World briefs 04/21/03

Monday, April 21, 2003

South Korea agrees to talks with North Korea

SEOUL, South Korea -- Today, South Korea accepted a North Korean proposal to hold Cabinet-level talks in Pyongyang at the end of the month, ahead of multilaterial talks in China to discuss the North's suspected nuclear weapons programs.

South Korea's Unification Minister Jeong Se-hyun accepted the North Korean offer in a telephone message, his office said.

The talks are slated to take place April 27-29 in the North Korean capital, just days before the United States, North Korea and China are expected to meet in Beijing to discuss the North's suspected nuclear weapons programs.

The two Koreas initially had arranged to hold Cabinet-level talks earlier this month, but those talks were canceled when Pyongyang failed to confirm.

South Korea urged North Korea to resume the inter-Korean talks, and North Korea on Saturday proposed holding Cabinet-level talks late this month.

South Korea hopes to use the high-level talks to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear ambitions.

Gunmen kidnap eight on Colombian island

BOGOTA, Colombia -- The Colombian navy and national police were searching Sunday for eight people kidnapped by 20 gunmen who raided a small island off Colombia's Caribbean coast, authorities said.

The assailants grabbed an 11-year-old boy and bodyguards of businessmen vacationing during the Easter holidays on Mucura Island, some 300 miles northwest of the capital, Bogota, Navy Capt. Juan Manuel Lesnes said Sunday. The boy had been vacationing with his family.

The motive for Saturday's abductions was unclear.

Nearly 3,000 people were kidnapped last year in Colombia. The country's two main rebel factions carry out hundreds of kidnappings every year for political purposes and use the ransom payments to fund their insurgencies.

Journalist detained in Iran over interviews

TEHRAN, Iran -- A journalist and liberal critic of the hard-line clerics who rule Iran was arrested Sunday after police questioned him for several hours, his wife said.

Sina Motallebi was taken to jail after he responded to a summons Saturday to report to police for interrogation, Farnaz Ghazizadeh told The Associated Press. She said police promised to release her husband in two days, but she believed he would be held longer.

"Sina has been summoned by the judiciary several times over the past four months," Ghazizadeh said. "They object to materials in his Web site including interviews he gave to foreign media."

Motallebi runs the Farsi Web site www.rooznegar.com.

Landslide sweeps through Kyrgyz village; 34 dead

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan -- A landslide swept through a village in southern Kyrgyzstan on Sunday, killing 34 people, an official said.

The landslide buried 11 homes in the southern village of Sogot, said Berdikul Sultanov, first deputy head of the regional administration. He said preliminary information indicated 34 people were killed.

The landslide occurred after three days of snow and weeks of rain. Authorities had repeatedly warned residents of the area that conditions were ripe for a landslide.

Police: Indian soldiers kill seven at Kashmir border

JAMMU, India -- Indian soldiers killed seven Islamic militants sneaking into Indian-controlled Kashmir from Pakistan on Sunday, police said.

Hours later, a fierce gunbattle raged in the Mendhar area, 150 miles north of Jammu, the winter capital of Jammu-Kashmir state, a police spokesman said on condition of anonymity. Details of the battle were not immediately available.

The killed men were all Pakistanis, the officer said.

Security officials in Kashmir usually identify slain fighters by their identity cards, personal letters, hotel bills, photographs or other documents found on their bodies.

-- From wire reports

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