The deadline imposed by a group claiming to hold kidnaped American journalist Daniel Pearl was extended "one more day" for the US to release Pakistanis captured in the counterterrorism war in Afghanistan. Otherwise, the previously unknown National Movement for the Restoration of Pakistani Sovereignty said in an e-mail, "we will kill Daniel." Its message included pictures of Pearl with a pistol pointed at his head. The Wall Street Journal reporter disappeared Jan. 23 while trying to arrange an interview.
A new furor erupted in relations between Israel and the Palestinians after Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said in a published interview he was "sorry we didn't liquidate" Yasser Arafat 20 years ago. Sharon referred to 1982, when invading Israeli forces had Arafat cornered in their drive to push the Palestine Liberation Organization out of Lebanon. Sharon also told the newspaper Maariv that Arafat could yet become a partner for peace, but Palestinian and European Union officials angrily condemned the remarks. Israel's policy now "is not to harm Arafat personally," a Sharon aide said. (Related story, page 7; related editorial, page 10.)
The long-awaited campaign for president opened officially in Zimbabwe, where 22-year incumbent Robert Mugabe is seen as fighting for political survival. Mugabe's nomination papers for the March 9-10 election were filed by an aide. His chief rival, opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai ( above, l., in open coat) presented his own in person. Through the official Herald newspaper, Mugabe applauded the Commonwealth for failing to suspend Zimbabwe earlier this week over his attacks on press freedom and political rivals.
The drumbeat of indignant reaction to President Bush's State of the Union address intensified from the governments he linked to terrorism. North Korea's news agency called his remarks "shenanigans" aimed at continuing the US's "policy of aggression against us." Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said his country was "honored" to have been singled out by Bush and that "America is the most hated Satan in the world." Iraq's official newspaper called the US "the sole evil on Earth." Syria, which Bush did not name, said through its state-run newspaper, "It is hard to understand why [he] prefers to hide the evil face of Israel."
Up to 4,000 asylum-seekers were offered free transportation back to Afghanistan and "some resettlement assistance" by the Australian government still dealing with a controversy over its handling of the hunger strike some of the illegal immigrants ended Wednesday. The hunger strikers were protesting the lengthy application process for asylum. Prime Minister John Howard said his government did not view it as "unreasonable" to expect the Afghans to return home "now that the reason most of them have given for leaving Afghanistan [its former Taliban regime] is no longer there."