North, South Korea OK high-level military talks

Friday, February 6, 2004

SEOUL, South Korea -- North and South Korea agreed today to hold high-level military talks to ease tensions between the nations, divided by the world's most heavily fortified border and embroiled in a standoff over the North's nuclear weapons development. The agreement came at the end of four days of Cabinet-level meetings. The Koreas held talks between their defense ministers in September 2000, but failed to open a second round of talks.

Israeli premier questioned by police over bribery

JERUSALEM -- Police questioned Prime Minister Ariel Sharon for more than two hours Thursday about a bribery case that could force him out of office, as criticism grew that his surprise proposal to remove Israeli settlements in Gaza was meant to deflect attention from the scandal. The prime minister again denied wrongdoing, Israel TV said. Sharon told investigators he did not know of a lucrative marketing contract his son, Gilad, signed with a real estate developer despite apparent lack of experience needed for the job, the report said.

37 dead in New Year stampede outside Beijing

MIYUN, China -- A lantern festival marking the end of China's Lunar New Year celebrations erupted into a stampede Thursday, killing at least 37 people and injuring 15, authorities said. Many of the victims suffocated in the accident in Miyun County, a northern suburb of the Chinese capital, the official Xinhua News Agency said. Revelers had gathered for the annual Lantern Festival at popular Mihong Park when, at 7:45 p.m., someone tripped on a bridge in a crowded area and started a chain reaction, said a spokesman for the Beijing city government. "One person fell down on a grate in the park and caused many people to fall down. There was a stampede," the spokesman said.

$500 million for Liberia sought by U.S., U.N.

UNITED NATIONS -- The United Nations and the United States appealed for nearly $500 million Thursday to put Liberia firmly on the road to peace after nearly two decades of civil war. But they also warned that unless former combatants can make a living without guns, the country will remain unstable. The world has a crucial opportunity "to help Liberians recover from the ruinous effects of conflict and rebuild their country," said Mark Malloch Brown, head of the U.N. Development Program. Secretary of State Colin Powell, French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin and other high-level representatives were to attend today's pledging session.

-- From wire reports

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