- The Washington Times - Monday, March 19, 2007

NORTH KOREA

U.S., Pyongyang resolve funds dispute

The United States and North Korea have resolved a dispute over $25 million in frozen North Korean funds in a Macao bank that had threatened to hold up nuclear-disarmament negotiations, a top U.S. official said today.

Deputy Assistant Treasury Secretary Daniel Glaser said the funds would be transferred to a Bank of China account in Beijing to be used for education and humanitarian purposes in North Korea.

The North Korean deposits have been frozen in the Banco Delta Asia since Washington blacklisted the tiny, privately run Macao-based bank 19 months ago on suspicion the funds were connected to money laundering or counterfeiting.

Washington promised to resolve the issue by mid-March as part of an agreement last month. On Saturday, North Korea’s nuclear envoy said Pyongyang would not shut down its main nuclear reactor until the funds were released.

CUBA

Women of dissidents pledge to fight on

HAVANA — Wives and other female relatives of 59 imprisoned Cuban dissidents promised to fight on for their men’s release yesterday, four years after they were imprisoned on charges of conspiring with the United States.

About 50 members of the group, which calls itself the Ladies in White, marched through Havana’s Miramar district and called for March 18 to be named International Prisoner of Conscience Day.

GAZA STRIP

Abbas names ally as security chief

GAZA CITY — Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, in his first decree after joining a unity government with Hamas, yesterday appointed the Islamist group’s long-time foe to oversee the divided security forces.

The appointment of Mohammed Dahlan, one of the most powerful Fatah leaders, as national security adviser elevated his official role in the chaotic security hierarchy at a time when both sides say they want to bring an end to factional fighting.

“We know it is a difficult mission, and it will not be easy, but it has been placed as a first priority for the unity government,” Information Minister Mustafa al-Barghouthi said.

EGYPT

Opposition boycotts constitution debate

CAIRO — Opposition lawmakers boycotted the start of a parliamentary debate yesterday on constitutional amendments they say will further tighten President Hosni Mubarak’s grip on power.

Mr. Mubarak is seeking a slate of 34 changes in the constitution, part of what his government calls a program of democratic and economic reform.

But the opposition has denounced the changes, saying they do not guarantee free elections and make permanent tough anti-terror powers that the president can use against his opponents.

IRAQ

Navy to purchase 21 new vessels

BAGHDAD — The Iraqi navy plans to buy 21 new vessels under a $220 million acquisition plan, including four new patrol ships from Italy costing about $100 million, U.S. and British navy officers said yesterday.

U.S. Capt. Michael Zamesnik, part of the transition team working with the Iraqi navy, said the force was expected to expand from about 1,200 personnel to between 2,000 and 2,500 by the end of 2010.

The Iraqi navy has been critically short of seaworthy ships to patrol potential insurgent targets such as the Basra oil terminal and its smaller sister, the Khor al-Amaya terminal.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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