Swiss official crosses DMZ
Switzerland's foreign minister traveled across the world's most heavily fortified border yesterday, crossing from North Korea into South Korea, in what she called a symbolic act showing that divisions can be overcome. Micheline Calmy-Rey became the first foreign government minister to travel from North Korea to South Korea through the border village of Panmunjom. Panmunjom is located inside the 4km wide Demilitarized Zone, a buffer separating the two Koreas. "My crossing is a symbolic act," Calmy-Rey said after arriving in South Korea. "It demonstrates the possibility to overcome lines and borders which are symbols of separation and confrontation," she said.
■ Sri Lanka
Authorities fight floods
Sri Lanka fought yesterday to feed and clothe more than 200,000 survivors of the worst floods and landslides to hit the island in half a century as the death toll rose to 237, officials said. Estimates of those missing rose above 200 as relief agencies assessed damage to homes, farms and livestock. People living in low-lying areas were warned about the possibility of more floods and earthslips three days after the south of island was battered by torrential rain.
Policeman shot dead
A police officer was gunned down in southern Thailand yesterday in the latest of several violent incidents involving police and the military in the region, police said. Sergeant Major Aware Leeming, 42, was pronounced dead at Bacho district's hospital in Narathiwat province after he was shot four times by assailants who trailed him as he rode his motorcycle from home to work, they said. National Police Chief General Sant Sarutanond told reporters it was the work of extortionists. Interior Minister Wan Mohamed Noor Matha said that the murder of another policeman earlier in the week may have been part of an ongoing campaign by criminals to procure arms.
Minister condemns riots
Indonesia's manpower minister has described as "shameful" a weekend clash between Indonesian workers in Malaysia which left one person dead, a report said yesterday. "We are very concerned about the incident. It's a very shameful act as it involves our workers who are making money in another country," Jacob Nuwa Wea was quoted as saying by the Jakarta Post. "More of these incidents would likely prompt the Malaysian government not to accept Indonesian workers to work in that country," he said.
■ The Philippines
Rebels reject Bush plan
Muslim separatist rebels yesterday welcomed US President George W. Bush's offer of financial and political assistance to end their decades-old insurgency, but said they have no choice but to fight a continuing Philippine military offensive. Bush told Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, during a White House reception Monday to honor a long-standing ally in the war on terror, that Washington wanted to back a renewed peace process between Manila and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Rebel spokesman Eid Kabalu said the rebels agreed with Bush about renouncing the use of terror and force. He said the MILF has pursued peace with the government and has come up with several agreements, but that the process was derailed by a major military offensive in February that drove the rebels from a key camp on the main southern island of Mindanao.