Archive for Monday, February 16, 2004

Briefly

February 16, 2004

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Afghanistan

Raids net three arrests in terror investigation

American forces backed by warplanes sealed off two villages in southern Afghanistan and detained two terror suspects Sunday, while Afghan police and NATO-led troops in Kabul made one arrest and seized arms and terror-related material in another raid.

As many as 60 U.S. soldiers supported by warplanes sealed off a pair of villages Sunday in southern Helmand province and detained two men, Mulvi Abdul Ghafar and Gul Agha, suspected of ties to top Taliban commander Mullah Dadullah, district leader Haji Amir said.

In a separate operation Saturday, Afghan police and the NATO-led security force raided a suspected terrorist hideout in the Afghan capital, detaining one person and seizing arms and "terrorist-related material," said Rita LePage, a spokeswoman for the International Security Assistance Force that patrols Kabul.

Iran

Nation offers to sell potential nuclear fuel

Iran declared Sunday it planned to sell nuclear reactor fuel internationally, establishing the Islamic republic as a country in possession of technology the United States wants to keep from spreading.

Announcing the decision, Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said Iran had made an "important achievement" in possessing the technology to enrich uranium, and he insisted the project would be for peaceful use.

Once Iran produces nuclear fuel, it will market it under the strict supervision of the United Nations' nuclear watchdog, the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, he said.

"No one can deprive us of this natural, legal and legitimate right. This industry is strictly for peaceful use," Kharrazi was quoted as saying by the official Islamic Republic News Agency, or IRNA.

Jerusalem

Palestinian Authority sells stake in cell phones

The cash-strapped Palestinian Authority has sold its stake in the local cellular phone company to help pay salaries of government employees, a top official said Sunday.

The Palestinian Authority turned over its 35 percent share in the Jawal phone service to Paltel, which runs the cellular phone monopoly, in exchange for $43 million, Palestinian Economics Minister Maher Masri said Sunday.

Corruption charges have dogged the Palestinian Authority since its inception in 1994. The Palestinian bureaucracy is bloated, leading to charges of nepotism, and competing security forces provide jobs to thousands.

Donor nations, meanwhile, have been scaling back aid amid complaints that Yasser Arafat's government is slow on reforms and not doing enough to rein in militants.

Gaza Strip

Palestinian journalists want probe of attacks

The Palestinian journalist association in Gaza on Sunday occupied the Palestinian legislative building and declared a boycott of several government ministries to protest a series of mysterious attacks on local reporters.

Tawfik Abu Khosa, chairman of the Gaza branch of the Palestinian Journalists' Syndicate, asked the group's 300 members to join a sit-in at the legislative building Sunday. Members were asked not to report on the Palestinian security services and interior and justice ministries until the attackers are brought to justice.

The group declared the protest after a string of attacks on journalists, most recently the torching of the car of Munir Abu Rezk, the Gaza bureau chief of Al Hayat Al Jadida. It was unclear why Abu Rezk, who wasn't hurt, had been targeted.

Philippines

U.S. troops arrive for combat exercises

A contingent of 700 U.S. Marines disembarked Sunday at the site of a former American naval base to take part in combat exercises intended to help the Philippines fight Muslim and communist insurgencies and guard against terror attacks.

About 2,500 Marines from the U.S. base in Okinawa, Japan, will take part in live-fire combat maneuvers called "Balikatan," or "shoulder-to-shoulder," from Feb. 23 to March 7. The rest of the American troops are scheduled to arrive within a week.

The Marine contingent docked at Subic Bay, site of a former U.S. naval base about 55 miles northwest of Manila.

The United States began withdrawing from the base in 1991 after the Philippine Senate decided against allowing continued U.S. operations at Subic Bay and Clark Air Force Base.

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