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Archive for Monday, August 23, 2004

Briefly

August 23, 2004

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Afghanistan

U.S. forces kill three at checkpoint stop

U.S. soldiers sprayed a pickup truck with bullets after it failed to stop at a roadblock in central Afghanistan, killing two women and a man and critically wounding two other people, the latest in a string of civilian deaths at the hands of American forces.

The shooting occurred Saturday evening on a road in Ghazni province when the pickup truck ran through a joint U.S.-Afghan military checkpoint, the American military said. Soldiers searched the pickup but did not find any weapons.

The deaths came just two weeks after Afghan and American leaders met to discuss ways to improve relations between the military coalition and the people they are here to protect.

Ghazni Gov. Haji Asadullah Khalid told The Associated Press the pickup was driving over the flat Afghan desert when it happened upon a checkpoint on the main road. He said the soldiers first shot into the air, then opened fire on the truck.

Sudan

Government claims cooperation in Darfur crisis

Sudan's foreign minister said Sunday that his government had cooperated fully with international demands to improve the situation in the Darfur region, just days before U.N. officials will examine whether the country has made adequate progress in disarming marauding Arab militias.

The minister, Mustafa Osman Ismail, also dismissed U.N. reports that 30,000 refugees wanted to flee Darfur into Chad because of poor security.

With reports circulating that most U.N. Security Council members have no stomach for tough measures such as sanctions, the foreign minister said he was confident the United Nations would next week find that Sudan had done all it could.

"I am sure the Security Council will announce that there is total cooperation from the Sudanese government to achieve peace," he said Sunday.

Kenya

Somalia swears in transitional parliament

Members of Somalia's new transitional parliament were sworn in Sunday, a key step toward establishing its first national government since 1991. But a dispute within one of the country's main clans over its delegates threatened to scuttle the peace process, mediators said.

The new parliament is the product of nearly two years of talks in Kenya among clan leaders, religious leaders and warlords.

While foreign officials at the ceremony hailed the parliament's creation, they pressed for a speedy resolution to one key hurdle -- a dispute within the Darod clan over who will choose the clan's lawmakers.

"This is not an easy moment for me, as I stand before you seeing that the light at the end of the tunnel we have been going through is not far from us," said Kenyan diplomat Bethuel Kiplagat, the chief mediator at the talks, the latest of numerous attempts to bring peace to Somalia.

Somalia descended into chaos after clan-based factions ousted dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991 and then turned on each other.

Paris

Jewish center destroyed by arson

Arsonists destroyed a Jewish community center in eastern Paris before dawn Sunday, leaving behind red graffiti with menacing anti-Semitic messages such as "Jews get out."

Rescue workers said the center was gutted. The building was empty, and there were no injuries.

Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin and other top officials visited the center, the latest target in a years-long wave of anti-Jewish attacks in France.

"I came here today to say that France cannot accept a trivialization of anti-Semitism," the prime minister said.

In a statement, President Jacques Chirac condemned the attack and pledged solidarity with the Jewish community.

The government is "determined to find the perpetrators of this unacceptable act so that they can be tried and convicted with the greatest severity" that the law allows, Chirac said.

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