- The Washington Times - Friday, March 12, 2010


Karzai welcomes role in peace talks

ISLAMABAD | Pakistan will play a major role in peace talks with the Taliban, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Thursday, apparently trying to dismiss speculation that Kabul was trying to sideline Islamabad, once a close ally of the militants.

Mr. Karzai recently made a renewed push to jump-start peace talks with the Taliban, which ruled Afghanistan until late 2001 and since then has led a bloody insurgency against the U.S.-backed government in Kabul.

Pakistan has offered to help negotiate with the militants. But many observers believe Afghanistan wants to keep Pakistan out of any talks, suspicious of Islamabad’s support of the Taliban government while the militants were in power.

Mr. Karzai tried to dispel that speculation during a joint press conference with Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani as part of a two-day trip to Pakistan - his first since he was re-elected in a fraud-marred vote last year.


Bomb kills four in northwest

PESHAWAR | A homemade bomb placed outside a store in northwestern Pakistan where locals watch movies exploded Thursday, killing four people, including a child, said officials.

The attack, which also wounded 21 people, occurred on the outskirts of Peshawar, a city near the Afghan border that experienced a wave of bombings at the end of last year but has been fairly quiet in recent months.


Law bars Suu Kyi even from voting

YANGON | Myanmar’s opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, is barred from running in upcoming elections and won’t even be allowed to vote, according to laws published Thursday.

The junta has also formally invalidated her party’s landslide win in the last elections, held two decades ago.

Mrs. Suu Kyi, who is under house arrest, has described the new laws as “repressive” and “unjust,” but remains committed to carrying on her political work, Nyan Win, a spokesman for her National League for Democracy party said.

Still, the party has yet to decide whether it will participate in the elections, for which a date has not been announced. It will be the first election since 1990, when Mrs. Suu Kyi’s party won a landslide victory.

Also Thursday, the junta announced the makeup of the Election Commission, which will oversee the elections and be headed by a former high-ranking army officer.


Protesters demand health minister quit

ULAN BATOR | Hundreds of protesters gathered in Ulan Bator’s central Sukhbatar Square on Thursday to demand the resignation of Mongolia’s health minister for failing to curtail the spread of the H1N1 strain of influenza.

The first demonstration in the heart of the capital since postelection riots in July 2008 ended peacefully, but protesters warned of further unrest if the government did not meet their demands by April 19.

Mongolians were shaken by a late but sudden onset of H1N1 in October, before the country had procured supplies of vaccine. About 30 Mongolians have died from the flu strain so far, while the country’s first donated vaccine shipment from the World Health Organization only arrived in January.

Protesters with banners also blamed Health Minister Lamjaviin Gundalai for deaths of five newborns earlier this year from infections owing to unsanitary conditions in the city’s central maternity hospital.


Former army chief to face court martial

COLOMBO | The court martial of defeated Sri Lankan presidential candidate Sarath Fonseka will begin next week on charges of engaging in politics while army chief and procurement malpractices, officials said Thursday.

Mr. Fonseka was arrested by the military on Feb 8, prompting opposition street protests in the Indian Ocean island nation.

Mr. Fonseka will face seven charges in two courts-martial, military spokesman Prasad Samarasinghe said. The first court-martial would begin on March 16.

Mr. Fonseka and President Mahinda Rajapaksa worked together in ending a 25-year war against Tamil Tiger separatists last year, but fell out soon after. Mr. Fonseka lost by an 18 percentage-point margin to Mr. Rajapaksa in the January presidential election, after which he accused the president of rigging the vote.

Sri Lanka is to hold legislative elections on April 8.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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