- The Washington Times - Friday, February 23, 2007


Seoul to assume troop command

The United States and South Korea agreed yesterday that by 2012 the South Koreans will be responsible for commanding their military in wartime.

Under the half-century-old alliance that began with the U.S.-led military response to North Korean invaders in 1950, South Korea would put its forces under U.S. command if war should break out again.

After a meeting yesterday between Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and South Korean Defense Minister Kim Jang-soo, the countries announced that South Korea, starting April 17, 2012, would keep wartime command of its own forces, with the U.S. military acting in support.

The United States, fighting draining wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, originally pushed for the transfer to be made by 2009, but South Korea wanted to take more time.


Blair lobbies U.S. for missile site

LONDON — Prime Minister Tony Blair is lobbying the United States to consider locating part of its anti-missile system in Britain, his office said yesterday.

The United States has also announced discussions with Poland and the Czech Republic about building parts of the missile defense infrastructure in those countries.

A Blair spokesman said “conversations” with Washington on considering Britain as one of the sites for the plan are “at a very early stage.”


Talks with U.S. near on missile defense

WARSAW — Poland stepped closer to hosting U.S. anti-missile rocket systems on its soil despite Russian objections by formally agreeing yesterday to start detailed negotiations with Washington.

The United States is building a global, multibillion-dollar “anti-missile shield” to shoot down ballistic missiles that could be launched by what Washington calls “rogue regimes.”

Last month, it asked Poland and the Czech Republic, former Soviet satellites in Central Europe who are now part of NATO and the European Union, to host parts of the system.


3 foreign reporters lose credentials

HAVANA — Cuban press authorities have told the Havana correspondents for the Chicago Tribune, the British Broadcasting Corp. and the Mexican newspaper El Universal that they can no longer report from the island.

The Chicago Tribune said correspondent Gary Marx, based in the country since 2002, was told Wednesday that his stories were too negative. His press credentials were not renewed during an annual process, and he and his family were given 90 days to leave Cuba, the newspaper said.

Jose Luis Ponce, director of Cuba’s International Press Center, said yesterday that the government would have no immediate comment on the correspondents’ status. Havana in recent years has grown increasingly sensitive about how the international press portrays the communist-run nation.


Briton wins lawsuit over passport

KUALA LUMPUR — A court ordered Malaysia’s government to pay a 69-year-old British man $857,000 for seizing his passport and preventing him from leaving the country for almost 17 years, news reports and an official said yesterday.

Ronald Beadle’s passport was confiscated by the Inland Revenue Department in December 1981 after authorities claimed he had failed to settle income tax payments while working in Malaysia, the Star and New Straits Times newspapers reported.

The High Court cleared Mr. Beadle of the accusations in 1998 and said he was free to reclaim his passport.


Sinkhole swallows homes, 2 killed

GUATEMALA CITY — A 330-foot-deep sinkhole killed two teenage siblings when it swallowed about a dozen homes early yesterday and forced the evacuation of nearly 1,000 people in a crowded Guatemala City neighborhood.

Officials blamed the sinkhole on recent rains and an underground sewage flow from a ruptured main. The two bodies were found near the enormous fissure, floating in a river of sewage.

The pit emitted foul odors, loud noises and tremors, shaking the surrounding ground. A rush of water could be heard from its depths, and authorities feared it could widen or others could open up.


Red Cross rules out testimony on Darfur

GENEVA — The international Red Cross would never testify in any Darfur war crimes trial before the International Criminal Court because of the group’s long-standing pledge of neutrality, its president said yesterday.

The International Committee of the Red Cross has the largest presence of any aid group in Darfur, but Jakob Kellenberger said he would never make public the observations of its nearly 2,000 Sudanese and international staff working in the country.

The issue is a sensitive one for the ICRC, which is frequently criticized for refusing to go public about atrocities, most notably during the Holocaust at the time of World War II.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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