- The Washington Times - Monday, February 1, 2010

NORTH KOREA

U.N. chief sending top official for talks

UNITED NATIONS | The top U.N. political official will travel to North Korea this month for wide-ranging talks with the reclusive communist state locked in a nuclear dispute with the West, the United Nations announced Sunday.

In a statement, the world body said that Lynn Pascoe, undersecretary-general for political affairs, would visit North Korea Feb. 9-12 to discuss “all issues of mutual interest and concern in a comprehensive manner.”

Mr. Pascoe, who will travel as special envoy of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, is a former U.S. ambassador to Indonesia and the most senior U.N. official in six years to visit North Korea.

Also in Mr. Pascoe’s party of four will be Mr. Ban’s deputy chief of staff, Kim Won-soo, who like the secretary-general is South Korean, U.N. officials said. The group will also visit China, Japan and South Korea.

Those three countries, along with the United States, Russia and North Korea itself, form a six-party group that discusses ending Pyongyang’s nuclear-weapons program in return for aid to the impoverished state. The United Nations is not involved in the talks but supports them.

LIBYA

Gadhafi chides AU after leadership change

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia | Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gadhafi, failing in his bid to stay on as chairman of the African Union for another year, said Sunday the pan-African grouping wasted time while failing to meet global challenges.

On the first day of a summit in Addis Ababa, Malawi’s president, Bingu wa Mutharika, was selected to succeed Col. Gadhafi, even though diplomats said Col. Gadhafi was seeking another term.

The Libyan leader used his farewell speech to again urge African leaders to begin the process of political unification, which was a large part of his agenda during his chairmanship.

He also criticized the AU for “tiring” him with long meetings and making declarations and reports without asking him.

“It was like we were building a new atomic bomb or something,” he said, referring to meetings that had lasted long into the night and that he characterized as “really useless.”

An African unity government is a goal of the AU’s founding charter. Col. Gadhafi, supported by leaders like Senegal’s Abdoulaye Wade, has been pushing for union for years, saying it is the only way Africa can develop without Western interference. But members, led by South Africa and Ethiopia, argue the plan is impractical and would infringe on sovereignty.

MEXICO

13 young students killed at party

CIUDAD JUAREZ | Armed men stormed a party in this violent Mexican border city, killing 13 high school and college students in what witnesses said they thought was an attack prompted by false information.

About two dozen teens and young adults were hospitalized after the late Saturday assault in Ciudad Juarez, a drug cartel-plagued city which is one of the deadliest in the world.

Grieving witnesses and family members said Sunday they thought the victims, mostly residents of the housing complex where the attack occurred, had no ties to drug traffickers. The students had gathered to watch a boxing match, when two trucks pulled up loaded with armed men who opened fire, they said.

YEMEN

Government rejects rebels’ truce offer

SAN’A | Yemen’s government on Sunday rejected a cease-fire offer from the country’s northern rebels and issued a fresh demand calling on the militants to pledge not to attack neighboring Saudi Arabia.

After more than five years of sporadic fighting with the rebels, Yemen has come under international pressure to quickly end the conflict to free up resources to confront a separate threat from an al Qaeda offshoot that has set up operations there over the past year.

On Saturday, the leader of the country’s northern rebels, Abdel-Malek al-Hawthi, said he is ready to accept the government’s original conditions for a cease-fire. That announcement came days after the militants declared a unilateral cease-fire with Saudi Arabia. Both declarations appear to signal an attempt by the rebels to seize on international pressure to end the conflict.

Yemen’s Supreme Defense Council on Sunday rejected that offer, but added that it was ready to halt military operations “under a certain framework.”

The council said in a statement the rebels must first comply with the government’s original cease-fire offer from September, which demanded the militants disarm, release captured soldiers and property, remove roadblocks, withdraw from strategic positions and abide by the constitution.

The government added a sixth condition Sunday - the militants must also vow not to attack Saudi Arabia.

EGYPT

26 held, suspected of plotting terrorism

CAIRO | Egypt has arrested 26 suspects who a prosecutor said belonged to a cell of the militant group Islamic Jihad and were plotting “terrorist acts” against tourists and state installations, the official Middle East New Agency reported on Sunday.

The suspects, arrested in the provinces of Mansoura and Dakahiliya on the Nile Delta, had firearms, ammunition and explosives, the agency said.

Egyptian Islamic Jihad emerged in the 1970s and carried out the 1981 assassination of President Anwar Sadat. Security analysts say it has been largely absorbed into al Qaeda, in which former Jihad leader Ayman al-Zawahri is deputy to Osama bin Laden.

CHINA

Quake damages thousands of homes

BEIJING | An earthquake that struck villages in China’s Sichuan province on Sunday killed one person, injured 15 and damaged thousands of homes, Xinhua News Agency reported.

More than 100 houses collapsed in the quake, which had an epicenter about midway between Chongqing and Chengdu. The U.S. Geological Survey recorded the earthquake as having a magnitude of 5.2.

The casualties were reported in three villages of Moxi town, near Suining City in eastern Sichuan, according to the Sichuan Provincial Earthquake Administration. Tongnan County, neighboring Suining, reported that 4,700 homes were damaged, with economic losses of about $4.5 million, Xinhua said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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