World digest 12/17/01

Monday, December 17, 2001

Relations not hurt by U.S. ABM withdrawal

WASHINGTON -- President Bush's top foreign policy advisers said Sunday that relations with Russia will weather the United States' pulling out of an arms control treaty and moving ahead on a missile defense. They rejected predictions that the withdrawal will lead to a new arms race.

Secretary of State Colin Powell and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice said Bush had gone out of his way to build strong ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. By doing so, withdrawing from the Antiballistic Missile Treaty of 1972 would amount to a minor bump in relations, they said.

"Guess what? Both we and the Russians see that we have mutual interests that will keep us working closely together," Powell said on "Fox News Sunday."

Sweden wants three off of terrorist list

STOCKHOLM, Sweden -- The government will ask the U.N. sanction committee to consider removing the names of three Somali immigrants from a list of suspected terrorists.

Foreign Minister Anna Lindh said Saturday the government could do no more than recommend removal, even though the three Swedish citizens insist they are innocent and have hired a lawyer to defend themselves.

"We, the government, cannot take a stand," Lindh told the national news agency TT in Laeken, Belgium, where European Union officials were meeting. "We cannot say if they are guilty or innocent. That's up to the authorities and the sanction committee."

The three appeared on the list as officials of the Swedish chapter of the al-Barakaat financial network, a Somali-based money transferring network that President Bush has said was used by Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida terrorist network.

Argentines want to keep peso as currency

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina -- As debate heats up on whether recession-plagued Argentina should adopt the mighty dollar, devalue its peso or try both measures, a poll found strong support for keeping the peso at parity with the greenback.

But as the government signaled it was leaning toward dollarizing South America's second-largest economy, an increasing number of influential economists want the peso to float freely.

Local polling firm IBOPE said Sunday that 75.6 percent of Argentines wanted to keep the one-to-one rate between the peso and the dollar that brought price stability since the policy was introduced in 1991.

Colombian battle kills dozens of guerrillas

BOGOTA, Colombia -- A five-day battle over cocaine-producing plantations in the northern mountains killed up to 44 leftist guerrillas and right-wing paramilitary fighters, a military commander said Sunday.

Troops have regained control over the battle zone in Antioquia state, said Col. Jairo Ovalle of the army's 11th Brigade.

Ovalle said the troops had recovered the bodies of 14 paramilitary fighters near the village of Acacia, about 245 miles northeast of the capital Bogota. Based on radio intercepts, Ovalle estimated as many as 30 guerrillas also died in the fighting, which began on Tuesday and ended Saturday.

Rebels typically take their dead with them or toss them in rivers, making it difficult to arrive at precise guerrilla body counts, he added.

-- From wire reports

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