Rebels agree to dialogue
Separatist rebels from Indonesia's Aceh province said yesterday they were willing to meet Indonesian government officials in Japan for peace talks to prevent a landmark peace deal from collapsing. The announcement comes less than 12 hours after Indonesia, under pressure from key foreign donors, gave the rebels another two days to resume talks to avert an all-out military assault in the province on the northern tip of Sumatra island. "Yes, we have decided that we will continue dialogue on May 17 in Tokyo," rebel spokesman Sofyan Daud said.
Defense bills make headway
A set of bills to bolster Japan's ability to respond to attack passed a critical vote yesterday, marking a major victory for Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi but raising concerns over this country's commitment to the strictly defensive policy it has pursued since World War II. The legislation, which won approval in parliament's lower house, would give the Cabinet and ministries greater control over local governments and other strategically important public and private institutions in case of war. It would also create guidelines for troops to use privately owned property and allow authorities to punish people who flout emergency laws.
■ Hong Kong
Illegal immigrants arrested
A gang of 23 Vietnamese illegal immigrants believed to be carrying weapons and explosives was arrested yesterday after arriving in Hong Kong by boat, police said. Police were called after two men held up a store in Pokfulam, on the west of Hong Kong, at 4am yesterday while another six men were involved in a mugging in the same area. Thirteen more men were arrested nearby and two others were found on a boat off Pokfulam which the gang is believed to have sailed in on. Three detonators and bullets believed to belong to the gang were also retrieved by officers. The 23 men are all suspected to be illegal immigrants from Vietnam and were being held for further questioning yesterday morning, a police spokesman said.
US issues travel warning
The US State Department on Wednesday advised Americans living or traveling in the Southeast Asian country of Malaysia to be aware of a persistent threat posed by extremist groups in the region. The announce-ment said there was continuing concern about the possibility of "terrorist" attacks against US citizens and American interests in Malaysia, especially in the state of Sabah, close to the southern Philippines. The State Department also said it was concerned about Jemaah Islamiya, another extremist group believed to be active in Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines.
Army rejects restriction
The Nepalese army (RNA) will not restrict its movement to within 5km of its military barracks as previously agreed upon at peace talks until it recovered all its weapons looted by the Maoists, newspaper reports said yesterday. Last week the government and Maoists in the most recent round of peace talks agreed that the Nepal army would restrict its troops to within a radius of 5km of their barracks. "The Maoists still pose a grave threat to the maintenance of internal security and providing people with a sense of security," army spokesman Colonel Deepak Gurung was quoted as saying by the Kathmandu Post.
Anti-racists sue Bardot