World digest 04/13/04

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Cheney promises Japan help with hostage crisis

TOKYO -- Vice President Dick Cheney thanked Japan's prime minister Monday for not giving in to Iraqi insurgents and kidnappers who are demanding withdrawal of Japanese troops in exchange for the release of Japanese hostages. He condemned "sudden random strikes" against innocent civilians in Iraq. "We have consulted closely with the prime minister and his government to make certain we do everything we can to be of assistance," Cheney told reporters. After Tokyo, Cheney was turning his attention to China, the next stop on a tour of Asia that also will take him to South Korea.

Cease-fire with militants holding in Fallujah

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- A tenuous cease-fire held in the Sunni city of Fallujah, and a radical Shiite cleric was on the retreat Monday, pulling his militiamen out of parts of the holy city of Najaf in hopes of averting a U.S. assault. Still, a U.S. commander said the American mission remained to "kill or capture" the cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr. The withdrawal of al-Sadr's al-Mahdi Army militia from police stations and government buildings in Najaf, Karbala and Kufa was a key U.S. demand. But al-Sadr followers rebuffed an American demand to disband the militia, which launched a bloody uprising in Baghdad and the south this month.

Tribesmen to negotiate handover of suspects

BANNU, Pakistan -- A Pakistani army cordon tightening around their mud-brick compounds, leaders of a tribe along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border say they are desperate to avoid bloodshed as a deadline to turn over al-Qaida suspects rapidly draws near. Elders of the Jani Khel tribe told The Associated Press they are ready to negotiate with the military, although the leaders insist they aren't harboring foreign terrorists and their mountainous land is too forbidding for the likes of Osama bin Laden and his men. The government has shown little confidence in the tribal leaders' pledges. North and South Waziristan areas are considered a possible hiding spot for bin Laden and his righthand man, Ayman al-Zawahri, who have all but vanished since directing the 2001 strikes against the United States.

-- From wire reports

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