- - Tuesday, November 27, 2012

RAMALLAH — Yasser Arafat’s political heirs on Tuesday opened his grave, and foreign specialists took samples of the iconic Palestinian leader’s remains as part of a long-shot attempt — eight years after his mysterious death — to determine whether he was poisoned.

Arafat died in November 2004 at a French military hospital, a month after suddenly falling ill at his West Bank compound, at the time besieged by Israeli troops.

The immediate cause of death was a stroke, but the underlying reasons were unclear, leading to widespread belief in the Arab world that Israel poisoned the 75-year-old symbol of Palestinian nationalism. Israel has denied involvement in Arafat’s death.

A probe was revived this past summer, when a Swiss lab detected elevated traces of a lethal radioactive substance, polonium-210, in biological stains on his clothing. The lab said the tests were inconclusive and that it needed to examine the remains.


Chavez to return to Cuba for cancer treatment

CARACAS — Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez plans to return to Cuba to continue treatment for cancer, the president of the National Assembly said Tuesday.

Mr. Chavez, who was first diagnosed with cancer in 2011, asked the legislature to authorize his absence Tuesday to travel to Cuba, Assembly President Diosdado Cabello said.


Rebels refuse to leave key eastern city

GOMA — Congo’s M23 rebels defied a deadline imposed by neighboring nations Tuesday, saying they will stay in the eastern city of Goma and will fight the Congolese army to hold it.

Congo’s military spokesman Col. Olivier Hamuli called it “a declaration of war,” and said the army will resume combat, although he declined to say when.

Highlighting the volatility of the situation, a different rebel group based in Congo, known as the FDLR, crossed into neighboring Rwanda and attacked Rwandan army positions, according to villagers, eyewitnesses and Rwanda’s military spokesman.

The actions raised the possibility that Congo was directly retaliating against Rwanda, its much-smaller but more affluent neighbor, which has twice gone to war with Congo and which now is believed to be directing the M23 rebellion.


Rebels: Peace talks are going well

HAVANA — A senior commander of Colombia’s main rebel group said Tuesday that days of intensive peace talks with the government are going well, the clearest signal yet that the half-century-long conflict may eventually be resolved.

Jesus Santrich noted that negotiators from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the government, meeting in Havana, already have agreed to support a broad forum in Bogota in December to discuss agrarian development, which has been an issue in the class-based conflict.

Participants say the forum agreement is significant because it means both sides have accepted a basic framework for the negotiations centered upon six themes including land reform, victim compensation, drug trafficking and reinsertion of the rebels into society.


‘Dirty War’ trial to start this week

BUENOS AIRES — A trial involving 800 cases of human rights abuses during Argentina’s 1976-1983 military junta is set to open Wednesday, chronicling the use of torture and killings during the dictatorship.

“There are 68 defendants charged in 800 cases, and we estimate there will be some 900 witnesses,” rights attorney Rodolfo Yanzon said, adding that testimony could take between 18 and 24 months.

Some 30,000 people were kidnapped, tortured and killed in what became known as Argentina’s “Dirty War,” according to rights groups. Victims included Montonero guerrillas, labor union leaders, students and leftist sympathizers.


Rich, poor nations spar at climate talks

DOHA — The first signs of tensions emerged at the U.N. climate talks Tuesday, as delegates from island and African nations chided rich countries for refusing to offer new emissions cuts during the next eight years that could help curb global warming

The debate mostly swirled around the Kyoto Protocol — a legally binding emissions cap that expires this year and remains the most significant international achievement in the fight against global warming.

Countries are hoping to negotiate an extension to the pact, which runs until at least 2020, but several nations including Japan and Canada have said they won’t be part of a new one.

Marlene Moses, chairwoman of a coalition of island countries, said she was “gravely disappointed” with rich nations, charging they have failed to act or offer up any new emissions cuts for the near term.

The United States, for example, which is not a signatory of Kyoto, has said it would not increase earlier commitments to cut emissions by 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.


Security dominates talks in Central Asia

BISHKEK — Security issues dominated talks between the European Union’s top envoy and Central Asian diplomats Tuesday, as the looming withdrawal of the international military coalition from Afghanistan raises the specter of regional instability.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said after a meeting with regional foreign ministers in Kyrgyzstan, host of a vital U.S. air base, that Europe’s increasing interest in Central Asia is based on shared security challenges.

Ms. Ashton said she wants to see deeper cooperation on energy and trade with Europe, but avoided addressing what advocacy groups say are worsening political freedoms in Central Asia.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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