- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 18, 2006


U.N. chief criticizes Yasukuni Shrine visits

TOKYO — U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said yesterday that Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s visits to Yasukuni Shrine, dedicated to Japan’s war dead since the imperial restoration of 1868, have raised regional tensions, and hinted that Japan should try to ease its strained ties with China and South Korea.

At a press conference here, Mr. Annan voiced hope that relations among the three countries will improve through dialogue and that they will be able to put their differences behind them and move forward.

The U.N. chief said Mr. Koizumi’s visits to the Shinto shrine “raised some tensions in the region” and had “not helped” Japan’s goal to become a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council. Mr. Annan suggested that the three countries make “bold, generous gestures” to settle their issues and move on.


Bird flu response lacks animal focus

JAKARTA — The fight against the bird flu virus should focus on preventing infection in animals to prevent transmission of the disease to humans, a senior Food and Agriculture Organization official said yesterday.

The H5N1 virus remains essentially an animal disease, but it has killed 115 persons worldwide, most of them in East Asia, since 2003. All victims caught the disease through contact with poultry.

Jacques Diouf, FAO director-general, said most spending so far has been earmarked for preventing a human pandemic, rather than limiting bird flu infection among poultry. “People are stocking Tamiflu and providing services at hospitals instead of giving priority to the disease, which is an animal disease,” Mr. Diouf said at a press conference.


Mekong forum seeks ways to curtail floods

PHNOM PENH — Representatives of Mekong River countries gathered yesterday in Cambodia to consider ways to prevent or minimize human suffering and economic losses caused by floods, especially through more efficient flood forecasts.

The two-day Mekong Flood Forum, held annually since 2002, is being held in the northern town of Siem Reap.

“Today, the existing flood forecasting and warning systems in the Mekong River Basin are not yet adequate,” said Olivier Cogels, head of the Mekong River Commission secretariat.

Weekly notes …

Taiwanese leader Chen Shui-bian and his ruling Democratic Progressive Party have seen their approval ratings sink to new lows amid a string of corruption scandals, according to surveys published yesterday. A midweek telephone poll by the United Daily News showed just 20 percent of respondents approved of Mr. Chen’s performance as president, the lowest level since he won the 2000 election and ended 50 years of one-party rule. … An inquiry into Iraqi sanctions-busting took a dramatic turn yesterday when officials issued a statement in which Australia’s national wheat exporter admitted paying about $220 million in bribes to Saddam Hussein’s regime. The former Australian Wheat Board, now known as AWB, said in a statement that it had paid money to the former dictator’s government in contravention of U.N. sanctions to secure $2.3 billion in wheat contracts under the United Nations’ oil-for-food program, which let Iraq export oil to buy food and medicine.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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