London, April 10
North and South Korea have announced they are to hold their first summit since the peninsula was divided in 1945.
South Korean President Kim Dae-Jung will travel to the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, to meet his counterpart, Kim Jong-Il, on 12-14 June, the two nations said in a rare simultaneous announcement.
The Cold War rivals are technically still at war after their bitter three-year conflict in the 1950s ended in a truce.
Their last high-level talks took place nine years ago.
Former US President Jimmy Carter held talks in North Korea in 1994 with leader Kim il Sung, who proposed an inter-Korean summit. But the plans collapsed when President Kim died suddenly of a heart attack.
South Korea, the United States and Japan - who all have concerns over North Korea's missile production - met last month to try to co-ordinate their policy towards secretive Stalinist state.
It is believed that Pyongyang is working with Iraq to build a new ballistic missile plant in Sudan.
In recent months, the reclusive state has begun to show unprecedented signs of emerging from its diplomatic isolation, holding a series of high-level talks with the US and Japan.
The country is facing serious shortages of food and fuel - and as a result needs the support of other countries more than ever.
A US congressional report has estimated that up to two million North Koreans may have died of starvation and related diseases since 1995.
The South Korean news agency said the agreement came during talks between senior government officials from both sides and that preparatory meetings were taking place this month.
The announcement comes just days before general elections are due to be held in South Korea. South Korea's opposition Grand National Party said in a statement: «No regime in history has turned to such a blunt and shameless trick to win an election.»
South Korean stocks rose more than 4% following the news.
South Korean Culture Minister Park Jie-Won said the announcement was proof of the success of the South's policy of trying to engage North Korea through business and other contacts.
President Kim Dae-Jung has long espoused a «sunshine policy», aimed at constructively engaging the North to ease tensions on the peninsular.
However, tension has remained high on the contested sea border between the two. In June last year, rival naval vessels exchanged fire and at least one North Korean patrol boat was sunk.
The BBC's Caroline Gluck says there are many difficult issues that need to be resolved between the two sides, but the breakthrough is seen as a historic chance to end one of the world's remaining legacies of the Cold War.
The United States, China and Japan have welcomed the announcement. Japanese Foreign Minister Yohei Kono said the talks, if they happened, would be epoch-making.
ALMATY, Apr 10 (Akela group)
According to information from ITAR-TASS and Reuters, Uzbek customs officials recently stopped a lorry at the Kazakh-Uzbek border, claiming that it contained 10 lead containers filled with radioactive material.
Whilst Kazakhstani officials admitted that a part of scrap was infected, they refuted accusations that they were engaged in the transport of radioactive substances.
The director of the Kazakhstan Customs Committee in Southern Kazakhstan said Uzbek authorities had misread the facts. He also blamed Kazakh services, however, for granting a the lorry a safety certificate (See detailed material on p.2).
Information from ITAR-TASS, citing Uzbek officials, states that gamma radiation levels were 100 times above the standard. A consultant at the Kazakhstan Nuclear Centre, Professor Zhabaga Takibayev said to THE GLOBE that gamma radiation can not exist independantly, as it must be accompanied by powerful beta radiation. In his opinion, these statement were totally unreliable.
This incident will doubtless be interpreted as another shady deal by Kazakhstani operators, following the well known scandal surrounding the sale of Kazakh MIGs to North Korea.
On the other hand, it could be seen as provocation, happening literally days before Madeline Albright's visit.
A recognised Kazakhstani political scientist maintains that this could be a provocation by Uzbek special services, especially if we take into believe representatives of the Uzbek community living in Kazakhstan. He believes that Uzbek special services were literally following this cargo.
THE GLOBE has not enough data at hand to make any kind of conclusion, except that the Kazakhstani authorities have to defend themselves.
ALMATY, Apr 10
The trial of the case against RPPK (Republican People's Party of Kazakhstan) members, which was begun on Monday in Almaty, has been postponed to April 11.
At the beginning of December, Pyotr Afanasenko and Satzhan Ibraev were accused of illegal transportation and storage of firearms, were arrested by the Kazakhstani police and have remained under investigation since.
«The investigation has lasted for four months with several infringements of criminal-judicial procedure. Rakhat Aliev personally pressed and blackmailed Pyotr Afanasenko, a RPPK spokesman, Amirzhan Kosanov claims.
According to Mr. Kosanov, other similar facts of violations during the investigation were set out at the trial. For example, searches were conducted without witnesses, and defendants' depositions were not checked. The accused Afanasenko and Ibraev completely deny their guilt. The Prosecutor is using evidence from another defendant, Oleg Ifko, against Ibraev. Ifko is a representative of the Belgian company, in whose warehouses a safe was found loaded with firearms. The RPPK continues to maintain that the trial has a hidden political motive.
«By blaming RPPK members, the authorities want to strengthen accusations against Akezhan Kazhegeldin, against whom a criminal case has been recently begun, based on the same article,» Mr. Kosanov thinks.
If the court decides that they are guilty, the defendants will be sentenced to 2 to 6 years of imprisonment. «In this case the RPPK will fight for the release of its members and will appeal against the sentence at the highest levels,» an RPPK spokesman announced.
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