Prime minister offers talks with Kosovo
BELGRADE — The prime minister yesterday offered to hold direct talks with his Kosovo Albanian counterpart, in what would be the first meeting at the top level since the United Nations took over the Serbian province in 1999.
Vojislav Kostunica proposed that the meeting, coming in advance of talks expected later this year on the future status of Kosovo, should take place on May 24 in Prizren, in western Kosovo, Beta news agency quoted his spokesman as saying.
A spokesman for Kosovar Prime Minister Bajram Kosumi said he would give an answer when he receives an official invitation.
Missile mastermind takes over Shin Bet
JERUSALEM — The man behind the contentious practice of killing Palestinian militants with missile strikes became head of Israel’s feared Shin Bet security service yesterday, taking charge of the agency at a time when it faces the additional task of watching Jewish extremists.
At his swearing-in, Yuval Diskin warned that Palestinian militants, who have been observing a cease-fire, could resume attacks at any time.
But security officials also worry that opponents of Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip might try to attack Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who is protected by Shin Bet bodyguards.
Guantanamo rumors spread to Cairo
CAIRO — Senior Islamic leaders yesterday condemned reports that U.S. interrogators had desecrated the Koran at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Newsweek magazine said in its May 9 edition that investigators probing abuses at Guantanamo Bay found that interrogators “had placed Korans on toilets, and in at least one case flushed a holy book down the toilet.”
The reports have caused uproar and resentment throughout the Muslim world, but the issue has provoked no demonstrations in Egypt, unlike in Afghanistan, where at least 16 persons have died during protests.
Troops free hundreds of abducted students
KATMANDU — Soldiers rescued about 600 students who had been abducted from their classrooms in western Nepal in a series of bold strikes by communist rebels, army officials said yesterday.
Details were sketchy about the mission in the mountainous Niskot village about 190 miles west of the capital, but army officials said soldiers reached the village by road.
No casualties were reported in the operation, and the soldiers and guerrillas engaged in no clashes. The rebels apparently fled before the army reached the village, said one official, who did not want to be named for security reasons.
Protesters march against Israeli state
RAMALLAH — Protesters marched through the streets and sirens brought traffic to a halt throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip yesterday as Palestinians mournfully commemorated the day Israel was created, calling it one of the darkest days in their history.
Although Israelis held barbecues and concerts and launched fireworks to celebrate the 57th anniversary of their independence Thursday — according to the date on the Hebrew calendar — Palestinians see the day differently, marking it as Al-Nakba, which is Arabic for “the catastrophe.”
“Our people will never forget and the generations will never forget,” Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said in a speech aired on Palestinian television.