Tuesday, February 1, 2000,
Chandigarh, India





THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
W O R L D


The shuttle Endeavour is visible on the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center on Sunday, after the rotating service structure was rolled back in preparation for launch. Endeavour is scheduled for launch Jan. 31 on a radar topography mission
The shuttle Endeavour is visible on the launch pad at Kennedy Space Centre on Sunday, after the rotating service structure was rolled back in preparation for launch. Endeavour is scheduled for launch Jan. 31 on a radar topography mission. — PTI photo
Key Grozny square falls
NAZRAN (Russia), Jan 31 — The Russian army today said its troops secured a key square in the fight to control Chechnya’s capital, Grozny, and were within sight of the city centre amid conflicting reports of more rebel surrenders.

Israeli offer to share Jerusalem
JERUSALEM, Jan 31 — Israelis and Palestinians entered intensive talks for a peace treaty framework and a top Israeli official appeared to boost the chances for an agreement by suggesting Jerusalem could be shared with the Palestinians.

Army admits hand in massacre
AMBON, Jan 31 — Indonesia’s top general in the embattled Muluku Islands has said four soldiers were involved in the massacre of 24 Christian civilians on the island of Haruku last week.

Pak writes to Annan on LoC "violations"
ISLAMABAD, Jan 31 — Pakistan Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar has said the present government will not compromise on national interests whether US President Bill Clinton visits the country or not.



EARLIER STORIES
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Israeli aircraft bomb southern Lebanon
TEL AVIV, Jan 31 — Israeli war planes bombed various targets in the northern parts of the Israel-controlled southern Lebanon last night through to the early hours of this morning.

China closes down ‘cult’ offices
BEIJING, Jan 31 — China has closed down 100 offices of a meditation group with similarities to the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement after declaring it a cult, a Hong Kong-based human rights group said today.

British offer on Pinochet report
LONDON, Jan 31 — The British Home Secretary, Mr Jack Straw, has offered to keep details confidential if former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet agreed to undergo a medical examination, a Home Office spokeswoman told AFP.



 

Key Grozny square falls

NAZRAN (Russia), Jan 31 (Reuters, DPA, AP) — The Russian army today said its troops secured a key square in the fight to control Chechnya’s capital, Grozny, and were within sight of the city centre amid conflicting reports of more rebel surrenders.

The reports coincided with a meeting in Moscow between US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and her opposite number, Mr Igor Ivanov, for talks expected to feature arms control and the Chechnya campaign.

The Russian forces pressed on with their stalled drive to dislodge snipers and capture Grozny. One report said they had secured control over a strategic square after a 12-day battle.

Private NTV television quoted the military command as saying Russian troops took control of Minutka Square, one km from Grozny’s centre, after 12 days of fighting.

Other military statements said troops had taken over tall buildings near the square and cleared out Chechen snipers holed up inside. They also reported 110 air raids on Grozny and on southern regions, where rebels remain in control of many areas.

The leader of a pro-Moscow militia in Chechnya said 34 more separatist fighters turned themselves in today, but a rival Chechen leader also backing the Kremlin dismissed the reports as untrue.

Interfax news agency reported the start of Ms Albright’s meetings with the Russian leadership. She is due to meet with acting President Vladimir Putin tomorrow.

Ms Albright has said Mr Putin is "riding a tiger" by pushing a military offensive against rebels in Chechnya.

"There is no question the war is popular", she told reporters as she flew to Moscow yesterday to size up Mr Putin and push arms control.

Ms Albright noted that casualties were mounting and said Russia faced more isolation in the international arena as the war dragged on. "They have to hear over and over again that this is not working for them", she said.

She said she was "hoping to have a meaty session" with Mr Putin when they get together this week.

The leader of a pro-Moscow Chechen militia, Bislan Gantimirov, told Interfax news agency that 34 Chechen fighters had surrendered in Grozny. This brought to 168 the number of surrenders since the weekend Those giving up would be considered for an amnesty which expires tomorrow.

In Moscow, Defence Minister Igor Sergeyev told Russian news agencies that the surrenders were "the first sign of a breakthrough in the operation to free the Chechen capital".

But Malik Saidullayev, leader of a rival pro-Moscow Chechen body dismissed the reports of surrenders.

"As far as I know, no fighters have surrendered in Grozny or turned in weapons,’’ he told Reuters in Nazran, the largest town in the adjacent Russian region of Ingushetia.

Russian troops meanwhile continued the offensive to take Grozny under heavy air and artillery cover, officials at the North Caucasus army command said. Federal forces now controlled about 40 per cent of the city after nearly six weeks of fighting, they said.

Government warplanes and combat helicopters also kept up their heavy assault on Muslim rebel positions in the southern mountains, destroying arms and munitions dumps and anti-aircraft batteries in dozens of sorties since yesterday, Interfax reported.Top

 

Israeli offer to share Jerusalem

JERUSALEM, Jan 31 (AP) — Israelis and Palestinians entered intensive talks for a peace treaty framework and a top Israeli official appeared to boost the chances for an agreement by suggesting Jerusalem could be shared with the Palestinians.

