New Kyrgyz President Vows Independent Policy

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan -- In his inauguration speech, Kyrgyzstan's new president said Sunday that he will pursue an independent foreign policy and will not be "a place for the fulfillment of someone else's geopolitical interests."

Kurmanbek Bakiyev, a former opposition leader who won a landslide victory in a July 10 election, was inaugurated Sunday to lead the former Soviet republic.

Kyrgyzstan hosts about 1,000 U.S.-led troops to support combat operations in Afghanistan, a presence that became particularly important after neighboring Uzbekistan last month demanded the withdrawal of U.S. troops. Kyrgyzstan also hosts a Russian military base 20 miles from the U.S. base.

ASIA

* SEOUL -- A North Korean delegation paid a first-ever visit to a cemetery in the South where Korean War dead are buried, as the two countries launched celebrations marking the 60th anniversary of the peninsula's liberation from the Japanese.

Kim Ki Nam, vice chairman of North Korea's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland, led the delegation to Seoul's National Cemetery, where the remains of independence fighters who died resisting Japan's brutal 1910-1945 colonization of the peninsula also lie.

* TOKYO -- A key ally of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi warned the leader not to visit a shrine that honors Japan's 2.4 million war dead, saying it would further undermine Japan's fragile ruling coalition as it heads into nationwide elections.

The warning, from Takenori Kanzaki, head of the New Komeito party, came as a former Japanese premier and the country's economy and trade minister worshipped at Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine amid mounting speculation that Koizumi will also pray there as early as Monday to mark the 60th anniversary of Japan's surrender in World War II. A visit by Koizumi would likely enrage China and South Korea, as convicted war criminals are honored at the shrine.

THE AMERICAS

* HAVANA -- Cuban President Fidel Castro spoke by telephone with two of five imprisoned Cuban agents whose convictions on spying charges were overturned in Atlanta last week, official media reported.

"The best they could do would be to set you free," the Cuban president told one of the five agents, Gerardo Hernandez, at the Lompoc prison in California, according to the daily Juventud Rebelde. "Stay firm. You are heroes among heroes."

Hernandez was speaking to his wife by telephone Saturday when a Havana gathering celebrating Castro's birthday fell silent so the president could address him, the newspaper said. Castro later spoke to one of the other agents, Antonio Guerrero, the paper reported. Guerrero is imprisoned in Florence, Colo.

A U.S. Court of Appeals last week overturned the 2001 conspiracy and espionage convictions of the "Cuban Five" and said prejudice against Castro had prevented them from getting a fair trial in Miami. The court ordered new trials for the men.

-- From News Services