U.S., Afghan Forces

Kill 14 in Clashes

KABUL, Afghanistan -- U.S. and Afghan forces backed by helicopter gunships killed 14 suspected Taliban fighters in central Afghanistan in the heaviest clashes since landmark parliamentary elections went off without major disruption, officials said Friday.

One Afghan soldier was killed and a U.S. soldier was wounded in the fighting in central Uruzgan on Thursday and Friday, the first time U.S.-led forces had used air power since President Hamid Karzai questioned the need for airstrikes.

Meanwhile, unidentified gunmen killed a popular local singer and six companions in northern Afghanistan. The motive for the attack in Jowzjan province was unclear, and there was no immediate indication the killings were linked to the Taliban insurgency.


* DUSHANBE, Tajikistan -- President Imamali Rakhmonov was quoted as saying he would never allow the U.S. military to set up a base in his Central Asian state.

Neighboring Uzbekistan has given U.S. troops six months to leave an air base in the south that was set up during the war in Afghanistan. The announcement came after criticism of the authoritarian state's bloody suppression of an uprising in the town of Andijan.

"There has never been and will never be a U.S. military base in Tajikistan," Russia's ITAR-TASS news agency quoted Rakhmonov as saying on a trip to eastern Tajikistan. "I consider all rumors on this subject to be speculation." A senior member of Rakhmonov's political party said last week that Tajikistan could host some military equipment and personnel forced to leave the Karshi-Khanabad air base in Uzbekistan, but that it could not host the whole base.

* MANILA -- An opposition lawmaker and lawyers petitioned the Philippine Supreme Court to revive impeachment charges against President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Rep. Clavel Martinez and the lawyers said the House of Representatives committed "grave abuse of discretion" and exercised its power "in a despotic manner" on Sept. 6 when it dismissed charges against Arroyo of vote-rigging and corruption.

They urged the Supreme Court to nullify the decision and direct the house speaker to send the justice committee an amended impeachment complaint filed by opposition lawmakers.

Arroyo has denied rigging last year's elections but apologized for phoning an election official to inquire about how she was doing in the returns.


* DUBLIN -- The outlawed Irish Republican Army is ready to dispose of its stockpiled arms in a long-sought peace move, possibly within the next week, Sinn Fein and Irish government leaders said after their first meeting in eight months.

On July 28, after years of diplomatic pressure from the British, Irish and U.S. governments, the IRA announced it had formally renounced violence for political purposes and would disarm fully in cooperation with John de Chastelain, a retired Canadian general.

Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, leaders of the IRA-linked Sinn Fein party, spent two hours discussing the still-secret IRA decisions and their consequences with Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern and senior cabinet ministers.

* BERLIN -- Germany's Greens rejected coalition talks with opposition leader Angela Merkel, leaving conservatives with only Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's party as an awkward partner for a new government.

The failure raised the pressure on Merkel and Schroeder to resolve their rival claims to the chancellorship and end the political drift threatening Europe's most populous country as it grapples with economic stagnation and record unemployment.

Fronted by Merkel, the conservatives defeated Schroeder's Social Democrats in Sunday's parliamentary vote. But they fell short of a majority for her program of accelerated economic initiatives.

* MOSCOW -- Russian prosecutors sought to strip Mikhail Khodorkovsky's attorneys of the right to practice just hours after the tycoon's appeal was dismissed and his foreign lawyer was ordered out of Russia.

The prosecutor general wanted the Justice Ministry to remove the status of lawyer from Khodorkovsky's defense team for trying to "ruin" the appeal hearing, said spokeswoman Natalya Vishnyakova.

She appeared to be referring to wrangling, before Thursday's hearing, in which some of the team refused to represent Khodorkovsky even though ordered to do so by the Moscow court.

-- From News Services

Paulinka Kreisberg, daughter of Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal, mourns with her granddaughter as Wiesenthal is buried near Tel Aviv. Wiesenthal, a Holocaust survivor who went on to pursue war criminals, died Tuesday at age 96.