- The Washington Times - Monday, March 27, 2006

ISRAEL

Olmert pledges talks on West Bank plans

JERUSALEM — Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said yesterday that he would hold talks with the United States and other countries before any unilateral pullback in the West Bank.

Mr. Olmert says tomorrow’s elections are a referendum on his plans to evacuate isolated settlements in the occupied West Bank while strengthening larger enclaves and to establish permanent borders by 2010.

He told Israel Radio that Israelis would “define for ourselves our red lines” and then open “negotiations with the United States and the international community” on borders they would support.

THAILAND

Prime minister offers unity government

BANGKOK — Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra offered yesterday to form a unity government after April 2 elections with senior posts for opponents who are leading street protests to oust him.

“I welcome everyone to form a government to mutually tackle the problems and take part in political reforms,” Mr. Thaksin told 30,000 supporters at a rally in Bangkok.

There was no reaction from the Democrat, Chart Thai and Mahachon parties, who accuse the Thai leader of taking over institutions meant to be independent.

SOMALIA

Militias take stock as fighting relents

MOGADISHU — Islamic militiamen and rivals buried their dead yesterday during a lull after four days of combat on Mogadishu’s outskirts that killed at least 93 persons.

The fighting has been among the country’s deadliest in recent years, pitting a militia supporting hard-line Islamic clerics against fighters loyal to businessmen and Somali warlords, who have formed an alliance to oppose the religious movement.

Both sides have been fighting for supremacy in the city’s northern and northeastern outskirts since Wednesday.

GERMANY

Governing coalition poised for wins

BERLIN — Chancellor Angela Merkel’s left-right government strengthened its grip on German politics yesterday, with partial results showing the two parties in the ruling coalition likely to win three state elections.

In the first electoral test since taking office in November, Mrs. Merkel’s Christian Democrats were winning in Baden-Wuerttemberg and Saxony-Anhalt states, while the Social Democrats led in Rhineland-Palatinate.

“It was a good day for the grand coalition and for Mrs. Merkel,” Bernhard Vogel, a veteran Christian Democrat, said on ARD public television. “There are no longer any real hurdles, so long as the main parties can agree.”

JAPAN

Deal on U.S. troops will need more time

TOKYO — Japan has abandoned hopes of finalizing an agreement with Washington over the relocation of U.S. troops in Japan by the end of the month because strong differences remain over sharing the $10 billion bill, a newspaper reported yesterday.

The move of about 7,000 U.S. Marines from Okinawa island to the U.S. territory of Guam is part of a plan to streamline the 50,000 U.S. forces based in Japan and give Japan’s military greater responsibility for security in the Asia-Pacific region.

The United States wants Japan to pay 75 percent of the cost, more than twice as much as the $3 billion Tokyo has offered to pay — mostly in the form of loans for U.S. companies to cover the cost of the move — according to press reports.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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