- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 3, 2009

GUINEA-BISSAU

Two assassinations threaten democracy

BISSAU | The army denied staging a coup Monday after soldiers assassinated veteran President Joao Bernardo Vieira in apparent reprisal for a bomb blast that killed the head of the military.

Soldiers gunned Mr. Vieira down as he fled his home in the early hours of Monday following turmoil in which the army chief was killed in a bomb explosion hours before, military officials said.

The West African nation’s army blamed Mr. Vieira, 69, for the death of its leader, Gen. Tagme Na Waie, military spokesman Zamora Induta told Agence France-Presse.

Mr. Vieira’s supporters and the army fought in the capital, Bissau, on Sunday, and rocket explosions and automatic-weapons fire could still be heard in the early hours of Monday.

CUBA

Raul Castro revamps Cabinet

HAVANA | Cuban President Raul Castro on Monday replaced several members of his Cabinet, putting his own stamp on government in Havana one year after assuming power from older brother Fidel.

In a sign that he is emerging from the shadow of the former president and revolutionary icon, Mr. Castro, 77, fired Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque and Cabinet chief Carlos Lage, two longtime lieutenants under the elder Mr. Castro.

The move most notably replaces Mr. Perez Roque, Havana’s chief diplomat since May 1999 with a vice minister, Bruno Rodriguez.

Mr. Lage retains his post as one of Cuba’s vice presidents of the Council of State, but has been replaced by Gen. Jose Amado Ricardo Guerra as Cabinet chief.

PAKISTAN

Taliban rescinds girl schooling ban

MINGORA | Girls in Pakistan’s Swat Valley can attend school but must wear veils that cover their heads and faces, a top official said Monday after the government pledged to impose Islamic law in the area during much-criticized peace talks with Taliban militants.

Provincial Chief Minister Amir Haider Khan Hoti also said the government would do its best to install religious judges by mid-March - a deadline demanded by a hard-line cleric mediating the talks.

Taliban fighters in the Swat Valley have destroyed scores of schools for girls in fighting that stretches back more than a year, and at one point declared a ban on female education in the one-time tourist haven.

The Swat Taliban and the military agreed last month to an open-ended cease-fire after months of fighting, which has killed hundreds and displaced up to one-third of the valley’s 1.5 million residents.

NORTH KOREA

New ultimatum issued by Pyongyang

SEOUL | North Korea demanded Monday that the United States call off its annual military exercises with South Korea, a report said as rare talks between the North and U.N. forces ended without clear progress on defusing tensions.

South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said the North made the demand during talks with the U.S.-led U.N. Command at the Korean border village of Panmunjom, held for the first time in nearly seven years. It came amid fears that North Korea is gearing up to test-launch a missile thought capable of reaching U.S. territory.

North Korea has routinely condemned the regular U.S.-South Korea military drills as preparation for an invasion, although the allies have said they have no intention to attack.

IRAN

U.S. journalist jailed for lacking credentials

TEHRAN | Iran said Monday that a U.S. journalist who was recently detained in the country was engaged in “illegal” activities because she continued working after the government revoked her press credentials in 2006.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hasan Qashqavi did not specify why Roxana Saberi’s credentials were revoked and refused to say whether the 31-year-old freelance journalist, who has reported for National Public Radio and other media outlets, was in prison.

NPR said Sunday that Iran revoked Ms. Saberi’s press credentials more than a year ago, but apparently let her report short news stories.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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