- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 27, 2008


North proposes military talks

SEOUL | North Korea has proposed holding military talks with South Korea in what would be the first official contact between the countries since Seoul’s new conservative government took office in February, a defense official said Friday.

The overture comes amid heightened tensions over North Korea’s decision to abandon a disarmament-for-aid pact and to begin reassembling its nuclear reprocessing plant in Yongbyon. Earlier this week, North Korea ordered U.N. nuclear monitors to leave the country and said it would reinsert nuclear material into a plutonium-producing facility within a week, causing alarm among its neighbors.

The North sent a message Thursday proposing the talks, and the South Korean government is discussing whether to accept the offer, an official at South Korea’s Defense Ministry said late Friday. The message was Pyongyang’s first official proposal for talks since South Korean President Lee Myung-bak’s administration took office in February with a pledge to get tougher on the North. The North responded by suspending all government-level talks with the South.


U.S. troops warned against incursion

ISLAMABAD | Pakistan warned U.S. troops not to intrude on its territory Friday, a day after the two anti-terror allies traded fire along the volatile border with Afghanistan.

Government spokesman Akram Shaheedi urged U.S.-led coalition forces in Afghanistan “not to violate territorial sovereignty of Pakistan as it is counterproductive to the war on terror.”

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, in New York for the U.N. General Assembly, tempered the warning by praising U.S. support for his country as a “blessing.” He spoke standing beside Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice after a meeting at the U.N. with foreign ministers of major powers.

In Washington, Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Pakistani military leaders reassured him last week they had no intention of using force against U.S. troops along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.


Thousands flee capital fighting

GENEVA | Thousands of confused, traumatized Somalis have fled the capital this week in some of the worst fighting of a 19-month insurgency, the U.N. refugee agency said Friday.

At least 16,000 people have been chased from their homes in Mogadishu, said Ron Redmond, spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. Many have crammed into the Somali town of Afgooye, which is already overwhelmed with more than 300,000 internally displaced people.


2 warlords face crimes trial

THE HAGUE | The International Criminal Court on Friday ordered two Congolese warlords to stand trial on charges including murder, rape and the use of child soldiers for their purported role in a deadly attack on a village.

The case against Germain Katanga and Mathieu Ngudjolo is only the second sent for trial at the world’s first permanent war crimes court.

They are accused of leading militias, including child soldiers, who attacked the village of Bogoro in eastern Congo in 2003. Prosecutors say more than 200 people, including women and children, were killed in the attack, many hacked to death.


Parliament adopts new constitution

ASHGABAT | Turkmenistan’s highest legislative body unanimously approved a new constitution Friday that increased the president’s powers but also broadened the role of parliament.

President Gurbanguli Berdymukhamedov hailed the reforms as a move toward greater democratization in the tightly controlled, energy-rich Central Asian nation, but exiles and observers derided the changes as superficial.

The development comes two years after the death of autocrat Saparmurat Niyazov, who had ruled with an iron fist since the Soviet era. Mr. Berdymukhamedov has implemented some reforms and moved to dispel Mr. Niyazov’s personality cult, but has left the country’s single-party system in place.

Under the new constitution approved by the Halk Maslahaty, or People’s Council, the head of state gets to name regional governors and mayors and appoint the nation’s electoral commission.


Ex-election chief goes into hiding

BISHKEK | Opposition parties said Friday that the former head of Kyrgyzstan’s election commission has fled the country after receiving death threats from the president’s son in a dispute over upcoming elections.

In a filmed statement distributed by government opponents, a woman identified as Klara Kabilova said she had resigned her post as election commission chief after coming under pressure from the president’s son, Maxim Bakiyev, to disrupt the opposition parties’ campaign for Oct. 5 local elections.

But Damir Lisovsky, acting chief of the Central Election Commission, disputed Ms. Kabilova’s account and said she had already been dismissed by presidential decree.

Critics of the government assert that President Kurmanbek Bakiyev is attempting to manipulate the October vote to install representatives of his Ak Zhol party in local governments to stave off potential street protests this winter.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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