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Briefs (right)

Trade Talks Likely to Focus
On Exports of Poorest Nations

By Keith Bradsher

Recognizing that little progress can be expected on intractable issues like farm subsidies, officials at global trade talks scheduled to begin here on Tuesday now appear likely to focus heavily on increasing exports from the world’s poorest countries.

Pascal Lamy, director general of the World Trade Organization, and John Tsang, Hong Kong’s trade minister and chairman of the WTO ministerial conference here, have called with increasing emphasis in the last few days for a detailed agreement eliminating all taxes and quotas on the exports of at least 32 of the world’s poor countries.

The move to focus on trade by the poor is drawing support from the European Union and Japan, as well as from some of the more economically viable developing nations. It comes as efforts for a deal on agricultural subsidies have stumbled.

But this emphasis on poor countries poses potential difficulties for the Bush administration, which has raised concerns while accepting that some kind of agreement is needed on trade relations with the poorest among Third World economies.

The administration faces pressure from Southern states like North Carolina on cotton, particularly garments. While the United States allows tax-free, quota-free imports of garments from many poor countries in Latin America and Africa, industry groups in textile-producing states and their political allies in Congress oppose the elimination of taxes on garments from Bangladesh, a poor nation that is one of the world’s largest exporters of clothing.

French Detain 20 Suspected
Islamic Radicals

By Elaine Sciolino

The French police announced Monday that they had arrested more than 20 Islamic militants and petty criminals in the Paris area who were believed to have been plotting terrorist acts in France.

A police statement described the arrests as “an important operation aimed at dismantling an Islamist network linked to a terrorist enterprise.”

The police have not yet determined whether the group had precise plans for a terrorist attack. But they found it worrisome that the group included a blend of militant Islamists and petty criminals who were apparently committing common crimes as a way to raise money for terrorism, an intelligence official from the DST domestic intelligence service said.

Some of the suspects have criminal records, for charges including armed robbery and the possession of false documents, the intelligence official said.

“This was a rather important and rather worrying operation,” the official said. “Some of them were very experienced thieves and armed robbers who intended to use the money for terrorist activities. They represented a concrete danger.”

The official declined to be identified because it would violate the rules of his agency.

New Law in Tijuana Regulates
The Oldest Profession

By James C. McKinley Jr.

She arrived at the clinic at noon, dark sunglasses covering her eyes and a baseball cap pulled down low. She clutched a small pink book with her picture stapled inside. The dates of her examinations for venereal diseases were stamped in inks of various colors, like a passport.

Her name is Olga, and like thousands of other women in this town, she works as a prostitute, recruiting clients at a topless bar. These days, however, unless she is tested every month at a government clinic and has the right stamps in her booklet, the police will arrest her.

“You cannot work without it,” she said, running her finger down the list of dates and notations saying “HIV negativo.” “If you don’t have it, the police will take you away and you have to pay a fine.”

The testing is one of the measures this city has taken to regulate prostitution, which has flourished here for decades. The city council passed a law in June that requires the town’s active prostitutes — 5,000 are currently being tested each month — to have monthly medical exams for sexually transmitted diseases and forces brothel owners to adopt more sanitary practices. Those who do not comply face stiff fines and the loss of their business licenses.

The city has also begun issuing new credentials to prostitutes to replace the old pink booklets. The new licenses look like a credit card with a photo. A magnetic strip on the back allows health inspectors with hand-held scanners to check the card-holder’s medical status in seconds.

Ex-Croatian General Pleads
Not Guilty

By Marlise Simons

Ante Gotovina, a former general from Croatia, on Monday appeared before the war crimes tribunal in The Hague and listened impassively to a list of international crimes lodged against him for his role during military operations against Serbian forces and civilians in 1995.

It was his first appearance at the tribunal, where prosecutors had campaigned for his arrest for more than four years. During the hearing, he pleaded “not guilty” to all seven counts against him. He was arrested last Wednesday.

Gotovina, once a fighter in the French Foreign Legion and now viewed at home as a hero of Croatia’s war of independence, remained polite and distant during the 90-minute proceeding, which could be watched via video transmission from the court.

When the U.N. judge asked him if he wanted to present any issues about the proceedings or about his prison conditions, he replied briefly: “No, I do not have anything to raise. Everything is fine. Thank you very much.”