- The Washington Times - Friday, February 17, 2006

SRI LANKA

Talks next week mean peace or war

KILINOCHCHI — Talks between Sri Lanka and Tamil Tigers next week will determine whether there is peace or war, the rebels said, branding President Mahinda Rajapakse’s refusal to consider a separate Tamil homeland as “childish.”

Suspected rebel attacks in December and January all but destroyed a Norway-brokered 2002 cease-fire, but violence fell after the two sides agreed to meet in Switzerland. The rebels said that did not mean the country was further from a return to a two-decade civil war.

“That is totally dependent on the outcome of this meeting,” S.P. Thamilselvan, head of the political wing of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, told Reuters Wednesday. Asked whether the talks would decide if Sri Lanka is headed toward peace or war, he said: “Yes.”

PAKISTAN

Musharraf hits killing of 3 Chinese

ISLAMABAD — President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz strongly condemned Thursday the killing of three Chinese engineers, and police said they had arrested 50 suspects.

In separate messages to their Chinese counterparts, the Pakistani leaders called Wednesday’s shooting by gunmen on motorcycles in Baluchistan province an act of terrorism and promised to catch the killers.

“I wish to assure you that all those involved in this terrorist act will be tracked and meted out the most severe punishment,” Gen. Musharraf said in a message to Chinese President Hu Jintao.

The killings came just before the Pakistani leader was to leave for China on a five-day visit to strengthen economic, political and defense links between the two regional allies.

BANGLADESH

Asbestos-lined ships turned away

DHAKA — Bangladesh Thursday banned the asbestos-lined cruise ship SS Norway from being dismantled in its shipyards, Environment Minister Tariqul Islam said.

The announcement came a day after French President Jacques Chirac ordered the warship Clemenceau, also insulated with asbestos and on its way to India for scrapping, back from the Indian Ocean.

Weekly notes …

The United Nations refugee agency accused Ukraine Thursday of forcibly deporting 11 Uzbek asylum-seekers to their homeland in violation of international law and said it feared they would be tortured. Uzbekistan requested the extradition of the men for purported involvement in protests in May at Andizhan where witnesses say 500 persons, mostly unarmed civilians, were killed by troops. … Lightning killed nine persons and injured 25 during a thunderstorm in northeastern Bangladesh Thursday, police said. The victims were laborers at a stone quarry near Sylhet; police said several bolts of lightning struck the quarry over a period of 15 minutes.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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