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World in brief

In peace gesture, Pakistan restores transportation to India

By Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published May 7, 2003

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - Prime Minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali said Tuesday that Pakistan would restore air, road and rail links with India after a similar offer last week from New Delhi. Both sides say the moves could lead to negotiations this year on the Himalayan province of Jammu and Kashmir, the flash point for half a century of conflict between the two nuclear-armed neighbors.

Jamali also proposed returning embassies in both capitals to full strength, called for the resumption of cricket and field hockey competition between the countries and ordered the release of Indian fishermen who have been held after straying into Pakistani waters.

"It is my hope that India will seize the moment, put aside the acrimony of the past and purposefully move forward with Pakistan to peacefully resolve all issues including the core issue of Jammu and Kashmir," he said.

The announcement was not unexpected. In New Delhi last week, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee offered to restore normal diplomatic ties and commercial air service severed in the aftermath of a December 2001 attack on India's parliament that India blamed on Pakistan-backed Islamic militants.

In that address, Vajpayee, 78, said he was making his "third and final" bid for peace and held out the prospect of negotiations, although he was noncommittal about the timing.

Feared guerrilla slain in shootout in Liberia

Sam Bockerie, one of the most feared guerrilla fighters to emerge from more than a decade of overlapping wars in West Africa, was killed Tuesday in a shootout with Liberian soldiers, the Liberian government announced.

Known as "Mosquito" because he said he sucked the life from his enemies, Bockerie, 39, had been a fugitive since March when a special court investigating atrocities in his native Sierra Leone indicted him for alleged crimes against humanity, including mass murder, enslavement, mutilation and rape.

Tuesday in Monrovia, Liberia's capital, the spokesman for Liberian President Charles Taylor announced Bockerie's death, saying Taylor's erstwhile ally was killed while resisting arrest.

War crimes suspect pleads guilty and will testify

THE HAGUE, Netherlands - A Bosnian Serb captain set to go on trial at a U.N. tribunal this week for the 1995 massacre of thousands of Muslims pleaded guilty to war crimes Tuesday and agreed to testify against three other defendants.

In exchange, prosecutors dropped the most serious charge of genocide against Momir Nikolic, a member of the Bratunac Brigade that participated in the executions of more than 7,000 Muslim men and boys in the Bosnian enclave of Srebrenica at the end of the 1992-1995 Bosnian war.

According to the prosecution document detailing the deal with Nikolic, he acknowledged "the murder of over 7,000 boys and men between 16-60," as well as cruel treatment, destroying Muslim property in and around Srebrenica and other charges.

The agreement recommended he be sentenced to 20 years in prison, while his defense attorneys pressed for 10 years. His sentence will be decided after the other trials end.

Blair's approval ratings get small bounce from Iraq

LONDON - British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who turned 50 Tuesday, woke up to a poll showing a "Baghdad bounce" in his ratings.

In a poll published in the Times of London, voters rated the leaders of the three major British parties on a scale of 1-to-10, from very bad to very good. Blair earned an average of 5.75, up from 5.17 in March, before the invasion of Iraq was launched, and 5.02 in February.

Nearly a third of British voters gave him an 8 or higher. Three months ago, fewer than a fifth of voters though he was that good.

Turk, American cleared of bombing plot charges

HEIDELBERG, Germany - A court cleared a Turkish man and his American girlfriend Tuesday of charges that they planned to bomb a U.S. military base in Germany around the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, but sentenced the man to 18 months in prison on lesser charges.

Osman Petmezci, 25, was initially charged with planning to attack the U.S. Army's Criminal Investigation Department or a store on the base in Heidelberg. The base is home to 16,000 U.S. troops and dependents stationed mainly with the Army's European headquarters and the V Corps' headquarters.

His girlfriend, Astrid Eyzaguirre, 23, was charged with being an accessory.

Prosecutors conceded Tuesday they lacked evidence to uphold the bomb plot charges against the defendants, who worked on the base. But it convicted Petmezci of illegally possessing explosives, theft and unrelated drug violations.

Iran denies it has a secret nuclear weapons policy

VIENNA, Austria - A top Iranian official denied his country had a nuclear weapons program but told the United Nations Tuesday Iran was not willing to submit to tougher inspections of its facilities.

The United States has accused Iran, which is building a centrifuge plant at Natanz in southern Iran, of having secret plans to make nuclear weapons. It fears Iran could enrich weapons-grade uranium at the site.

Iran's atomic energy chief Gholamreza Aghazadeh told the U.N. nuclear watchdog group that Iran's nuclear program was "only for peaceful purposes," a diplomat who attended the meeting said.

Aghazadeh told 135 members of the the International Atomic Energy Agency at the closed door meeting that Iran need the facilities to make its nuclear fuel, according to the diplomat.

Elsewhere . . .

AFGHANISTAN: Dozens of Afghans demonstrated in Kabul Tuesday, complaining the government and the United States haven't done enough to rebuild the country or provide jobs and security.

The peaceful protest on a busy street in the center of Kabul drew a crowd of several hundred onlookers. Demonstrations are rare in Afghanistan, a conservative Islamic nation.

PHILIPPINES: The Philippine government withdrew Tuesday from informal talks with Muslim rebels after Sunday's guerrilla attack that killed 22 soldiers and civilians.

Government negotiators were scheduled to meet with Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels Friday in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said the meeting will wait "until we can establish more auspicious circumstances to move the peace process forward."

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