- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 27, 2007

JAPAN

Leader apologizes for forced prostitution

TOKYO — Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, under criticism for denying that Japan forced women to work as sex slaves during World War II, offered a fresh apology yesterday but stopped short of clearly acknowledging the government’s responsibility for the brothels.

“I express my sympathy toward the ‘comfort women’ and apologize for the situation they found themselves in,” Mr. Abe told a parliamentary debate, using the euphemism preferred by Japanese politicians.

His remarks fell short of demands made by victims that Mr. Abe clearly acknowledge that the wartime military forced the women into prostitution.

Historians say that as many as 200,000 Asian women, mostly from Korea and China, worked in military-run brothels. Victims say they were forced into the brothels by the Japanese military and were held against their will.

EGYPT

Turnout is low in referendum

CAIRO — Turnout was low yesterday in a rushed referendum on amending the Egyptian Constitution, changes the government has touted as democratic reforms but critics dismiss as attempts to curtail rights and consolidate the regime’s power.

The amendments would abolish emergency laws, allow election supervision by an independent commission and ban political parties based on religion in this key U.S. ally.

The opposition, led by the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood, boycotted the vote, saying the amendments would only cement control by President Hosni Mubarak, who has ruled unquestioned for a quarter century.

IRAQ

Suspected leaders of car-bomb ring held

BAGHDAD — Suspected leaders of a car-bombing ring thought responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Iraqis in the Shi’ite Sadr City enclave and elsewhere in Baghdad have been captured, the U.S. military said yesterday.

Haitham al-Shimari, suspected in the “planning and execution of the majority of car bombs,” and Haidar al-Jafar, the “second-in-command” of the cell, were rounded up by U.S. forces last week in Azamiyah, the Sunni stronghold in northern Baghdad.

COLOMBIA

U.S. lawmakers offer help with hostages

BOGOTA — Left-wing Colombian rebels said they have accepted an offer from U.S. lawmakers to witness negotiations to free 61 hostages, including three Americans, that they have held for years in secret jungle camps.

Seven Democratic members of the House wrote a letter to Colombia this month offering to accompany any future negotiations with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, which has been fighting since the 1960s.

The offer to assist in any talks is led by Rep. Jim McGovern, Massachusetts Democrat, who met with families of kidnap victims in Colombia this month.

PAKISTAN

Taliban backers get another ‘peace’ deal

KHAR — Pakistani authorities, tribal elders and pro-Taliban militants yesterday signed the latest in a series of peace deals in the troubled frontier area, officials said.

The deal was signed in Bajaur, one of Pakistan’s seven federally administered tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, where al Qaeda’s No. 2 man, Ayman al-Zawahri, escaped an air strike in January 2006.

The tribesmen and militants agreed not to give foreign gunmen safe haven in the area or allow “subversive” activities, while the authorities pledged not to make arrests without consulting the elders, officials said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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