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News Briefs

East Timorese Brace for Election


On Aug. 30, two years to the day after a U.N.-organized referendum in which the people of East Timor voted overwhelmingly for independence from Indonesia, they will go to the polls to elect an 88-member national assembly to draft the territory’s first constitution.

The United Nations has been administering East Timor during its transition to independence. After the new assembly writes a constitution, East Timorese leaders will begin discussions with the world body about when they would assume full control of the country.

Although next week’s election marks a major step toward full nationhood for East Timor, people in this coastal village and in communities across the tiny territory are approaching the vote with as much trepidation as excitement.

After the 1999 referendum, East Timor was devastated by anti-independence militia groups supported by the Indonesian armed forces. The violence claimed hundreds of lives, led to tens of thousands of people being forcibly deported to Indonesian-controlled western Timor and resulted in the destruction of more than 85 percent of the buildings in the territory.

These days, reminders of the trauma still are omnipresent. As a consequence, the 16 political parties vying for seats in the assembly have adopted a low-key approach. They have so assiduously avoided contentious issues -- such as the framework of East Timor’s relationship with Indonesia or whether courts should provide leniency to militia leaders -- that many of their platforms appear strangely identical.

IMF Creates Compromise Rescue Plan for Argentina


The International Monetary Fund’s newest rescue plan for Argentina reflects the Bush administration’s attempt to strike a balance between pushing a get-tough policy in international economics while responding to the realities of international politics.

Administration officials wished to assert to world markets and investors in emerging nations that the IMF will not protect them from every risk. At the same time, Latin America is increasingly important as a U.S. trade partner, and the administration did not want to be viewed as abandoning one of the region’s most important economies.

The United States, as the IMF’s largest shareholder, had a major role in approving the new $8 billion credit line, which is aimed at keeping Argentina solvent and preventing its financial crisis from spreading throughout Latin America.

Advocacy Group Notes a Rise in Anti-Muslim Discrimination


Ignorance on the part of some employers and educators, a pattern of exclusion by the Bush administration and demonized depictions in the entertainment media are contributing to increasing discrimination against Muslims, leaders of an Islamic advocacy group said Wednesday.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations said the number of complaints of anti-Muslim discrimination it has received rose 15 percent in the past year. The group said a majority of incidents involve restrictions on religious observances or practices that occur in the workplace or schools.

“Misunderstanding and ignorance are our biggest challenges in this country,” said Nihad Awad, the council’s executive director.

Among the most common complaints received by the council are instances in which Muslim women are not allowed to wear their traditional hijab scarves on their heads in the workplace or men are asked to shave their beards.