U.S. Military to Begin Reduction in Aid Role
BANDA ACEH, Indonesia -- The U.S. military -- the largest group helping tsunami survivors -- will immediately start withdrawing troops from relief efforts to feed and house more than 1 million refugees, the U.S. Pacific commander said Thursday.
In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Adm. Thomas B. Fargo said the military would "start right now transferring functions to the appropriate host nations and international organizations."
Fargo noted that the humanitarian missions in countries affected by the Dec. 26 tsunami had moved from the "immediate relief phase . . . toward rehabilitation and reconstruction."
The admiral suggested the withdrawal of the 15,000 U.S. troops would be completed within 60 days, apparently meeting Indonesian requests that foreign troops leave Aceh province on Sumatra island by the end of March.
At a U.N. conference in Kobe, Japan, wealthy nations pledged about $8 million for a network of detection buoys in the Indian Ocean to warn of tsunamis.
THE MIDDLE EAST
GAZA CITY -- Palestinian security forces were poised to deploy Friday across the northern Gaza Strip to prevent attacks on Israelis, clearing the way for a resumption of talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
Palestinian security sources said paramilitary police would fan out in the towns of Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahiya as well as other parts of the northern and central Gaza Strip to prevent militants firing rockets and mortar shells at the Jewish state.
At a rare meeting with Israeli army officers Wednesday, Palestinian officials presented a plan for the deployment. The plan was swiftly approved by Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz.
Despite the diplomatic progress, violence continued Thursday. Israeli troops fatally shot a 13-year-old boy near the West Bank village of Tubas. Also, a 13-year-old boy was fatally shot in the Rafah refugee camp in Gaza.
OSNABRUECK, Germany -- A judge asked British officials to restrain their comments about the court-martial of three British soldiers accused of mistreating Iraqi detainees after Prime Minister Tony Blair denounced graphic photos in the case as "shocking and appalling."
Judge Michael Hunter said in court at a British base here: "I would ask that great care be taken by those who find it necessary to make public statements not to say anything that might prejudice the fairness of the trial."