Security Dispute Stalls

Peace Talks on Darfur

ABUJA, Nigeria -- African Union mediators adjourned Sudan peace talks on Saturday to plan a new approach after failing to get the government and Darfur rebels to end a dispute over security issues.

The talks in Abuja, the Nigerian capital, are aimed at ending what the United Nations has characterized as the world's worst humanitarian crisis. More than 1.5 million people have been forced from their homes, and tens of thousands have been killed.

The Sudanese government refused on Friday to sign a security document proposed by AU mediators, saying it was biased. The rebels said they would not negotiate further until the government signs.

Mediators adjourned the talks and sought to formulate a new schedule to get rebel and government negotiators -- with whom they had been meeting separately -- to agree to an overall declaration of principles, before turning attention back to security issues.

The declaration would cover the basic tenets of a peace agenda, which include wealth- and power-sharing measures.

The conflict began in early 2003 when two African groups rebelled against the Arab-dominated government, saying they had been politically marginalized. The government has bombed villages and armed an Arab militia that has carried out many of the attacks.

ASIA

* SRINAGAR, India -- Eleven rebels and three Indian soldiers were killed in several attacks in disputed Kashmir, including a grenade assault in Srinagar during a visit by India's home minister, officials said.

Two soldiers were killed and one injured by a grenade in Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir, the Indian-controlled portion of the Himalayan region, shortly after Home Minister Shivraj Patil spoke at a news conference there at the start of a three-day visit.

Ten militants were killed in clashes in the western districts of Poonch and Baramulla, some while trying to cross from the Pakistani-controlled region, security forces said.

* TASHKENT, Uzbekistan -- An Uzbek opposition party announced that it would boycott next month's parliamentary vote, saying the government has failed to embrace democracy and calling on other countries to ignore the election.

Election officials have refused to allow opposition parties to run in the Dec. 26 balloting, disqualifying their registrations on technicalities.

"Considering the economic, political and social situation in Uzbekistan, we may say the election can't be either free, democratic or fair," Atonazar Arifov, head of the unregistered Erk party, told journalists in Tashkent, the capital.

The former Soviet republic has five legal political parties, all of which publicly support President Islam Karimov, a former Communist who has held power since just before the 1991 Soviet collapse.

THE MIDDLE EAST

* BEIRUT -- Lawmakers narrowly endorsed a reform blueprint drafted by pro-Syrian Prime Minister Omar Karami, calling for fairer election laws and preserving Beirut's close ties with neighboring Syria.

After a three-day debate, during which the cabinet was heavily criticized by opposition groups, Karami's plan won the backing of 59 legislators.

Twenty-four members of the 128-seat parliament voted against the plan, while 25 abstained. The remaining 20 were either absent or ineligible to vote because they were cabinet ministers.

* JENIN, West Bank -- Six Palestinians, including a 14-year-old boy, were killed and three Israelis were wounded in West Bank and Gaza Strip violence, the army and Palestinian sources said.

EUROPE

* KIEV, Ukraine -- Tens of thousands of supporters of Viktor Yushchenko, the pro-reform candidate facing Ukraine's prime minister in a tense presidential runoff campaign, thronged Kiev's main square to hear him caution authorities to play by the rules.

Yushchenko and Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, who is backed by Ukraine's outgoing president and by Russia, each won about 40 percent of the votes in a first round of elections last week.

Runoff elections on Nov. 21 may determine whether Ukraine turns more toward Russia or the West. Supporters of both candidates have leveled charges of cheating or plotting to subvert the election, which Western observers said fell far short of acceptable standards.

-- From News Services