Rumsfeld Calls on China
To Open Political System
SINGAPORE -- Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld issued a blunt challenge to China at a regional security conference Saturday, saying Beijing must provide more political freedom to its citizens and questioning its recent military buildup.
Rumsfeld said the Pentagon's annual assessment of China's military capabilities shows China is spending more than its leaders acknowledge, expanding its missile capabilities and developing advanced military technology. China now has the world's third-largest military budget, he said, behind the United States and Russia.
"One might be concerned that this buildup is putting the delicate military balance in the region at risk -- especially, but not only, with respect to Taiwan," Rumsfeld said during a conference organized by the International Institute of Strategic Studies. "Since no nation threatens China, one wonders: Why this growing investment?"
Rumsfeld also questioned China's government, saying political freedom there has not kept pace with increasing economic freedom.
"Ultimately, China will need to embrace some form of open, representative government if it is to fully achieve the benefits to which its people aspire," he said.
* KABUL, Afghanistan -- A bomb exploded next to a U.S. military convoy in eastern Afghanistan, killing two American soldiers and wounding a third, the military said Saturday.
* ORANJESTAD, Aruba -- The mother of a missing Alabama teenager tearfully called for more help Friday from U.S. authorities in the search for her daughter, who disappeared on the last day of a high school graduation trip to this Caribbean island. Police and volunteers combed beaches and scrubland for any sign of Natalee Holloway, putting up posters with a photo of the 18-year-old honor student, who has been missing for five days.
* CARACAS, Venezuela -- Venezuela does not intend to break relations with the United States over a Cuban exile Caracas wants extradited despite a recent warning that ties were at risk, Foreign Minister Ali Rodriguez said.
But Rodriguez urged the United States to work to repair relations strained by the case of Luis Posada Carriles, an anti-communist wanted on terrorism charges in the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed 73 people.
* BUENOS AIRES -- A judge indicted seven members of an Argentine rock band on involuntary manslaughter charges, saying they will be prosecuted along with the owner of the club where a fire last Dec. 30 killed 193 people.
* LIMA, Peru -- A judge ordered the arrest of 29 military officials for their alleged involvement in the decades-old massacre of dozens of agricultural workers in an Andean village.
* BELFAST -- Two Belfast men were charged in the IRA-linked knife slaying of a Roman Catholic man and the injury of his friend outside a pub this year, the first breakthrough in a case that has overshadowed Northern Ireland's peace process for months.
A 49-year-old man faces a charge of murdering Robert McCartney, while a 36-year-old man is charged with the attempted murder of Brendan Devine, who was seriously wounded in the Jan. 30 attack, police said. The arraignment was set for Saturday in Belfast Crown Court.
The Irish Republican Army initially denied involvement, but under public pressure from McCartney's sisters and fiancee, it admitted its members committed the attack.
* VATICAN CITY -- Pope Benedict XVI named the late Pope John Paul's II's longtime secretary, who cradled John Paul in his arms after a 1981 assassination attempt, to be the new archbishop of Krakow in Poland.
Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz will take over the leadership of the important archdiocese from Cardinal Franciszek Macharski, 78, who is retiring, the Vatican said.
* BUJUMBURA, Burundi -- Attacks on voters and U.N. peacekeepers forced hundreds of polling stations around Burundi's capital to close early, disrupting the first democratic local government elections since the tiny central African country won independence from Belgium in 1962.
THE MIDDLE EAST
* JERUSALEM -- Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, following a heart procedure earlier this week in Jordan, said he planned to appoint a deputy, signaling that he was preparing to groom a successor.
Abbas, 70, did not say whom he had in mind for the job and told reporters that he needed to discuss the matter with the Palestinian parliament and his cabinet.
* JERUSALEM -- Syria test-fired three Scud missiles late last week, reinforcing Israeli worries about Damascus's ability to deliver a missile-borne chemical attack against Israeli civilian targets, Israeli military officials said.
* ANKARA, Turkey -- The prime minister of Turkey, one of Washington's most important Muslim allies, said that when he visits the White House on Wednesday, he will urge President Bush to clamp down on Kurdish guerrillas who are infiltrating Turkey from mountain strongholds in northern Iraq.
-- From News Services