World to be free of polio by next year, says official

Friday, April 9, 2004

NEW DELHI -- The world is likely to be polio-free next year, but the war against AIDS is being lost, the U.S. health secretary said Thursday. "We're on the precipice of accomplishing it," Tommy Thompson said of eliminating polio. If the current vaccination campaign is successful, polio will become only the second know disease after smallpox to be wiped out by humankind. "We're probably down to the last 1,000 cases, probably the most difficult to eradicate," Thompson told reporters. The remaining cases are in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Egypt, Nigeria and Niger.

Heavy fighting erupts with Sri Lanka factions

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka -- Heavy firing erupted today between two Tamil Tiger rebel factions in eastern Sri Lanka, the country's first fighting since a 2002 cease-fire halted its civil war, the guerrillas and military said. Fighters from the main Tamil Tiger rebel group based in the north clashed with members of a breakaway eastern faction at the Verugal River, where the two sides have squared off since they split early last month, the sources said. The fighting was the first since a Norwegian-brokered cease-fire in February 2002 halted fighting between the Sinhalese-dominated government and the Tamil rebels who launched a violent campaign for a separate homeland in 1983.

Pakistan ready to launch fresh anti-terror offensive

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- Pakistani forces have drawn a bead on a cluster of remote hideouts along the Afghan border and promised Thursday to send thousands of soldiers in a fierce crackdown if tribesmen there do not hand over al-Qaida terrorists by April 20. Critics, however, said announcing the deadline makes it easy for terrorists to flee ahead of the operation, as they did when Pakistani forces last month allowed a top al-Qaida terrorist to get away in South Waziristan. This time, Pakistani forces have shifted their focus to North Waziristan, and more specifically to a group of mud compounds along a forbidding mountain range straddling the Afghan border in the forested area of Shawal.

-- From wire reports

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