World briefs 9/16/03

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

India rebuffs Pakistani offer for high-level visit

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- India rebuffed the Pakistani foreign minister's offer Monday to travel there, scuttling what would have been the highest-level visit between the two South Asian rivals in more than two years.

The slight from New Delhi was the latest sign that a fledgling peace process has all but stalled, with little concrete progress in several months and no date set for discussions over key issues like the fate of the divided Kashmir province.

Foreign Minister Khursheed Kasuri had planned his trip as a way of personally inviting Indian leaders to attend an upcoming regional summit that is to be held in Pakistan. His spokesman, Masood Khan, said Monday that Kasuri planned to go so long as Indian officials would agree to receive him.

Colombian forces search mountains for tourists

SANTA MARTA, Colombia -- Security forces searched the jungles of northern Colombia in the shadow of a snowcapped mountain range Monday for eight foreign tourists abducted at gunpoint by leftist guerrillas.

The four Israelis, two Britons, a German and a Spaniard were seized at dawn Friday as they slept in cabins near a pre-Columbian archaeological site high in the Sierra Nevada, 465 miles north of the capital, Bogota.

Half a dozen Black Hawk helicopters searched the area. President Alvaro Uribe pledged to oversee the search operations personally -- despite concern the hunt could endanger the captives' lives.

Powerful explosion near Chechnya kills two

MAGAS, Russia -- A truck bomb exploded Monday outside a government security building near Chechnya, killing at least two people and underscoring Russia's vulnerability in the region just weeks before an election Moscow hopes will lead to peace.

Officials said at least 25 people were wounded in the bombing in Magas, the capital of the Russian republic of Ingushetia, which borders the rebellious Chechen republic and shelters tens of thousands of Chechen refugees.

U.S. troops, guerrillas skirmish in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan -- American planes, aiding ground troops, bombed positions Monday in southern Afghanistan as part of an operation that has killed at least 15 suspected Taliban fighters, the U.S. military said.

There were no reported casualties among U.S. or Afghan troops in the fighting that began a day earlier in Kandahar province and has been dubbed Operation Mountain Viper, said a statement issued by the military from its headquarters in Bagram.

Head of spy agency defends weapons dossier

LONDON -- Speaking by microphone from an undisclosed location, the head of the MI6 spy agency told a judicial inquiry Monday that Britain had used reliable intelligence when it warned that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction could be deployed within 45 minutes.

Sir Richard Dearlove, whose face was not shown to the court, testified that the warning -- contained in a dossier issued before the Iraq war -- came from a "established and reliable source," quoting a senior Iraqi military officer who was in a position to know this information.

-- From wire reports

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