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Archive for Saturday, December 13, 2003

Briefly

December 13, 2003

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JERUSALEM

Qureia confident he can reach deal with Israel

Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia said Friday he was eager to meet his Israeli counterpart Ariel Sharon and was confident he could reach a peace deal, even as a Hamas leader told thousands of supporters the militant group would launch a new wave of suicide bombings.

The threat of renewed terror attacks on Israelis comes less than a week after Qureia and Egyptian mediators failed to persuade Hamas and other militant groups to halt attacks in an effort to broker a cease-fire.

Israeli leaders, meanwhile, have been warning that time is running out for a peace agreement and they might be compelled to impose a solution.

Belgium

EU eases up on plans for military command

The European Union scaled down plans for its own military command Friday to ease U.S. concerns about NATO unity, as leaders of 25 countries haggled over a first-ever EU constitution intended to boost their global clout.

The defense deal aims to end months of bickering over a French-German proposal for an independent EU military headquarters.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who brokered the deal while keeping President Bush apprised, said he was pleased with the outcome.

Netherlands

Three denominations to form single church

Three Dutch Protestant churches formally agreed Friday to put aside their ideological differences and merge, the culmination of a process that began more than 40 years ago.

The Dutch Reformed Church, the Calvinist Reformist Church, and the small Lutheran Church will unite to form the Protestant Church of the Netherlands. They represent about 2.2 million churchgoers.

In much of the country, the churches already have merged in practice for some time.

The synods of the three churches approved the merger by large majorities at three separate meetings in Utrecht, 30 miles southeast of Amsterdam, Dutch television reported.

Norway

Killer whale star of "Free Willy" dies

Keiko, the killer whale made famous by the "Free Willy" movies, has died in Norwegian coastal waters where he remained after millions of dollars and a decade of work failed to coax him back to the open sea, his caretakers said.

The whale, who was 27, died Friday afternoon after the sudden onset of pneumonia in the Taknes fjord. He was old for an orca in captivity, though wild orca live about 35 years.

David Phillips, executive director of the San Francisco-based Free Willy-Keiko Foundation, said Keiko had been in good health but started to show signs of lethargy and loss of appetite on Thursday.

"This is a long sad day for us," Phillips said.

TOKYO

Japan pledges $3 billion in southeast Asian aid

Japan pledged $3 billion in new aid to southeast Asia on Friday and promised to work with the region to bolster security ties, liberalize trade and create a broad "economic partnership."

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi announced the aid in a joint declaration released on the final day of a two-day regional summit with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Australia

Briton offers fuel to pilot in Antarctica

A British pilot forced by bad weather to abandon her bid to fly around the world over both poles said Friday she had offered fuel to an Australian aviator stranded in Antarctica.

Polly Vacher's offer would defuse a spat between Australia and its two closest allies, the United States and New Zealand. They have all refused to refuel Jon Johanson's homemade plane, which he flew over the South Pole a week ago. Johanson is stuck at the U.S.-New Zealand McMurdo-Scott base in Antarctica without enough gasoline to return to New Zealand.

After Vacher's offer to let Johanson use fuel Vacher had stored, Johnson was expected to fly his plane back himself today.

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