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World in brief

Report: Afghan poppy production triples

By wire services
Published March 5, 2005


WASHINGTON - More than three years after a pro-U.S. government was installed, Afghanistan has been unable to contain opium poppy production and is "on the verge of becoming a narcotics state," a presidential report said Friday.

The report said the area in Afghanistan devoted to poppy cultivation last year set a record of 206,700 hectares, or 510,549 acres, more than triple the figure for 2003.

The Afghan narcotics situation, "represents an enormous threat to world stability, the report said.

It listed opium production at 4,950 metric tons, 17 times more than second place Myanmar.

Opium poppy is the raw material for heroin.

The massive study, covering the illicit narcotics situation in 2004 in virtually all countries, was transmitted to the Congress by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on behalf of President Bush.

Colombia remains a major drug country, the report said, despite impressive progress. It credited Colombia's public security forces with preventing hundreds of tons of illicit drugs from reaching the world market through interdiction, spraying of coca and poppy crops and manual eradication.

The United States has been a major counterdrug partner of Colombia, having contributed billions of dollars to the effort since 2000.

Colombia is the source of over 90 percent of the cocaine and 50 percent of the heroin entering the United States, the report said.

London mayor calls Sharon a "war criminal'

LONDON - Mayor Ken Livingstone sparked anger from Israel on Friday for labeling Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon a "war criminal" less than a month after he drew criticism for comparing a Jewish reporter for a British newspaper to a concentration camp guard.

Writing in the left-wing Guardian newspaper, Livingstone responded to criticism over the earlier remark, citing what he said was his long record of opposition to anti-Semitism. But then he launched a harsh attack on the "ethnic cleansing" policies of the Israeli government.

"Ariel Sharon, Israel's prime minister, is a war criminal who should be in prison, not in office," Livingstone wrote. He also lambasted Israel's seizure of Palestinian land for settlements, military incursions into neighboring countries, and denial of the right of return for Palestinians, who he said were "expelled by terror."

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said the mayor's observations were "not worthy of an Israeli response."

German court awards $17-million to store heirs

BERLIN - A German court ruled Friday that the heirs of a once prominent Jewish-owned department store chain were entitled to compensation for what has in recent years become one of Berlin's most valuable pieces of real estate. The decision resolved one of the biggest and most bitterly disputed claims for restitution of property seized by the Nazis.

The German Administrative Court awarded $17-million to Barbara Principe and her nephew, Martin Wortham. They are the main surviving heirs of a family of German Jews that, until the war, owned and operated the Wertheim department store chain, which even today is to Berlin what Macy's is to New York.

The money awarded to Principe and Wortham, who live in New Jersey, came from the sale of a piece of property that was once part of the Wertheim empire. The property was seized by the Nazis in the late 1930s and after the war, was nationalized by East Germany. After East Germany collapsed in 1990, the land was sold by the German government to the developers of what is now one of Berlin's main showcases, the office, hotel and theater complex known as Potsdamer Platz.

But the property was also claimed by what is now Germany's largest department store chain, KarstadtQuelle, which bought the former Wertheim family businesses in 1994. Karstadt argued, in a case that has been in litigation for well over a decade, that it was the legitimate successor company to Wertheim and therefore the rightful owner of all the Wertheim land in the former East Germany.

Dutch government moves on terrorism bill

THE HAGUE, Netherlands - The Dutch government passed a new terrorism bill Friday, granting law enforcement authorities far-reaching powers of investigation and allowing them to hold suspects for up to two weeks without charges.

Intelligence agents would be able to use currently banned techniques such as infiltrating terror cells for undercover operations and telephone taps. The law, which must be approved by Parliament, also lowers the level of proof needed to hold a suspect believed to be plotting terrorist activity.

United States gives in on abortion language

UNITED NATIONS - Under intense global pressure, the United States on Friday dropped its demand to amend a declaration reaffirming the U.N. blueprint to achieve equality for women, saying it was satisfied the document did not guarantee the right to abortion.

U.S. Ambassador Ellen Sauerbrey said the United States would join other nations in approving the declaration endorsing the platform for action adopted at the 1995 U.N. women's conference in Beijing.

The U.S. amendment would have reaffirmed that the Beijing platform and a declaration adopted with it "do not create any new international human rights, and that they do not include the right to abortion."

[Last modified March 5, 2005, 00:42:15]


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