- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 13, 2009


Troop cutback eyed in Kashmir

SRINAGAR | As violence ebbs in Kashmir, India is planning to withdraw some troops from towns across the disputed Himalayan region, the country’s minister for home affairs said Friday.

Kashmir is a core issue between rivals India and Pakistan, and tens of thousands of people have been killed in the mainly Muslim region since a rebellion against Indian rule broke out there in 1989.

A partial withdrawal would mark the first troop reduction in the region’s urban areas since separatists started their campaign 20 years ago.

Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram did not give a time frame for any withdrawal. He said responsibility for maintaining law and order in towns and cities would be handed to local police.

There are an estimated 500,000 Indian troops in Jammu and Kashmir, more than 40 percent of the army.

The move to reduce troop numbers comes after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said this week he was ready to meet Pakistan “more than halfway” if Pakistan cracked down on militants. Islamabad welcomed Mr. Singh’s comments.


U.S. ship helps search for MIAs

HANOI | A U.S. Navy ship is participating in a search for the remains of more than 1,000 American servicemen missing from the Vietnam War, the first time an American vessel has taken part in such efforts, embassy officials said Friday.

The USNS Bruce C. Heezen, an oceanographic survey ship, is conducting a search mission off the coast of Vietnam, part of an ongoing effort between the two countries to recover the remains of more than 1,300 American servicemen still unaccounted for in Vietnam.

The United States and Vietnam have been working together to account for missing U.S. servicemen since the 1980s. The current search is their 95th mission. It began May 25 and is scheduled to end on June 24.

Nearly 1,800 U.S. servicemen are still unaccounted for throughout Southeast Asia following the Vietnam War, which ended in 1975. Some 1,336 are unaccounted for in Vietnam alone.


Plane searchers face bad weather

RECIFE | Military ships and planes struggled in worsening weather Friday to find more bodies and debris from the Air France jet that likely cracked apart over the Atlantic Ocean. On the coast, investigators examined corpses and received the first wreckage: two plane seats, oxygen masks, water bottles and several structural pieces, some no bigger than a man’s hand.

The jetliner went down May 31 with 228 people on board. So far, 44 bodies have been recovered.


AIDS activist dies at 24

CAPE TOWN | South African health activist Thembi Ngubane, whose radio diaries of her struggle against the AIDS virus won her audiences and admiration around the world, has died of tuberculosis at 24.

Joe Richman, who produced the diaries and became her friend, said Ms. Ngubane had drug-resistant TB that was diagnosed too late to save her. She died Tuesday, leaving behind a 4-year-old daughter.

Ms. Ngubane fought a very public battle against HIV. She was 19 when she was given a tape recorder to make an audio diary about living with the disease. National Public Radio in the United States aired the tapes in April 2006, on her 21st birthday. She subsequently went on a five-city tour in the U.S., meeting former President Bill Clinton and speaking to students, lawmakers, doctors and celebrities.


Thatcher breaks arm in fall

LONDON | Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher broke her arm in a fall Friday and was being kept in a hospital for observation, her office said.

Mrs. Thatcher’s office said the 83-year-old politician fractured a bone in her upper arm after tripping at home. She was treated at London’s Chelsea and Westminster Hospital.

Britain’s first female prime minister, Mrs. Thatcher led the government from 1979 until 1990. Her daughter Carol said last year that her mother was suffering from dementia.


Qataris bow to Prince Charles

LONDON | Developers who wanted to build a glass-and-steel tower on the site of a former army barracks in London said Friday they have abandoned their plans in the face of opposition from Prince Charles.

The Qatari royal family is funding the redevelopment of the Chelsea Barracks through the company Project Blue (Guernsey) Ltd., and had hired architect Richard Rogers to design a modern tower on the site.

British media reported that Charles contacted the Qatari royal family to persuade them to back a more traditional building.

Project Blue said in a statement Friday that it had withdrawn its planning application for the site and that it would now work with Charles’ architectural charity, The Prince’s Foundation for the Built Environment, to draw up new plans.


Local elections test for new party

RABAT | Moroccans voted nationwide Friday in local elections viewed as a test for a new, pro-monarchy party that aims to boost reform and involvement in politics in the North African kingdom - despite likely widespread abstention and fears of electoral fraud.

The vote is an important milestone because town officials yield significant power and budgets in Morocco, a U.S. ally viewed as among those making the largest strides toward democracy and transparency in the Arab world.

About 13 million people were eligible to elect nearly 28,000 town and village councilors from among 130,000 candidates fielded by 30 parties, the Interior Ministry said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports.

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