World briefs 7/23/04

Friday, July 23, 2004

EU: Israel's Gaza barrier violates international law

TEL AVIV, Israel -- During a visit to the Jewish state, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana on Thursday said Israel's West Bank separation barrier violates international law. Solana's comments came just two days after the European Union infuriated Israeli leaders by supporting a U.N. General Assembly resolution calling on Israel to tear down the barrier in compliance with a world court ruling.

Indonesian housemaids being abused in Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia -- Thousands of Indonesian maids in Malaysia work inhumane hours for almost no pay, with many enduring sexual assault and other abuse by their employers, Human Rights Watch said.Numerous maids shared complaints such as having to work seven days a week, sleeping scarcely five hours per night and being forbidden to step out of their employers' homes or contact their families through phone calls and letters, the New York-based group said.

U.S. pulls Marines out of Taliban stronghold

KABUL, Afghanistan -- U.S. Marines have pulled out of a Taliban stronghold in southern Afghanistan after killing more than 100 enemy fighters, their commander said Thursday.The 2,400-strong force, which lost just one Marine, has withdrawn to an American air base in the southern city of Kandahar and is preparing to leave the country, Col. Frank McKenzie said.

Egypt proposes Mideast peace conference

JERUSALEM -- Egypt has proposed a Mideast peace conference in October to coordinate Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, and Washington offered its support, officials said Thursday. But the Palestinians are in political disarray, and the plan suffered a setback when Israel ruled out Palestinian participation. At sundown, two Islamic Jihad militants were killed when their car exploded in Gaza City. Helicopters were seen overhead, and Israel TV said there was an Israeli airstrike.

Northern warlord in Afghan presidential race

KABUL, Afghanistan -- A powerful Afghan warlord will challenge President Hamid Karzai in the country's historic October elections, his spokesman said Thursday. Abdul Rashid Dostum decided to run after securing support across the war-riven country's deep ethnic divides, spokesman Faizullah Zaki said. Thousands of supporters feted Dostum at a rally in a northern city, Zaki said. There was no immediate reaction from Karzai.

Allawi wants Arab, Islam troops to protect U.N.

CAIRO, Egypt -- Iraq wants troops from Arab and Islamic nations to protect a U.N. mission in the country, interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said Thursday, and he asked Egypt to help. But Egypt said it had to see Iraqi officials restore some measure of calm first. Allawi's comments came a day after U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said he still had not received one firm commitment of troops, six weeks after the Security Council authorized a separate force to protect U.N. staff.

Ukraine mine blast victims mourned

DIMITROVO, Ukraine -- Hundreds of relatives, friends and colleagues paid their last respects Thursday to 15 Ukrainian miners who died in an underground methane gas explosion that killed at least 31. Several women fainted from grief as coffins were lowered into graves at a cemetery in the tiny town of Dimitrovo near the Krasnolimanskaya mine, the site of Monday's powerful blast. Flags adorned with black ribbons were at half-staff, and a brass band played a funeral march.

Italy deports shipwrecked African migrants

ROME -- Italy deported most of the African migrants who arrived on a ship operated by a German relief agency, putting 25 of them on a plane to Ghana Thursday and drawing protests from humanitarian agencies and opposition politicians. A handful of others who were taken off the plane for causing a disturbance also will be expelled, officials said, in a case that highlighted the issue of illegal immigration in Europe.-- From wire reports

Whaling commission puts brakes on ending ban

SORRENTO, Italy -- The International Whaling Commission put the brakes Thursday on a plan critics said might lead to lifting an 18-year ban on commercial whaling, ending four days of acrimonious talks. Japan and other pro-whaling countries favor lifting the moratorium, while the anti-whaling bloc opposes any move that might lead to an end of the ban. The commission said in a resolution approved Thursday that the plan should be a starting point for discussing whale management over the next 12 months. But the resolution dropped a measure calling for a vote on the plan at next year's annual IWC meeting.

-- From wire reports

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