Archive for Saturday, August 21, 2004

Briefly

August 21, 2004

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LONDON

Remodeled Diana fountain opens

Dip, don't wade.

Devotees of Princess Diana got their first look Friday at the remodeled fountain built in her honor, now encircled with a security fence fitted with signs warning against wading -- and a rougher bottom just in case someone does.

The $6.5 million fountain, above, was closed July 22 after it clogged with leaves and three people, including a child, slipped and injured themselves.

The reviews, like those for most things having to do with the late princess, were mixed.

"Diana would have wanted for people to walk around in it and now they cannot," said John Loughrey, who arrived at the Hyde Park site draped in a red, white and blue British flag and clutching 10 red roses as a tribute.

Nepal

Rebels set off bombs on third day of blockade

Suspected communist guerrillas shot a policeman and set off two bombs in Katmandu on Friday while keeping up a blockade that has isolated the capital since midweek to press demands for the release of rebels held by Nepal's government.

A few hours later, the Cabinet promised to meet one rebel demand: that the government account for suspected rebels missing since apparent arrests. But it was not clear if officials also would agree to demands for immediately freeing known rebel prisoners and removing their "terrorist" label.

There was no immediate reaction from the rebels, who have been fighting since 1996 to replace the monarchy in this Himalayan nation with a communist state.

JERUSALEM

Israel under internal pressure to move wall

A Supreme Court order and a rare admonition from the attorney general increased pressure on Israel to reassess its West Bank security barrier Friday as a senior government official said the country would have to explain why it won't heed a world court ruling to dismantle the contentious structure.

Atty. Gen. Meni Mazuz on Thursday warned that the International Court of Justice's July ruling at The Hague, Netherlands, urging Israel to tear down the barrier could lead to sanctions against the Jewish state.

Mazuz's warning -- an unusual acknowledgment that the country could be punished because of its policies toward the Palestinians -- coincided with a Supreme Court order giving the government 30 days to produce a statement about how the world court's decision would affect the barrier's construction.

Dominican Republic

Posts given to officials charged in scandal

Less than a week after his inauguration, President Leonel Fernandez has given top posts to four former officials charged with involvement in the disappearance of millions of dollars in public funds in the late 1990s.

Critics say the appointments contradict campaign promises to crack down on corruption as the Dominican Republic weathers its worst economic crisis in decades.

The Fernandez administration has defended the officials, saying the allegations were politically motivated.

All four served in the first Fernandez government from 1996 to 2000, and all have trials pending on charges stemming from the alleged disappearance of $100 million from the Temporary and Minimal Employment Program, a fund intended to create jobs and quell strikes.

South Korea

Officials fail to agree on pullout of U.S. forces

Top U.S. and South Korean defense officials failed Friday to agree on a timeline for the planned reduction of American forces on the divided peninsula amid Seoul's concerns the departing troops will weaken its defenses against North Korea.

The redeployment of some 12,500 troops away from South Korea is part of Pentagon plans for a worldwide realignment of American forces that President Bush has said would help the United States better respond to today's threats. His Democratic challenger John Kerry has criticized the move, saying it would embolden North Korea even as the international community seeks to get the communist nation give up its nuclear ambitions.

At talks Friday in the South Korean capital, the sides agreed 3,600 U.S. troops who have already left here for Iraq would be part of the redeployment.

Iran

President seeks meeting of nations about Iraq

Iranian President Mohammad Khatami called on Muslim countries Friday to hold an urgent meeting to discuss the "catastrophe" in Iraq, particularly the 2-week standoff in the holy city of Najaf.

Khatami urged the 57-member Organization of the Islamic Conference to hold an emergency summit and said immediate action should be taken to end the escalating violence in the southern Iraqi city of Najaf, where militiamen loyal to militant Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr have been fighting U.S. and Iraqi forces.

"What is happening in Iraq is a spiritual and human catastrophe and immediate action must be taken to stop the spread of the catastrophe, particularly in Najaf," Khatami said in a telephone conversation with the head of the OIC Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, according to the official Islamic Republic News Agency.

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