- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 15, 2006

LIBERIA

Britain offers to hold Taylor

LONDON — Britain promised yesterday to hold Liberia’s Charles Taylor in prison if he is convicted of war crimes, paving the way for the West African country’s former president to be tried in The Hague.

Mr. Taylor, one of Africa’s most feared warlords, is awaiting trial at a United Nations-backed war-crimes tribunal in the capital of Sierra Leone, Liberia’s neighbor. He faces 11 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The United Nations-backed court had asked the Netherlands to hold the trial at the International Criminal Court because of security concerns but needed a third country to volunteer as his jailer.

Britain’s announcement is subject to approval by Parliament. The Netherlands said its conditions for a trial in The Hague had been met, although it did not have a time frame.

AFGHANISTAN

Anti-Taliban offensive starts; bomb kills 7

KANDAHAR — A bomb exploded aboard a minibus carrying Afghans to work at a coalition air base yesterday, killing seven, as U.S.-led forces launched a sweeping anti-Taliban offensive across southern Afghanistan.

The morning rush-hour bombing marked the first major attack targeting Afghan coalition employees. The bomb, which also wounded 17, was hidden inside a bus that takes workers daily to Kandahar Airfield, headquarters for coalition troops in the south.

More than 10,000 Afghan, U.S., British and Canadian troops began a large-scale operation in the southern provinces of Uruzgan, Helmand, Kandahar and Zabul. Operation Mountain Thrust, the largest offensive since the 2001 invasion that toppled the Taliban regime, is timed to coincide with the upcoming transfer of command in the south from the U.S.-led coalition to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force.

SOMALIA

Islamists, government agree to peace talks

SAN’A, Yemen — The heads of Islamic militias and the interim government in Somalia have backed Yemen’s proposal for talks to bring peace to the lawless nation, where U.S.-backed warlords have been routed by the militias, a Yemeni official said yesterday.

The head of Islamic Courts Union, Sharif Hassan Sheik Aden, and President Abdullahi Yusuf agreed to the proposal for talks inside Somalia or in a neighboring country during telephone conversations with Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, said the official, who requested anonymity.

The two men backed dialogue because “it is liable to bring about an understanding and establish security and stability in Somalia,” the official said, without saying whether a date for talks had been set.

The transitional government set up in 2004 has been powerless to bring peace to the anarchic Horn of Africa nation, where the Islamic militias have seized control of Mogadishu.

INDIA

Diplomat pushed for top U.N. post

NEW DELHI — India nominated author and career U.N. diplomat Shashi Tharoor yesterday to succeed Kofi Annan when the secretary-general’s second five-year term ends this year. New Delhi said it strongly supported the principle of regional rotation under which the next chief should be from Asia.

Mr. Tharoor, 50, has been a diplomat at the United Nations since 1978 and is serving as undersecretary-general, heading the Department of Public Information. Born in London and educated in India and the United States, he is the author of several books.

Others Asians in the running include South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon, Thai Deputy Prime Minister Surakiart Sathirathai and Sri Lankan diplomat Jayantha Dhanapala.

CHINA

Tons of coal tar pollute river

BEIJING — Cleanup crews in northern China were scrambling yesterday to absorb 60 tons of toxic coal tar from a river before it reaches a reservoir serving 10 million people, the state press said.

The accidental dumping occurred Monday when a truck carrying the coal tar fell into the Dasha river in Shanxi province, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

Cotton batting, sponge, straw and activated carbon were being used to try to absorb the coal tar — a substance linked to cancer — before it reaches the Wangkuai Reservoir of Baoding city.

THAILAND

40 bombs rattle restive south

BANGKOK — Suspected Muslim insurgents exploded more than 40 bombs in attacks on government offices across Thailand’s restive south yesterday, killing at least two persons as Deputy Prime Minister Chitchai Wannasathit visited the region, officials said.

At least 16 persons were injured in the blasts, most of which went off between 8:30 and 9 a.m. as people headed to work in the three Muslim-majority provinces of Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala, said Yala Gov. Boonyasit Suwanarat.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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