Israeli foreign minister says he will meet with Arafat next week
CERNOBBIO, Italy - Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said yesterday night that he will meet with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat next week in the Middle East.
In the Mideast, Palestinian International Cooperation Minister Nabil Shaath said efforts were under way to arrange the talks. "Until this moment, no time and no date and no place for such a meeting has been set."
Peres made the announcement as he arrived in Cernobbio, a lakeside retreat in northern Italy.
Asked by reporters when he would meet with Arafat, Peres replied: "It will be next week. Probably we'll have three different meetings, one after the other."
Peres did not specify which date or just where he would begin his meetings with Arafat in his quest to end violence in the Middle East. All he would say is that it would take place in "the region," meaning the Middle East.
The Israeli then went into a villa on Lake Como for his meeting with Italian Foreign Minister Renato Ruggiero.
Peres came to northern Italy to attend an annual seminar in Cernobbio, about an hour's drive from Milan, involving politicians, economists and other noted figures.
Arafat was also invited to the three-day Cernobbio seminar, but organizers said they hadn't heard if he would come.
A senior Palestinian official said prior to Peres' announcement that a meeting would be held Sunday either in Taba, Egypt or at the Erez crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip.
House approves normal trade relations with Vietnam
WASHINGTON - The House yesterday approved normal trade relations with Vietnam, a step expected to substantially boost commerce and contacts between the two former enemies.
The voice vote endorsed a trade agreement reached between Vietnam and the Clinton administration in July 2000 and sent to Congress by the Bush White House in June. It still requires a Senate vote.
The agreement would give Vietnam access to the same low tariffs enjoyed by other U.S. trading partners. In exchange, the Hanoi government would commit to reducing tariffs, eliminating non-tariff barriers, protecting intellectual property rights and opening its markets to American service and investment companies.
Vietnam's exports to the United States, mainly textiles and light manufactured goods, could more than double with the agreement, raising the nation's living standards, said House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas, R-Calif.
"A strong Vietnam matters to America," he said. "History has proved that we pay a heavy price for instability in southeast Asia."
The nation of 80 million is the world's 13th largest, but trade with the United States last year amounted to only about $1.2 billion.
Vietnam is one of only six nations in the world denied normal trade relations, meaning its goods are subject to much higher tariffs. Others are Afghanistan, Cuba, North Korea, Laos and Yugoslavia.
For Vietnam, still a communist state, approval of normal trade relations would give it the same status applied to China the past two decades: The president must issue annual waivers for requirements that it is complying with freedom of emigration
Danny Almonte Starts School in Bronx
NEW YORK - The 1.1 million children heading back to school this week included overage Little Leaguer Danny Almonte, who is attending an undisclosed New York City public school.
Danny, whose Rolando Paulino team was banned from Little League after officials in the Dominican Republic ruled that he was 14, showed up at school as promised, said Board of Education spokeswoman Catie Marshall.
It was Danny's first day at an American school - although team officials originally said he attended school in the Bronx last year.
On Tuesday, officials in the Dominican Republic charged Danny's father with falsifying a birth certificate to make his son appear to be 12 when he actually was 14 and thus too old for Little League.
Felipe de Jesus Almonte "will be arrested as soon as he sets foot in this country," said Victor Romero, a public records official in the Dominican Republic. The father is still in New York and faces three to five years in jail if convicted.
Defendant requests dismissal of arson case
MESA, Ariz. - A man charged with torching luxury homes near desert mountain preserves asked a federal judge to throw out his case or suppress incriminating statements made to an informant.
Mark Warren Sands' public defender argued in court documents that the government had engaged in outrageous conduct in Sands' case.
The government violated Sands' right to remain silent by using the informant, a friend who taped Sands talking about setting fires at area homes, Attorney Deborah Euler-Ajayi wrote in a motion filed in U.S. District Court in Phoenix.
Sands was arrested June 14 on a federal grand jury indictment accusing him of 22 counts of arson and extortion in eight fires set at seven homes near Phoenix and Scottsdale mountain preserves from April 9, 2000 to Jan. 18.
The indictment came on the strength of statements Sands made to friend Warren Jerrems during a June 5 hike at the Grand Canyon after Jerrems repeatedly urged him to talk about the fires, according to the defense motion.
Jerrems was wired and an FBI agent was walking close by, listening.
The U.S. Attorney's office declined to comment.
Sands is also requesting that he be tried outside of Phoenix because of the publicity that has surrounded the case.