World briefs 12/16/02

Monday, December 16, 2002

Former Bosnian Serb president seeks leniency

THE HAGUE, Netherlands -- Once called "the iron lady of the Balkans," Biljana Plavsic is now the highest-ranking Bosnian Serb to be tried for war crimes. Having pleaded guilty, she faces a sentencing hearing beginning today, and the big question is whether her publicly expressed remorse will get her leniency from the U.N. tribunal in The Hague.

The 72-year-old former genetics professor could get life imprisonment. But the hearing is to last an unprecedented three days, raising speculation that high-profile Western leaders and academics may plead on her behalf in recognition of her constructive role in ending the 1992-1995 Bosnian war.

Plavsic was a wartime leader of the Bosnian Serbs and a close associate of Radovan Karadzic, the fugitive most wanted by the U.N. war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. She is the only woman among more than 100 men indicted.

She was indicted for her role in planning the purge of Muslims and other non-Serbs from Serb-dominated areas of Bosnia early in the war.

France sends more troops to Ivory Coast

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast -- France escalated its military role in Ivory Coast's three-month-old rebellion Sunday, sending 150 paratroopers with a tougher mandate to enforce a truce.

The forces, a first wave to be followed by more soldiers this week, have orders to open fire if necessary, raising the prospect of combat with increasingly resentful rebels.

Rebels have seized the north and part of the west in this former French colony, West Africa's economic hub. Regional leaders have failed to negotiate a peace deal, raising fears of another full-fledged war in an already blood-soaked zone.

The paratroopers join more than 1,000 well-armed French troops already manning checkpoints across Ivory Coast's central belt.

At the same time, the French are expanding their role. Until now, French forces were charged only with protecting their citizens and foreign nationals, and monitoring an oft-violated Oct. 17 cease-fire between northern rebels and the government.

A French army spokesman said the mandate now included firing on anyone who impedes their mission.

Four arrested after attack on female politician

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- A female council member says she was beaten and paraded naked through the streets of her small Pakistani town by a political rival and his supporters, authorities said Sunday.

Police arrested Chaudhry Mohammed Alam, his two sons and another man on Saturday after the woman issued a formal complaint, police officer Saeed Akhtar told The Associated Press.

The woman, Nasim Akhtar, says she was attacked on Dec. 7 in the eastern town of Sadra Bara after she used a loudspeaker to call on Alam to donate money for repairs of a religious site. The town is 140 miles east of the capital, Islamabad.

Attacks against women are common in remote and deeply conservative parts of Pakistan. The independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said in a report last week that at least 461 women have been killed by family members in so-called "honor killings" this year, an increase from the 372 reported the year before.

-- From wire reports

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