ABUJA, Nigeria

Darfur talks end with no progress

Sudan’s rebels and government broke off internationally
brokered peace talks for the bloodied Darfur region yesterday after
three weeks with little progress and no deal. The government blamed
the United States for the failure.

Both sides said the talks had collapsed, although they left open
the possibility of trying again after a halt of at least three
weeks.

Sudan’s government — under threat of international
sanctions over 19 months of violence in Darfur — insisted
U.S. criticism had heartened rebels past the point of
compromise.

Sudan’s top negotiator cited Secretary of State Colin
Powell’s declaration last week that Sudan’s government
and allied militia had committed acts of genocide against
Darfur’s non-Arab villagers.

“The attitude of Colin Powell and America generally was
the main cause of the stalemate,” Sudanese envoy Majzoub
al-Khalifa Ahmad said.

“It sent a wrong message to the rebels, and that resulted
in their hardening their position at the talks,” Ahmad said,
insisting Sudan’s problems “will never be solved from
outside Africa.”

 

WASHINGTON

U.S. censures Saudis for religious policies

In an unusual censure of a key ally in the war on terrorism, the
Bush administration yesterday accused Saudi Arabia of
“particularly severe violations” of religious
freedom.

The State Department also included the kingdom for the first
time on a list of countries that could be subject to U.S. sanctions
because of religious intolerance.

Nations in this category carry a special designation:
“countries of particular concern,” or CPCs.

“Freedom of religion does not exist,” the State
Department said, summing up the situation in Saudi Arabia in a
report that covered religious freedom in 191 countries.

Those who do not adhere to the officially sanctioned strain of
Sunni Islam practiced in the country can face “severe
repercussions” from religious police, the report said.

It also cited instances in which government-paid mosque
preachers “used violent anti-Jewish and anti-Christian
language in their sermons.”

 

NEW YORK

Martha Stewart to reclaim ‘good life’ in
jail

Even at a wrenching moment of surrender, Martha Stewart was
— as always — under impeccable control.

Her announcement yesterday that she would report to prison as
soon as possible came in a light-bathed studio, before a brilliant
backdrop of color swatches, perfectly choreographed for television.
She lamented that she would miss her beloved pets — cats,
dogs, horses, canaries and chickens — and hoped to be free in
time for her cherished spring gardening.

“I must reclaim my good life,” the 63-year-old
millionaire businesswoman declared. “I must return to my good
works and allow those around me who work with me to do the
same.” Her lawyers stressed that her appeal would
proceed.

 

THE HAGUE, Netherlands

Witness troubles force Milosevic trial delay

Just two weeks after resuming Slobodan Milosevic’s
much-delayed trial, the U.N. war crimes tribunal adjourned for a
month yesterday to allow his frustrated court-appointed lawyer to
prepare a case stymied by reluctant witnesses and an uncooperative
defendant.

Steven Kay, who was assigned to lead the defense over
Milosevic’s angry objections, told the three judges that 20
defense witnesses have refused to appear in court — among
them ambassadors, politicians and professors from the United States
and elsewhere. Many have refused to testify unless the ousted Serb
leader takes charge of his own case.

“Groups of witnesses have banded together and have stated
they are not prepared, under the conditions of the assignment of
counsel, to come to the tribunal and testify,” Kay told the
panel.

 

— Compiled from Daily wire reports

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