- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 29, 2008

ZIMBABWE

Military on alert ahead of vote

HARARE — Soldiers took to the streets with armored cars and water cannons yesterday as Zimbabwe’s security chiefs warned that they were ready to confront any violence during today’s crucial presidential election in this economically wrecked African nation.

President Robert Mugabe, the 84-year-old leader, is facing his toughest challenge since he won power in 1980. Running against him are opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, 55, who narrowly lost the disputed 2002 election, and former ruling party loyalist and finance minister Simba Makoni, 58. Preliminary results are not expected until Monday.

CHINA

Foreign diplomats visit Tibet

BEIJING — China yesterday allowed the first foreign diplomats to visit Tibet following deadly riots, as European nations appeared split on the idea of boycotting the Beijing Olympics opening.

Two weeks after protests in the Himalayan region turned deadly, diplomats from 15 embassies, including those of the United States, Britain, France and Japan, arrived in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, for a hastily arranged tour.

The United States welcomed the move but President Bush later urged China to hold talks on the situation with representatives of the Himalayan territory’s exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.

COLOMBIA

Government offers rebels for hostages

BOGOTA — Colombia has offered to suspend the sentences of jailed guerrillas if rebels first free hostages including former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt.

Peace Commissioner Luis Carlos Restrepo said late Thursday that the liberation of some captives could jump-start the process of exchanging guerrillas for dozens of hostages, including three U.S. defense contractors.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Colombia’s largest rebel group, released six hostages earlier this year to missions led by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and the Red Cross. But the rebels have been quiet about a possible prisoner swap since March 1, when Colombian troops killed their chief spokesman and 24 others in a bombing raid in neighboring Ecuador.

LEBANON

U.N.: Criminal gang behind Hariri killing

NEW YORK — The chief U.N. investigator says former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was assassinated by a criminal network that is linked to other killings in Lebanon.

Daniel Bellemare said in his first report to the U.N. Security Council yesterday that evidence indicates the so-called “Hariri Network” existed before his assassination on Feb. 14, 2005.

He said the evidence also indicates it conducted surveillance of the former prime minister, and that at least part of the network continued to operate after he was killed along with 22 others in a bombing in Beirut.

CHINA

Hong Kong activist quits politics

HONG KONG — Hong Kong’s best-known democracy advocate said yesterday he will end his political career but keep pressing for greater rights, a campaign that has already led Beijing to brand him a traitor.

Martin Lee, 69, said he will not run for re-election in the local legislature in September. His high-profile campaign for direct elections in Hong Kong has made him a champion of human rights to many in the West and a reviled troublemaker to China. He was first elected to the local legislature in 1985.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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