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World in brief

Negotiators mum as N. Korea talks begin

Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 24, 2003

BEIJING -- Six months after North Korea admitted to a secret nuclear program and set off a tense standoff with the United States, the two sides sat down Wednesday with Chinese diplomats in Beijing to find a way to break the impasse.

But in a sign no one expects much progress from the talks, scheduled to last three days, the Chinese and the Americans have declared the meeting off-limits to media and said they plan no briefings or statements at the end of the talks.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the first round might accomplish little beyond giving all three sides the opportunity to lay out their positions. "Everybody at the table is full and equal," he said. "It's a chance for everybody to put forward their own views."

Blair: IRA's violence last block to N. Ireland peace

LONDON -- Prime Minister Tony Blair issued a public challenge to the Irish Republican Army on Wednesday, saying its refusal to make a clean break with its violent past was the sole remaining obstacle to lasting peace in Northern Ireland.

Blair said breaking a stalemate was "frustratingly close" and the time had come when the IRA must give up its arms, halt its paramilitary activities and declare its decades-long war with Britain ended.

Blair reported no progress in getting the IRA to reconsider issuing a weapons promise despite intensive talks.

Nigerian opposition demands winner resign

LAGOS, Nigeria -- Nigeria's opposition demanded Wednesday that President Olusegun Obasanjo step down and annul last weekend's elections, which gave him a second term but were seen as deeply flawed.

Obasanjo's challengers said the vote was clearly fraudulent and threatened "massive revolt" unless he calls new elections. Obasanjo said the vote was fair and showed no sign of heeding the demands.

"I believe in the minds of many, many Nigerians, that this is a significant step forward in the history of elections in this country," he said. Obasanjo has insisted the vote was "peaceful, free and transparent."

International and local election observers have said voting was fraudulent in some states in the south and east of Nigeria, yet stressed it was too early to say whether results nationwide had been compromised.

Cuban envoy says U.S. encourages migration

WASHINGTON -- Fidel Castro's envoy to Washington accused the United States on Wednesday of trying to create a crisis between the two countries by stimulating illegal migration from Cuba.

Dagoberto Rodriguez, head of Cuba's diplomatic mission in Washington, said U.S. hostility toward Cuba has "dramatically increased" during the Bush administration, alleging U.S. outlays of $20-million to "manufacture" dissident groups on the island.

Rodriguez said the United States has not done enough to prosecute Cubans who seize planes and boats to flee the island, saying there were seven recent cases. He suggested that could lead to an epidemic of hijackings.

"The U.S. government has never acted against those cases in a very clear and committed way," Rodriguez said.

Elsewhere . . .

INDIA: A cyclone battered India's remote northeastern Assam state, killing at least 36 people and injuring 1,500, police said.

More than 5,000 people have lost their homes and moved into school and government buildings.

CYPRUS: For the first time in three decades, Greek and Turkish Cypriots crossed from one side of their war-divided island to the other Wednesday, a symbolic moment in efforts toward a peace settlement.

The Turkish side lifted its travel ban on Monday.

Cyprus has been split into a Greek Cypriot controlled south and the Turkish Cypriot north since Turkey invaded in 1974.

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