World briefs 06/02/03

Monday, June 2, 2003

Israel eases some travel restrictions

JERUSALEM -- Israel eased travel restrictions Sunday on Palestinians and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said he would probably dismantle illegal settlement outposts soon, as leaders prepared for a summit with President Bush aimed at ending 32 months of Mideast violence.

Palestinian leaders also continued working Sunday to secure a cease-fire agreement from militant groups responsible for hundreds of deadly attacks on Israelis.

In Gaza, meanwhile, Israeli soldiers shot and killed a Palestinian they say opened fire on them near the Kissufim crossing point. In another part of Gaza, soldiers critically wounded a 17-year-old Palestinian. Earlier, residents said he had been killed. The Israeli military had no comment.

The summit Wednesday in the Jordanian town of Aqaba will be the ceremonial launch of the "road map" to Mideast peace, a three-phase plan envisioning an end to violence and the creation of a Palestinian state in 2005.

Palestinian, Israeli and U.S. officials have met in recent days to discuss the wording of possible declarations in which the two sides recognize each side's right to statehood and security. The declarations, to be issued at the end of the Jordan summit, are required by the U.S.-backed road map.

Powell comes to Rome for top-level talks with pope

ROME -- U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell arrived Sunday in Rome for a meeting with Pope John Paul II, the first high-level U.S.- Vatican talks since the pontiff personally appealed to President Bush to avoid war against Iraq.

Powell made no comments to reporters after flying in to Rome's Ciampino airport from St. Petersburg, Russia, where Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin held talks. He was to meet with the pope on Monday morning.

The pontiff vigorously lobbied for peace in the weeks before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq on March 20 and sent an Italian cardinal to Washington to meet with Bush and deliver the pope's personal plea against the war that he contended had no moral legitimacy.

The U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, James Nicholson, has said that Powell's visit will serve to strengthen what he called a "solid" Vatican-American relationship.

Powell and the pontiff are expected to discuss post-war reconstruction in Iraq as well as the "road map" peace plan aimed at ending violence between Israelis and Palestinians.

U.S.: Military changes in S. Korea will deter North

CAMP GREAVES, South Korea -- Changes to American troop deployments will make South Korea less vulnerable to North Korean threats, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said Sunday, as he sought to ease friction over the countries' military alliance.

U.S. troop redeployments has been a touchy subject between Washington and Seoul since Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said in April that troops stationed near the border between the two Koreas could be shifted south, moved to other countries in the region or brought home.

About 37,000 U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea. Seoul worries that reductions would put it at greater risk of attack from the North. Tensions on the Korean Peninsula have increased because of the North's suspected nuclear weapons development.

"We believe there are adjustments and realignments and enhancements that both of us can make to our forces that would give us a stronger deterrent posture -- not that it's weak now," Wolfowitz said after speaking with troops at Camp Greaves, near the demilitarized zone that separates North and South Korea.

-- From wire reports

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