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Signs of the Times for Mon, 20 Mar 2006

15 Mar 06
Kabul: US AND Nato forces are following up reports that the Taliban has received vital component parts for American shoulder-fired Stinger missiles from Pakistani officials enabling them to be used against helicopters in Afghanistan.

It is claimed that the missiles - originally supplied to the Afghan Mujaheddin by the US during the war against the Russians - have been fitted with new battery packs allegedly provided by the Pakistani intelligence service, ISI, in the last four months.

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Sun Mar 19, 4:11 PM ET
PARIS - French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin vowed not to back down on his contested youth jobs plan, the day after violent protests and as union leaders threatened to call a general strike.

Villepin called for giving his controversial First Employment Contract (CPE) "a chance", while adding that he "regretted" it was misunderstood.

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Juan Cole
16 Mar 06
The Bush administration repeatedly made the presence in Iraq of Abu Musab Zarqawi a pretext for invading the country and overthrowing Saddam Hussein. They implied that he was a client of Saddam and that Saddam had arranged for hospital care for him.

Newly released documents from the captured Iraqi archives show that Saddam had put out an APB for Zarqawi and was trying to have him arrested as a danger to the Baath regime!

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March 16, 2006, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belarus, Minsk
Los Angeles Times:

I think you are already quite aware of the article that I am pursuing. We came here because, ironically, Belarus is a pretty small country, and yet we have president of my country commenting about it. Obviously, there is something bigger at stake here. Could you comment on that?

Sergei Martynov:

To answer your question I would first say that yes, Belarus is not a large country, but it is indeed an important country, which sits at a strategic crossroads in Europe. This is one of the reasons for this attention.

And we I say "at a strategic crossroads", I have in mind a couple of things. First of all, if you, for example, take a ruler and apply it to the map from Berlin to Moscow, it will not go through Kiev, Riga or Vilnius, it will go through Belarus.

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March 15, 2006, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belarus, Minsk
Associated Press:

So we will begin. I guess you have seen the questions already. To begin with, reading the Foreign Ministry's web-site I have seen that Belarus is emphasizing good relations with neighbouring countries. You are bordering many countries that are sceptical about Belarus' commitment to democracy and human rights. Does this scepticism of your neighbours impede your foreign policy, and what is Belarus doing to try to overcome this scepticism?

Sergei Martynov:

You are right in terms that one of the priorities of the Belarusian foreign policy is having good relationship with the neighbors. In fact we have a goal of having what we call a "belt of good neighborliness" around Belarus, and we believe that this belt is very much achieved.

Yes, not many but some of our neighbors have differences with us on the subjects you mentioned. But we believe that these differences largely result from the fact that these nations are members of larger alliances, which have their common foreign policy or at least aspire to have a common foreign policy. Therefore the stance of those countries is not always what you might term an independent stance.

Click to Expand Article 2006-03-20 10:58:12
MINSK, March 20 (Xinhua) -- Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko won re-election in Sunday's presidential vote, the Central Election Commission said early Monday.

"Alexander Lukashenko has won the election," with 82.6 percent of the vote, Lidia Yermoshina, chairwoman of the commission, told a press conference.

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Kim Murphy
Los Angeles Times
Most doctors now believe the whole episode was sparked by the extreme and chronic levels of stress among children who have experienced a war with Moscow that lasted more than 10 years.

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John Leicester
Associated Press
19 Mar 06
PARIS -- Tear gas. Students clashing with police around the famed Sorbonne university in Paris. Barricades in the capital's streets. Is March 2006 proving to be May 1968 all over again?

So far, no. While comparisons between the student protests of then and now are tempting, they are also misleading.

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