World and Nation

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Russia Objects to UN Plan For Kosovo as ‘One-Sided’

Russia on Monday signaled its opposition to the United Nations proposal to settle the status of Kosovo, Serbia’s breakaway province, and said a new negotiator should be named and fresh talks started.

Vitaly I. Churkin, the Russian ambassador, made the comments in accusing a U.N. official who briefed a closed session of the Security Council of “preaching for independence” of Kosovo.

“He read a sermon to the council,” Churkin said of the presentation by Joachim Rucker, a special envoy. He called the presentation “extremely one-sided and unhelpful.”

The plan, negotiated over 13 months by Marrti Ahtisaari, a former president of Finland, grants Kosovo de facto nationhood — an army, a constitution and a flag — to be overseen by a European Union-led mission to provide protection for the province’s ethnic Serbs, who are the minority.

Ahtisaari is expected to turn the plan over to the Security Council next Monday.

Though it studiously avoids the word independence, the proposal is seen as setting the stage for such a declaration by the province. That is a development championed by the ethnic Albanians who make up 90 percent of the population but objected to vigorously by Serbia and Russia.

Al-Qaida Operative Admits to Role in Embassy, Cole Attacks

A top operative of al-Qaida has acknowledged his role in the bombings of two U.S. Embassies in Africa in 1998 and in the attack on the destroyer Cole off Yemen in 2000, according to a hearing transcript released on Monday by the Pentagon.

The operative, Walid bin Attash, who is also known as Khallad, made his statement, according to the transcript, to a combatant status review tribunal on March 12 at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The tribunal will determine whether bin Attash has been properly designated an enemy combatant, which would make him subject to indefinite military detention. He may also be charged with war crimes before a separate tribunal known as a military commission.

During the status review tribunal, an official whose name was not released asked bin Attash to outline his role in the three attacks.

“Many roles,” bin Attash said, according to the transcript and apparently speaking through a translator. “I participated in the buying or purchasing of the explosives. I put together the plan for the operation a year and a half prior to the operation. Buying the boat and recruiting the members that did the operation.”

He added that he had been with Osama bin Laden in Kandahar, Afghanistan, at the time of the attack on the Cole.

“And at the time of the embassy attacks?” an unidentified member of the tribunal asked.

Zimbabwe’s Crackdown Reaches Opposition Grass Roots

There were indications on Monday that the Zimbabwean government’s violent crackdown on its political critics was spreading from widely reported assaults on opposition leaders to less public attacks and threats against local activists and their supporters.

In Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital, a civic group reported a series of attacks on Sunday and Monday on neighborhood activists and local leaders of the nation’s main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change.

The group, the Combined Harare Residents Association, reported assaults on two political activists, one of whom was shot, and arrests and threats against two others.

The group’s spokesman, Precious Shumba, said in an interview that there were reports of beatings of others who had been taken outside the city by police officers, then arrested. Those reports could not be independently verified.

But one of the nation’s leading advocates of political reform, Lovemore Madhuku of the National Constitutional Assembly, said Monday in a telephone interview that the violence was growing.

“There is some systematic following of all key activists and trying to intimidate them, either by making them run away from their homes or beating them up,” he said.

Lebanese Army Tightens Security At Camp to Press Militants

The Lebanese army maintained a heavy presence on Monday in a Palestinian refugee camp in northern Lebanon where an Islamic militant group blamed for deadly bus bombings in February is based, army officials and camp residents said.

Soldiers set up checkpoints, searching cars going in and out of the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp, preventing reporters and Lebanese citizens from going in and students who study outside the camp from leaving to go to school, residents who were reached by phone said.

The security measures followed last week’s arrest of four men who authorities said are members of Fatah al-Islam, the militant group that has set up operations in the camp. The interior minister, Hassan Sabaa, has said the four men confessed to the bombings.

“They tightened security measures and we understand their concerns, but it has become impossible for us to move,” a camp resident who gave his name as Abu Louay and who is a member of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a Palestinian faction, said by phone.

A Lebanese military official familiar with the operation said the security measures will remain in place because the leaders of the militant group and those who planned the bus bombings are assumed to be inside the camp.