With a deadline for agreement less than two weeks away, negotiators met secretly for two hours yesterday at an undisclosed location. The talks were expected to last 10 days.

Chances for progress at the talks could be improved following remarks by Deputy Defence Minister Ephraim Sneh that Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries could be expanded to accommodate Palestinian aspirations for a presence in the city.

That was the first time Israel has indicated willingness to compromise on one of the thorniest issues keeping the sides from concluding a permanent peace agreement.

Sneh, who often speaks for Prime Minister Ehud Barak, said Jerusalem’s borders could be expanded eastward toward an area where Israeli officials have suggested that the Palestinians could establish a capital.

That could allow the Palestinians to administer parts of the city where Arabs still predominate. Those areas were captured by Israel in the 1967 war. Until now, Israeli governments have pledged never to divide the city.

The Israelis and Palestinians have set an ambitious February 13 deadline for an outline of a final accord that would resolve the thorniest issues dividing them: the return of Palestinian refugees, the borders of an independent Palestinian state and the status of Jerusalem, among others.

Meanwhile the Israeli Attorney General has handed over to police investigators documents on the alleged illegal financing of Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s May 1999 election victory, a police spokesman said.

The police received the documents yesterday after a meeting between Attorney General Eliyakim Rubinstein and police chief Yehuda Wilk, he said.

Barak’s One Israel bloc is accused of massive violations of the legislation covering party finance and fraud, according to a report by State Comptroller Eliezer Goldberg.Top

 

Army admits hand in massacre

AMBON, Jan 31 (DPA) — Indonesia’s top general in the embattled Muluku Islands has said four soldiers were involved in the massacre of 24 Christian civilians on the island of Haruku last week.

Gen Max Tamaela told Indonesian television here yesterday that armed forces investigators on Saturday uncovered evidence that soldiers on Haruku assisted several thousand Muslim residents of neighbouring villages in the attack on the main Christian town of the same name.

In addition to the four serving members of the army, a police officer was also under suspicion, he said.

"I’m a little bit surprised about his comments, yes," said the Rev Jack Manuputty, a member of a now-defunct Christian-Indonesian reconciliation task force and part-time resident of Haruku.

"But he has to make a further investigation into who directed them, who was the one who gave the orders. I don’t believe they acted on their own initiative. The people there, the victims, deserve to know who was behind the action."

The Indonesian army has been accused on several occasions of siding with Muluku’s slim Muslim majority here since battles between the two religious groups first began in January, 1999.Top

 

Pak writes to Annan on LoC "violations"

ISLAMABAD, Jan 31 (UNI) — Pakistan Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar has said the present government will not compromise on national interests whether US President Bill Clinton visits the country or not.

In interviews with Nation and Nawai Waqat, Mr Sattar said the situation with regard to Mr Clinton’s visit would be clear by mid-February. Pakistan, he said, enjoyed cordial relations with the USA and the visit by Mr Clinton would further strengthen the relations between the two countries.

Mr Sattar said Pakistan had written a letter to the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, asking him to take note of the "violations of the LoC by the Indian forces." He warned that the situation could turn serious and sensitive, if India continued to behave in the same manner.

He expressed concern over the border situation which he said was worsening but pledged that Pakistan was well aware of its defence responsibilities. Top

 

Israeli aircraft bomb southern Lebanon

TEL AVIV, Jan 31 (DPA) — Israeli war planes bombed various targets in the northern parts of the Israel-controlled southern Lebanon last night through to the early hours of this morning.

The aerial bombardment came barely hours after a Hizbollah bomb attack killed deputy commander of the Israel financed "South Lebanon Army" Akel Haschem at his home yesterday.

Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Barak yesterday promised to "punish the Hizbollah" for the attack.

Meanwhile Lebanese security officials said Col Akl Hashem, considered the No 2 man in the Israel-backed South Lebanon Army militia, was working in an orchard near his house in Dibel village yesterday when a guerrilla bomb went off, killing him instantly.

Hashem, 48, was regarded as the likely successor of Gen Antoine Lahd, the commander of the Israel-backed militia.Top

 

China closes down ‘cult’ offices

BEIJING, Jan 31 (Reuters) — China has closed down 100 offices of a meditation group with similarities to the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement after declaring it a cult, a Hong Kong-based human rights group said today.

The Information Centre of Human Rights and Democratic Movement in China said the Chinese police began the crackdown against the Zhong Gong group last November after President Jiang Zemin labelled it a cult.

Zhong Gong, which claims more than 10 million practitioners in China, practises "Qigong", a traditional Chinese system of deep breathing exercises or meditation.

The Chinese police raided Zhong Gong’s head office in Beijing and confiscated $ 6.02 million in assets in November, the rights group said.

The rights group has reported that in December hundreds of police closed down Zhong Gong’s largest training base in the northwest province of Shaanxi, dispersing about 2,000 practitioners.

