North Korean, U.N. officials to hold talks on sinking of South Korean warship

Tuesday, July 13, 2010; A07


Military cancels talks on sinking of warship

North Korea's military abruptly canceled a rare meeting Tuesday with the U.S.-led United Nations Command that had been arranged to discuss the deadly sinking of a South Korean warship.

The meeting, proposed last week by North Korea, had been scheduled for Panmunjom, a village in the demilitarized zone that separates North and South Korea.

It would have been the first such military meeting since the March 26 sinking of the Cheonan, which killed 46 South Korean sailors and sharply raised tensions on the divided Korean Peninsula.

But the North requested a delay in the talks for "administrative reasons," the U.N. Command said in a statement. A new meeting time was not immediately proposed, it said.

North Korea has denied any involvement in the sinking of the warship, even though an international investigation blamed a North Korean torpedo for the explosion.

-- Associated Press


Amid accusations, Sarkozy seeks reform

President Nicolas Sarkozy, combating allegations of influence-peddling in the French government, said Monday he will seek new laws to guarantee against conflict of interest by ministers, members of Parliament and other senior officials.

Sarkozy, in a special television interview, said he also will urge Labor Minister Eric Woerth, who is at the center of the accusations, to abandon his post as chief fund-raiser for Sarkozy's political party while he serves as a government minister.

The concessions came after three weeks of suggestions that Woerth may have acted improperly during his previous job as budget minister, in charge of tax collection, while at the same time courting wealthy French businesspeople for donations to Sarkozy's Union for a Popular Movement.

Sarkozy said Woerth was above reproach and depicted the accusations as an attempt by the Socialist Party to prevent Sarkozy from carrying out a widely contested budget-bolstering move in which the retirement age is being pushed back from 60 to 62.

Similarly, he said a desire to frustrate the retirement policy changes underlay accusations that he and other conservative politicians received illegal cash payments from France's wealthiest woman, Liliane Bettencourt. A judicial investigation has been launched to see whether the allegations are founded.

"This is all a waste of time," he told an interviewer in the garden of his Elysee Palace, suggesting the country should focus instead on its economic problems.

-- Edward Cody


Ex-envoy: Iraq threat purposely overstated

The British government intentionally exaggerated its assessment of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, a former diplomat told Britain's inquiry into the Iraq war on Monday.

Carne Ross, the first secretary to the British mission at the United Nations responsible for Iraq policy from 1997 to 2002, said neither Britain nor the United States believed Iraq's weapons programs were a "substantial threat" before launching the 2003 invasion.

There was never any firm evidence of significant weapon holdings, Ross said, but public documents issued by the British government "intentionally and substantially" exaggerated the intelligence after Sept. 11.

In 2002, then-Prime Minister Tony Blair presented a dossier to Parliament and the public that claimed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein might have nuclear weapons within a year and possessed a chemical and biological arsenal that could be launched within 45 minutes.

-- Associated Press

Iraq delays parliament meeting: Iraq on Monday delayed a parliament session scheduled for this week as the political impasse over who will lead the country drags into its fifth month.

Ancient writing found on fragment: Archaeologists say a newly discovered clay fragment from the 14th century B.C. is the oldest example of writing ever found in antiquity-rich Jerusalem. The tiny fragment bears an ancient form of writing known as Akkadian wedge script and has a partial text including the words "you," "them" and "later."

Russia holds subway bombing suspect: Russia's security service said it had detained a suspect in suicide bomb attacks that killed at least 40 people on the Moscow subway in March and had arrested six women preparing new attacks in central Russia. The country is struggling to contain an upsurge of assaults by rebels in the mainly Muslim provinces on its southern flank, who have asserted responsibility for the Moscow subway bombings, which also injured at least 100 people.

NATO chief warns against Afghan timetable: Setting timetables to withdraw from the war in Afghanistan could encourage the Taliban to step up its attacks on coalition forces, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told Britain's Daily Telegraph newspaper on Tuesday.

-- From news services

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