- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 2, 2010

PAKISTAN

Taliban promise proof leader is alive

DERA ISMAIL KHAN | Taliban militants in Pakistan promised Monday to soon prove their leader was still alive, dismissing as government propaganda reports he may have died from injuries sustained in a U.S. missile attack close to Afghanistan.

State television reported Sunday that Pakistan Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud had died of injuries sustained in a drone strike earlier this month in the lawless frontier zone. The report was apparently based on witnesses who said they attended his funeral last week.

But a close aide to Mehsud called the report of his death “government propaganda” and said he was “doing well.”

“We will try in a day or two to give you proof that he is alive,” the commander told the Associated Press by telephone from an undisclosed location.

Mehsud’s predecessor, Baitullah Mehsud, was killed a similar attack in August last year. The Pakistani Taliban issued similar denials after he was killed, only admitting his death after the group chose Hakimullah Mehsud as his successor three weeks later.

KOREAS

Officials meet on industrial complex

SEOUL | Officials from the two Koreas met Monday in North Korea to discuss their joint industrial complex just days after an exchange of gunfire at sea emphasized the constant security threat on the divided peninsula.

North Korea lobbed dozens of shells toward the western sea border last week, prompting South Korea to respond with a barrage of warning shots. Pyongyang called it a military exercise, and South Korean officials reported no casualties or damage.

Despite the flare-up in tensions, officials met at the North Korean border town of Kaesong as scheduled to discuss how to further develop their joint factory park. Talks ended Monday without any significant progress. The sides agreed instead to discuss South Korea’s perennial request that border crossings be eased for its workers at separate military talks, the Unification Ministry said.

VATICAN CITY

Pope to visit Britain this year

VATICAN CITY | Pope Benedict XVI confirmed Monday he would visit Britain later this year, a trip that follows his move to welcome into the Roman Catholic Church groups of Anglicans upset over the ordination of gays and women.

No dates were announced. Officials at both the Vatican and in Britain say the visit is planned for September. It will be the first papal visit to Britain since Pope John Paul II visited in 1982.

Benedict confirmed his plans in a speech to visiting British bishops. He urged the bishops to help disaffected Anglicans who want to convert to Catholicism.

The Vatican announced last October it was making it easier for Anglicans to become Catholic, essentially creating independent dioceses for converts who could still maintain certain Anglican traditions, including having married priests.

JAPAN

Discord remains on ‘Rape of Nanking’

TOKYO | Japan acknowledged its wartime military caused tremendous damage to China in the “Rape of Nanking” massacre, but the two sides failed again to agree on the death toll, a joint study obtained Monday said.

The massacre was one of the worst incidents during Japan’s invasion of China in the first half of the 20th century, with Beijing claiming as many as 300,000 people died, but Tokyo saying the toll was far less.

The report was written by Japanese and Chinese historians appointed by the two governments. In it, Japanese scholars confirmed Japan’s Imperial Army “massacred” war prisoners, soldiers and citizens in the city of Nanking, now called Nanjing, in the December 1937 attack, and committed repeated rapes of women, arson and looting.

The Japanese listed figures ranging from 20,000 to 200,000. China put the death toll at more than 300,000.

ISRAEL

Officers disciplined for Gaza attack

JERUSALEM | The Israeli military said Monday it has reprimanded two high-ranking officers for approving the firing of artillery shells toward a U.N. compound during the Gaza Strip war last year — the first admission of any high-level wrongdoing during the offensive.

Israel announced the punishment in a document submitted to the United Nations last Friday in response to a U.N. report that has accused Israel’s military of committing war crimes, including the use of white phosphorus, an incendiary munition, in the warehouse attack.

Israel is trying to stave off the report’s central threat of launching war-crimes proceedings if it does not carry out an independent investigation into the military’s conduct during the fighting.

The artillery attack, which took place while more than 700 Palestinian civilians were taking refuge in the compound, set ablaze a warehouse that services more than 1 million Gazans, destroying thousands of pounds of food and other aid.

UNITED NATIONS

U.S., Russia resume START talks

GENEVA | U.S. officials said Monday they have resumed talks with Russian negotiators in Geneva on a new nuclear-arms reduction deal.

The long-running talks about a successor to the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty were supposed to be finished before it expired on Dec. 5. It limited the number of nuclear warheads and carrier systems each side could deploy.

A spokesman for the U.S. mission in Geneva, Michael Parmly, said Monday that the 50-member U.S. delegation hopes “the remaining negotiations can be concluded quickly.”

He declined to predict when the deal might be concluded. The Russian Foreign Ministry said last week that it hoped to reach an agreement in “just a few weeks.”

CHINA

Beijing sticks to hard line on Tibet

BEIJING | China stuck to its hard line in its first talks with Tibetan envoys in 15 months, refusing to discuss changes to the Himalayan region’s status and thus dashing hopes of a breakthrough.

Chinese negotiator Du Qinglin said Monday he told the Dalai Lama’s representatives that Beijing was only willing to address the future of the exiled spiritual leader — not any greater autonomy for Tibet.

Mr. Du, head of the United Front Department of the Communist Party, the government department that handles the talks, said China’s national interest was inviolable, and “there can be no room for discussion, no room for compromise” on territorial issues.

China maintains that Tibet has been part of its territory for centuries, but many Tibetans say the region was functionally independent for much of its history.

NIGERIA

Al Qaeda offers to arm, train Muslims

CAIRO | The leader of North Africa’s al Qaeda branch offered training and weapons to Nigeria’s Muslims to fight the Christians there following an outbreak of sectarian violence.

Abdelmalek Droukdel, leader of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, in a statement posted on an Islamic Web site Monday, accused Nigeria’s Christians of killing hundreds of Muslims in a “Crusader war.”

Droukdel promised to train Muslim youths, supply them with weapons and equipment.

“We are ready to train your sons on using weapons, support them with men, weapons, ammunition and equipment to enable them to defend themselves,” he said, exhorting Nigerians to “push your sons into the fields of jihad to become the fighting vanguard in defense of the Muslims’ blood and honor.”

Violence between Christians and Muslims in central Nigeria left 326 people dead late last month, but Droukdel, also known as Abu Musab Abdul-Wadud, maintained that more than 500 innocent Muslims were killed.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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