- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 17, 2005

EGYPT

Palestinian groups agree to truce

CAIRO — Palestinian militant groups agreed yesterday to a truce with Israel until the end of the year on the condition that Israel halts violence against Palestinians and frees prisoners, participants at a meeting in Cairo said.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon called the announcement “a positive first step” but emphasized that “in order for there to be progress in peace efforts, terrorist organizations cannot continue to exist as armed groups and certainly not as terror organizations.”

In Washington, State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said the militants’ move fell short of U.S. demands that they renounce violence.

RUSSIA

Privatization czar survives attack

MOSCOW — Anatoly Chubais, the powerful head of Russia’s state-controlled electricity monopoly and architect of its much-maligned 1990s privatization push, survived a roadside bombing and ambush yesterday when an armored limousine carrying him to work was raked by gunfire after an explosion.

A retired Russian army colonel and explosives specialist was detained hours later, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported.

Mr. Chubais, 49, is the head of Unified Energy Systems.

VENEZUELA

Chavez backtracks from criticism of U.S.

CARACAS — Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said yesterday that he wanted to carry on selling oil to the United States and backtracked from recent harsh criticism of his country’s main energy client.

Mr. Chavez’s softer line followed his return a week ago from a tour to Uruguay, India and France during which he almost daily repeated accusations of a U.S. assassination plot and threatened a rupture in Venezuelan oil supplies to the United States.

“This is all hypothesis. When did I ever say that?” Mr. Chavez said in response to a reporter’s question about the threats to cut oil supplies.

“We want to keep sending 1.5 million barrels of oil a day to the United States,” he said. “We want to keep on doing business with the United States.”

EUROPEAN UNION

Regulators stop Hezbollah TV

BRUSSELS — Hezbollah’s al-Manar television channel, branded a terrorist organization by the United States, will not be available on European satellites from Monday onward, media regulators said yesterday.

The announcement came at a meeting of the European Union’s broadcasting regulators in Brussels, where national watchdogs from the 25-country bloc agreed to step up action against TV broadcasts that incite hatred or promote racism and xenophobia.

Last year, a French court banned al-Manar from a satellite owned by France’s Eutelsat. Dutch regulators discovered that a satellite owned by New Skies Satellites was carrying al-Manar even though the channel did not have the required Dutch license.

BULGARIA

Troops in Iraq to be cut by June

SOFIA — Bulgaria said yesterday that it would reduce the number of its troops in Iraq by about one-quarter in June and decide this month whether to pull out completely by the end of the year.

The Balkan U.S. ally has sent 450 infantrymen to Iraq. Eight Bulgarians have been killed in Iraq since the start of the war, and the shooting of a junior sergeant by U.S. forces last week triggered calls for Bulgaria to set a timetable to pull out.

Italy, Ukraine and Poland also signaled they were eager to scale down their presence.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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