugo Chavez should try to ease hostility with the United States, Venezuela’s biggest oil client, according to an opinion poll published yesterday.
While the survey by pollsters Seijas & Asociados said the left-wing president enjoyed solid support and was likely to be re-elected next year, it indicated most Venezuelans opposed any further deterioration in relations with Washington.
As part of his fiery nationalist oratory, Mr. Chavez makes almost daily verbal attacks against the U.S. government, and he has called President Bush a “jerk.”
From wire dispatches and staff reports