Chinese authorities also closed down some 60 offices of a company linked to the Zhong Gong movement in inner Mongolia, Guangxi, and Yunnan provinces, it said.Top

 

British offer on Pinochet report

LONDON, Jan 31 (AFP) — The British Home Secretary, Mr Jack Straw, has offered to keep details confidential if former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet agreed to undergo a medical examination, a Home Office spokeswoman told AFP.

"We can confirm that the subject of confidentiality was first raised by the Home Office — the Home Office (Interior ministry) is making no secret of this," she said yesterday.

Mr Sraw had asked Senator Pinochet and his representatives twice to agree to the disclosure of the medical report, but was refused, she added.Top

 

Cuba vows more rallies for Elian

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 31 (AFP) — A Cuban Envoy today vowed more rallies would be held to demand the return of Elian Gonzalez from the USA, saying the issue was being politically manipulated by the Cuban-American community in Miami.

"We will carry on this fight until the boy is back in Havana... the rallies will continue in all cities," said Miguel Angel Ramirez Ramos, special envoy to President Fidel Castro.Top

 

Neo-Nazis hold march

BERLIN, Jan 31 (Reuters) — Hundreds of neo-Nazis marched through Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate this weekend for the first time since World War II in a protest against a national monument honouring Jews murdered in the holocaust.

Witnesses said about 600 young neo-Nazis walked through the gate on Saturday raising slogans like "glory and honour of the Waffen SS," while about another 500 Germans shouting "Nazis out" staged a counter-demonstration nearby.Top

 
WORLD BRIEFS

Taliban go-ahead to CNN
KABUL: Afghanistan’s Muslim fundamentalist Taliban have given the go-ahead to the US-based Cable News Network (CNN) to open an office in the capital Kabul, Foreign Ministry officials said on Monday. Permission was secured in early January at a meeting between Taliban Foreign Minister Mawlawi Wakil Ahmad Mutawakil and Dominic Robertson, CNN Deputy Bureau Chief, London, in the southern province of Kandahar, they said. — AFP

China warns USA against censure
BEIJING:
China on Monday warned the USA against censuring Beijing at the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, just days after abruptly ending criminal proceedings against a US-based librarian and setting him free. Vice-Foreign Minister Wang Guangya said bilateral human rights dialogue would suffer a serious setback if the USA backed a resolution critical of China at the commission in Geneva in March, the official China daily reported. — Reuters

Four children killed in fire
BAD HERSFELD:
Four children aged between six and 13 years died in a fire in the German town of Ludwigsau-Ersrode, a police spokesman said. Fire Department chief Juergen Weingarten said that a fire erupted in the house on Saturday spreading throughout the home within seconds. — DPA

"Eye of the Beholder" leads box office
LOS ANGELES:
Ashley Judd has racked up her second number one film in four months as her new psychological thriller’’, "Eye of the Beholder," led the pack in light business at the North American weekend box office. According to studio estimates, "Eye" earned about $ 6.2 million for the Friday-to-Sunday period, narrowly ahead of "The Hurricane’’. — Reuters

Princess rescued from fire
PARIS
: Princess Stephanie of Monaco and her three children had to be evacuated from their Alpine ski-station apartment after a fire broke out in the cellar, the police said. Sunday’s blaze, which quickly sent noxious, thick, white fumes billowing from burning plastic chairs, was believed to have been sparked by a short-circuit in an electric radiator. — Reuters

Yoko living in fear
LONDON:
Ms Yoko Ono is living in fear as the parole authorities in the USA prepare to consider releasing Mark Chapman, the man who killed John Lennon in New York 20 years ago, a British newspaper has reported. Ms Yoko Ono issued a statement to The Independent on Sunday, saying she feared even more for her safety and those of her sons, Sean and Julian, since ex-beatle George Harrison was stabbed in an attack at his home in Oxfordshire, Britain. — DPA

Six die in bus crash
NICOSIA:
At least six Filipinos were killed in Cyprus on Monday and scores more injured when their tourist bus crashed on a mountain bend, the police said. The victims, who lived in Cyprus, died when the bus hit a concrete barrier and overturned on a busy mountain road. Reports said there were 36 persons — mostly women — on the small bus. — Reuters

Prince Charles worth 290m
LONDON:
The Prince of Wales official fortune has risen to an all-time high of 290 million and his annual income is more than 7 million, The Sunday Times said, citing accounts due to be published later in the year. It said the Duchy of Cornwall, set up in the 14th century to provide for the heir to the throne, had never before officially revealed how much its extensive land and commercial assets were worth. — DPA

Activists burn women’s underwear
MANILA:
As many as 30 demonstrators burned women’s underwear in front of the US Embassy in Manila on Monday in protest against the start of large-scale US military exercises, which they claim will cause an increase in prostitution. The first major joint exercises in five years began on Monday with a five-day seminar and planning conference involving 67 US officers. — AP
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