- The Washington Times - Monday, August 21, 2006

NORTH KOREA

Top peace negotiator said to have died

SEOUL — North Korea’s point man on relations with the South and one of the key players in the communist state’s warming ties with Seoul died yesterday, the North’s official Korean Central News Agency said.

Rim Tong-ok was for many years thought to be a mastermind of Pyongyang’s spy operations against the South during the Cold War. But his most recent role was confirmed when he appeared beside leader Kim Jong-il at a summit in Pyongyang six years ago with Kim Dae-jung, who was the South Korean president at the time.

“Comrade Rim Tong-ok … gave everything for the unification of the fatherland and the victory of the great revolution,” KCNA said.

WEST BANK

Israeli troops seize another Hamas leader

RAMALLAH — Israeli forces seized a senior Palestinian legislator yesterday as part of a seven-week-old crackdown against the ruling Hamas movement.

Troops and agents of the Shin Bet intelligence agency grabbed Mahmoud al-Ramahi, a senior Hamas member and secretary-general of the Palestinian parliament, at his Ramallah home, the military said.

A physician by training, Mr. al-Ramahi is the fourth-ranking member of the parliament, dealing with administrative and procedural affairs.

GAZA STRIP

Public appeals issued for Fox journalists

GAZA CITY — An envoy of New Zealand and the brother of an American reporter made separate televised pleas Sunday urging militants to release two Fox News journalists kidnapped last week in the Gaza Strip.

American correspondent Steve Centanni, 60, and cameraman Olaf Wiig, 36, of New Zealand were seized Aug. 14 from their TV van near the Palestinian security services headquarters in Gaza City.

The New Zealand envoy, Peter Ridder, said Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh had personally assured him that returning the men safely was a top Palestinian government priority.

AFGHANISTAN

71 Taliban suspects killed in gunbattle

KANDAHAR — Police backed by NATO aircraft and artillery killed 71 Taliban suspects in fierce clashes that also left five Afghan forces dead in southern Afghanistan, officials said yesterday.

The insurgents had attacked police in Panjwayi district in southern Kandahar province late Saturday, said Niaz Mohammad Sarhadi, the district chief, in one of the bloodiest clashes since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion.

CONGO

Runoff reports spark gunbattles

KINSHASA — President Joseph Kabila’s guards fought gunbattles yesterday with forces loyal to election challenger Jean-Pierre Bemba in Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, after poll results showed the two would have to enter a run-off.

Figures in from all but one constituency in the huge country showed that the postwar vote was headed for a runoff between Mr. Kabila and Mr. Bemba.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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