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News Briefs

China Signs Accords With ASEAN On Disputed Territory, Free Trade


The Chinese government signed agreements Monday with the 10 countries of Southeast Asia to prevent open conflict over long-disputed areas of the South China Sea and to establish the world’s largest free trade zone over the next decade.

The two deals, approved at a summit meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), underscored China’s growing influence in an area of the world worried about the rising military and economic strength of China but nonetheless eager to develop good ties with the giant neighbor. The meeting also demonstrated Beijing’s increasing willingness to take a leadership role in international affairs.

After years of negotiations, the association -- which is composed of Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam -- reached agreement with China on a nonbinding declaration intended to reduce the chances of military confrontation over the Spratly Islands and other disputed areas.

In the declaration, all the parties agreed to exercise self-restraint in any activities that could touch off a conflict, such as settling the islands, and to give advance notice of any military exercises.

Saddam Hints Iraq Might Comply With Security Council Resolution


President Saddam Hussein hinted Monday that Iraq might be willing to comply with a new U.N. Security Council resolution proposed by the United States that calls for more stringent weapons inspections, apparently reversing earlier opposition to any changes in the inspection process.

Saddam’s government has insisted for weeks it would agree to inspections only under existing arrangements with the United Nations and not under new rules sought by the Bush administration that are designed to give inspectors greater authority to conduct unannounced searches of Saddam’s palaces and other sensitive Iraqi installations.

But Monday, Iraq’s state-run television network quoted Saddam as telling a far-right Austrian politician, Joerg Haider, that Iraq would wait to see the terms of a new resolution before deciding whether to comply. “If a resolution is issued that respects the U.N. Charter, international law and Iraq’s sovereignty, security and independence, and does not provide a cover for America’s ill intentions, we will look into whether we will deal with it,” Saddam was quoted as saying.

In a separate meeting with an envoy from South Africa, Saddam was even more explicit. The Iraqi leader, according to state television, said his nation would “respect any decision that is issued in accordance with the U.N. Charter and international law.”