Japan enters war against terrorism

TOKYO

Japan is planning to commit about 1,500 military personnel to the war against terrorism under a new law allowing its armed forces to transport supplies and provide other non-combat support, a newspaper reported yesterday.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi”s conservative administration is expected to approve by the end of the week a plan outlining Japan”s total military contribution to the U.S.-led campaign in Afghanistan.

That contribution will include six or seven naval vessels carrying about 1,400 sailors, plus C-130 military transport aircraft and medical teams from Japan”s Ground Self-Defense Force, the mass-circulation Yomiuri newspaper reported, citing a draft copy of the plan.

Ordering its military to provide support for forces engaged in combat is a first for Japan since World War II. During the Gulf War ten years ago, Japan agreed to send minesweepers to the Persian Gulf only after the fighting was over.

Three warships have already left Japan on a reconnaissance mission to scout sea lanes and gather other information for military officials planning the operation.

Pakistani president won”t relinquish office

WASHINGTON

Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who seized power in Pakistan in 1999, said yesterday that he has no plans to relinquish the presidency in elections next year. He plans instead to eventually become a neutral “figurehead” to his people.

Musharraf”s remarks were the first time he explicitly counted out including the presidency in October 2002 national and provincial elections, the first since his bloodless coup.

“I myself will remain as the president, and that is for sure, beyond 2002,” he said on NBC”s “Meet the Press.”

He said participating in elections would undermine his status as a unifying figure. “I would rather like to remain in my position as implementing something for the good of the country. I”ll be a neutral figurehead.”

Opposition parties fear that Musharraf will rewrite the nation”s constitution before the elections to broaden the president”s power.

Before Sept. 11, Musharraf had been under pressure from the West to democratize Pakistan. Since the terrorist attacks, the United States has come to rely on Pakistan in the war against suspected terrorists and their protectors in Afghanistan.

British troops help northern alliance

LONDON

British ground troops are inside Afghanistan, providing assistance to northern alliance fighters, Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon said yesterday.

It was the first time the government has confirmed the presence of British troops in the country.

“I can certainly confirm that there are members of Britain”s armed forces on the ground in northern Afghanistan liaising with the northern alliance providing advice and assistance,” Hoon told British Broadcasting Corp. radio.

The Ministry of Defense would not give details of the number of British troops in the country or their units.

Last month, Britain announced that 600 special forces troops would be available for operations in Afghanistan. The plans called for 200 Royal Marine commandos operating from two assault ships in the region, with 400 men from the same unit on standby in Britain.

Palestinian killed while making bomb

JERUSALEM

A Palestinian militant was killed yesterday when a bomb he was making exploded, Palestinian security officials said, and an Israeli was shot dead northeast of Tel Aviv in what police suspected was a Palestinian attack.

The incidents came as Secretary of State Colin Powell met in New York with Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, who is working on a new peace initiative that reportedly calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state in the areas already under Palestinian control as a first phase.

Peres discussed the plan Saturday with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, whose stated positions contrast with elements of the plan reported in Israeli media, namely that the Palestinians be granted more land in the Gaza Strip and West Bank as part of negotiations over final borders.

Indepence leader killed riots erupt

JAKARTA, Indonesia

Riots erupted yesterday after an independence movement leader was kidnapped and killed in Irian Jaya, one of several Indonesian provinces plagued by violence amid a traumatic transition to democracy after decades of dictatorship.

Villagers found the body of Theys Eluay in his wrecked car in a ravine 18 miles east of the provincial capital, Jayapura.

Police said he appeared to have been strangled and that his assailants had tried to make the killing look accidental by pushing the car off a remote stretch of road. There were no clear suspects, and his driver was missing, they said.

Eluay”s widow, Yaneke, blamed the Indonesian military, which is often accused of human rights atrocities. Police said Eluay was killed as he returned home after dining with local Indonesian army commanders Saturday night.

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