U.N. discusses Afghan power no consensus yet

KOENIGSWINTER, Germany

U.N.-led talks on Afghanistan”s future took an important step forward yesterday with four Afghan factions poring over a U.N. draft detailing terms for the northern alliance to transfer power in the capital, Kabul.

But tough bargaining over powersharing was only beginning. None of the delegations has yet formally submitted its list of names for an envisioned interim administration “the missing link,” according to U.N. spokesman Ahmad Fawzi.

Without a consensus on all points, anything agreed in Germany runs the risk of falling apart on the ground, Fawzi warned.

“We want to produce a document that is worth the paper it”s written on, not a weak agreement that they will not respect when they go home,” Fawzi said. “They have to agree to every word in this agreement and implement it. The international community will be watching very carefully how they implement the agreement.”

Once an agreement is reached, U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi was prepared to travel immediately to Afghanistan to implement any deal, Fawzi said.

The conference outside Bonn gathers delegates from the northern alliance and representatives from the exiled former king and two other small exile groups.

Religious, political groups could be monitored

WASHINGTON

Attorney General John Ashcroft warned yesterday that religious or political groups normally free from government intrusion could be monitored by agents if they are suspected of engaging in terrorism.

“People who hijack a religion and make out of it an implement of war will not be free from our interest,” he declared as officials took to the Sunday news shows to debate America”s new anti-terrorism police powers.

The Senate”s top Democrat said he might support the narrow use of one of the most controversial tactics secret military tribunals to try terrorists.

“Under certain circumstances, very, very restricted circumstances, depending on how it”s handled, I”m willing to look at it,” Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota said.

“With regard to the situation in Afghanistan in particular, trying a Taliban or terrorist or … people involved in terrorist activity, clearly there”s at least the possibility that something like that might have merit,” Daschle said on NBC”s “Meet the Press.”

Bush requests more surveillance powers

WASHINGTON

The Bush administration is asking Congress for a second major expansion of federal surveillance powers that legal experts say would radically change laws that have long protected the rights of Americans.

A Justice Department proposal would eliminate the chief legal safeguard in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. A CIA proposal seeks legal authority to gather telephone and Internet records from domestic communication companies.

The still-secret proposals would build upon and expand new intelligence-gathering powers that were granted to the FBI and the CIA under the U.S.A. Patriot Act. Signed into law Oct. 26, that anti-terrorism bill laid the foundation for a larger and more powerful domestic intelligence-gathering system.

Organ donor families could receive payment

SAN FRANCISCO

As the nation”s need for organ transplants continues to outstrip supply, the American Medical Association yesterday grappled with a possible solution once thought taboo: paying dying would-be donors and their families for vital organs.

Such financial incentives are illegal, banned by Congress in 1984, and as a result people needing organ transplants must rely strictly on volunteers.

However, only 25 percent of 78,000 organ transplants currently needed will occur in time to save a life, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing, the nonprofit agency that the government pays to oversee the nation”s organ donor network.

Fifteen people die each day waiting for an organ transplant, the agency says.

Most donation decisions must be made by families of people who die suddenly and unexpectedly.

KKK member may stand trial for murder

BIRMINGHAM, Ala.

A hearing could finally resolve the question of whether a former Ku Klux Klansman will stand trial for murder in a 1963 church bombing that killed four black girls.

Circuit Judge James Garrett is to hear testimony today and review reports from experts who observed Bobby Frank Cherry while he was confined at a state mental health facility for about 10 weeks.

Garrett previously ruled Cherry, 72, was mentally incompetent to stand trial in the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church. He could either reverse or uphold that decision based on the experts” opinions.

Under an order from Garrett, results of the lengthy evaluation at the state-run Taylor Hardin Secure Medical Facility have not been made public.

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