- The Washington Times - Monday, March 28, 2005

LEBANON

Opposition approves of armed Hezbollah

BEIRUT— The top anti-Syrian opposition leader said yesterday that Hezbollah, the Damascus-backed Shi’ite Muslim group, should keep its weapons until Israel withdraws from a disputed border area.

The meeting between Druze leader Walid Jumblatt and Hezbollah chief Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, the first between the two since the killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, could signal a thaw in frosty relations between the opposition and Hezbollah.

The United States labels Hezbollah as “terrorists” and has backed a resolution by the United Nations calling for Lebanese militias to be disarmed.

NORTH KOREA

Bird flu outbreak contained to chickens

SEOUL — North Korea acknowledged an outbreak of bird flu for the first time, saying yesterday that hundreds of thousands of chickens were killed to prevent the spread of the disease and that it was not passed on to humans.

The outbreaks occurred at a “few chicken farms,” and “hundreds of thousands of infected chickens” were burned before burial, the North’s official Korean Central News Agency reported.

The short report said no breeders who work at the farms were known to have been infected. It added that government ministries were working to contain the disease’s spread.

MONACO

Prince Rainier aware as organs stabilize

MONACO — Prince Rainier III of Monaco is conscious and his heart, lung and kidney functions have stabilized, the royal palace said yesterday, as worshippers in Monaco attended Easter Mass with a special prayer for Europe’s longest-serving ruler.

The medical update came a day after the palace issued the most pessimistic report yet on the 81-year-old monarch’s prospects for survival. He remains on a respirator.

Prince Rainier “is conscious, but under sedation, which allows him to withstand respiratory assistance that is absolutely indispensable,” the palace said. The prince’s prognosis remains “very reserved,” it said.

EGYPT

Muslim Brotherhood targeted in arrests

CAIRO — Egypt has arrested about 100 members or supporters of the banned Muslim Brotherhood and yesterday blocked the group from holding a demonstration calling for political reform.

Thousands of riot police lined roads in central Cairo to stop demonstrators gathering for the protest in front of parliament. A few hundred of the protesters managed to regroup to hold demonstrations in other central Cairo locations.

The Interior Ministry said police had detained 50 protesters for refusing to disperse. It said the demonstration had not been approved and was unnecessary because Egyptians had other channels for expression.

CHINA

Chirac reassures Japan on arms sales

TOKYO — French President Jacques Chirac sought to reassure Japan yesterday that lifting the European Union’s embargo on arms exports to China would not result in an increase in weapons sales.

France has led efforts to secure an early end to the EU embargo, imposed after China’s 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations. Washington has pressured to continue the embargo.

Mr. Chirac said he had told Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in a meeting “that arms exports to China won’t take place; the same with sensitive technology.” Mr. Chirac said the reason for lifting the ban was political and that the embargo was no longer appropriate.

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