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World in brief

Sanctions on Cuba considered

Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 17, 2003

WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration is considering a series of steps to punish the Cuban government for its recent crackdown on dissidents, officials said Wednesday.

Among the more drastic are the possibility of cutting off cash payments to relatives in Cuba -- a mainstay for millions of Cubans -- or halting direct flights to the island.

At the same time, President Bush is expected to issue a stern warning to the Havana government that the United States will not tolerate another exodus of rafters.

Also Wednesday, Cuba denounced a last-minute amendment to a U.N. human rights resolution calling for the immediate release of more than 75 Cuban dissidents imprisoned in recent weeks.

A vote at the U.N. Human Rights Commission meeting in Geneva could come today.

Ex-communist countries sign treaties to join EU

ATHENS, Greece -- Key European leaders proclaimed a leap forward for unity Wednesday, welcoming 10 members to the European Union, including eight formerly communist ones, and urging a central U.N. role in postwar Iraq.

Seeking to end months of acrimony, Britain, France, Spain and Germany drafted a statement on the U.N. role in reconstructing Iraq. The initiative calls for "a central role for the United Nations," French President Jacques Chirac said. "We are all agreed on that."

The statement came on the sidelines of a ceremony at which former Eastern bloc nations -- Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Slovenia -- along with Cyprus and Malta, signed accession treaties that will bring them into the EU on May 1, 2004.

"The European Union is finally overcoming the division of the European continent into East and West," German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said.

Sharon plans talks with new Palestinian leader

JERUSALEM -- Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Wednesday he will invite his Palestinian counterpart, Mahmoud Abbas, for talks as soon as Abbas is sworn in, and pledged not to miss an opportunity for peace created by the Iraq war.

However, Sharon set a string of conditions the Palestinians would have to meet for negotiations to succeed and was evasive on whether he would dismantle dozens of illegal outposts set up in recent years by Israeli settlers in a West Bank land grab.

Dismantling the outposts is one of the first steps Israel is asked to take as part of a U.S.-backed "road map" to Palestinian statehood in three years.

Elsewhere ...

JEWISH REPARATIONS: The French government and banks owe at least $94.7-million in reparations to Jews whose assets were seized by France's pro-Nazi regime during World War II, the Commission for the Indemnity of Victims of Despoliation said Wednesday. The finding is not binding and must be submitted to the government for final review.

MILOSEVIC TRIAL: Slobodan Milosevic's security chiefs ordered paramilitary terror campaigns in Bosnia and Croatia that were bankrolled by the former Yugoslav president, a protected witness testified Wednesday at the U.N. war crimes tribunal in the Netherlands. The witness was identified only as a secretary for the feared wartime paramilitary leader Zeljko Raznatovic, better known as Arkan.

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