- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 22, 2008


Sarkozy announces cut in nukes

CHERBOURG — President Nicolas Sarkozy yesterday announced a modest cut in France’s nuclear arsenal, to fewer than 300 warheads, and urged China and the U.S. to commit to no more weapons tests.

In his first major speech as president on France’s nuclear strike force, Mr. Sarkozy said atomic weapons would remain a vital component of its defenses to deter potential attackers. He singled out Iran’s expansion and improvement of its long-range missile forces amid “grave suspicions” it is developing atomic weapons.

The Federation of American Scientists said that France had 348 warheads.


Leaders to open capital crossing

NICOSIA — The Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders agreed yesterday to restart peace talks on reunifying their ethnically split island, and open a crossing in the heart of the divided capital.

Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat met for the first time since Mr. Christofias’ election last month renewed hopes that the island’s three-decade long division could be resolved.

They agreed to open a crossing at Ledra Street, a busy pedestrian shopping street in the heart of Nicosia that runs across the capital’s dividing line.


Defense officials punished for scandals

TOKYO — Japan fired its navy chief yesterday and slapped dozens of defense officials with penalties over a series of scandals, while a report found the military negligent in a deadly crash between a destroyer and a fishing boat.

Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba, who faced pressure to resign following the collision, said he would take a two-month pay cut as part of disciplinary measures.


Russian urges end to Gaza blockade

RAMALLAH — Russia’s foreign minister yesterday called for an end to the blockade of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip and demanded Israel halt settlement activity in Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Sergey Lavrov said it was “unacceptable” for Gaza to be afflicted with the blockade, imposed by Israel and Egypt after Hamas seized control of the coastal territory last June.

Mr. Lavrov arrived late Wednesday for talks in Syria, Israel and the West Bank.


F-16s grounded over cancer fears

JERUSALEM — The Israeli air force said yesterday it was suspending training flights using U.S.-made F-16I fighter jets after finding a suspected cancer-causing substance in the cockpit.

Israel informed Lockheed Martin Corp., the U.S. defense contractor that manufactures the F-16, that formaldehyde residues were leaking into the cockpit.


Major earthquake strikes west

BEIJING — A major earthquake hit a sparsely populated region of western China early yesterday. Some houses collapsed, but there were no injuries, state media reported.

The 7.2-magnitude quake occurred about 140 miles southeast of the city of Hotan in southwest Xinjiang province, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. There were four aftershocks in the region, ranging from 5.0 to 5.2 magnitude.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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