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NATO missiles kill 75 refugees
BELGRADE, April 15 — Up to 75 ethnic Albanians were reported killed yesterday in one of the most horrific incidents of the war when two convoys of refugees on tractors and on foot were struck by military aircraft in western Kosovo.

UK not to stay Pinochet extradition
LONDON, April 15 — Britain’s Home Secretary dashed Gen Augusto Pinochet’s hopes of immediately returning home by ruling today that Spain can continue seeking the former Chilean dictator’s extradition.

BUCARAMANGA, COLOMBIA : Nelson Vega and his wife Rita cradle their three-month old baby Juan Vega after they received him from Red Cross workers in Bucaramanga, Colombia, late Tuesday. The baby was among six hostages freed by leftist rebels from a hijacked Avianca airliner. The baby was travelling with his grandmother when the plane was forced to land by several pistol-waving passengers on a remote northern Colombian airstrip. The grandmother was also released — AP/PTI
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India, Pak told to halt arms race
MOSCOW, April 15 — Russia’s Foreign Ministry today urged India and Pakistan to halt their arms race after both countries tested missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads, a news report said.




NATO missiles kill 75 refugees

BELGRADE, April 15 — Up to 75 ethnic Albanians were reported killed yesterday in one of the most horrific incidents of the war when two convoys of refugees on tractors and on foot were struck by military aircraft in western Kosovo.

The Serb authorities immediately pinned the blame for the attack on NATO, which admitted striking military targets during the day in the area between Prizen and Djakovica. However, the Pentagon said last night that Yugoslav aircraft had been operating in the Djakovica area, which is on a key supply route for the Kosovo Liberation Army.

Ken Bacon, Pentagon spokesman, said he had no direct evidence that the attack had been committed by the Yugoslavs, although NATO has known for some time that Yugoslav warplanes have been attacking Kosovo Liberation Army forces.

“We did hit military vehicles in a convoy,” he said. “We are quite sure we hit only military vehicles. We will obviously review what happened.’’ Mr Bacon said General Wesley Clark, the Supreme NATO Commander, told him in a telephone conversation that he had received “verbal reports of the possibility” that after military vehicles in the refugee convoy were hit, “military people got out and...began to attack civilians in the middle of the convoy”.

As NATO launched an investigation into the incident, horrific pictures showed the bloodied bodies of men, women and children strewn across the road near the village of Meja, near Djakovica.

A Serbian cameraman from the Reuters news agency, who was granted access to the scene of the attack by the Serb authorities, pictured bodies lying amid mattresses and other belongings spilled from their trailers.

NATO says it is targeting only military or military-related sites in its air campaign, but has admitted that its missiles have missed their targets several times.

NATO military sources confirmed its planes had attacked vehicles on the Prizren-Djakovica road in Kosovo, but said it was too soon to comment on Serb charges that 70 refugees had been killed.

However, Jamie Shea, NATO’s main spokesman, warned against accepting Serbian reports of the incident. The Guardian, London.

BRUSSELS (DPA): NATO Thursday confirmed that its fighter planes carried out raids on a “mixed” civilian-military convoy near Djakovica in Kosovo the day before.

Yugoslavia reportedly said at least 75 persons were killed and 25 wounded in NATO air raids on two columns of refugees in western Kosovo yesterday.

NATO planes on Wednesday had attacked both a “clearly military” as well as a “civilian-military” convoy in two separate incidents, a high-ranking NATO officer told reporters in Brussels. However, the sites of the raids had been very close to each other, he said.

Meanwhile, more than half a million Kosovo refugees have fled or been forced out of the Serb province, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata said on Wednesday. She could not say how many remained inside Kosovo.

“We don’t know exactly how many there are because many of them have left,or were forced to leave,’’ Ms Ogata told a press conference at the NATO headquarters after talks with NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana. She said 525,000 refugees had left Kosovo.

Ms Ogata said there were 314,000 refugees in Albania and 67,000 in the Yugoslav republic of Montenegro. Macedonia has 116,000, she said.

PARIS (PTI): NATO ministers on Thursday discussed a peace plan proposed by Germany to bring peace in the war-torn Balkan region even as heavy bombardment continued to pound Yugoslavia with civilian establishments being prime targets of air missile strikes.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who met NATO Secretary General Javier Solana, last evening, joined the ministerial discussion and is expected to embark on a peace mission to Belgrade to convince Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to accept the German Proposal, NATO officials said.

The USA termed the German initiative “constructive” but said it was not a “full-fledged plan” and asserted there could be no pause to the NATO aggression until Belgrade agreed to all conditions put forward by the alliance. White House spokesman Joe Lockhart said in Washington.

Meanwhile, Belgrade experienced a series of bombardment as six powerful blasts rocked the Yugoslav capital in the wee hours of Thursday.

The official Tanjug news agency reported two bridges, a factory and two Serbian television transmitters were extensively damaged in NATO air raids. An army barrack outside Belgrade was also hit.

A bridge over River Zapadna Morava and another over Toplica were destroyed, it said, adding three persons were injured in the attacks.

Two Serbian TV transmitters on Mounts Ovcar and Zlatobor, 160 km and 200 km southwest of Belgrade respectively were hit, while an army barrack in the outskirts of the capital also came under attack, the agency said.

It said NATO aircraft fired two projectiles at a civilian hydro-power plant, near the southern town of Nova Veros.

NATO missiles also hit Kruski factory in Valjevo, south of Belgrade.

The UN Food Agency, meanwhile, warned that Kosovo was facing a severe and long-term food shortage because of the ongoing conflict.

UNITED NATIONS (IPS): UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has stepped up his bid for UN mediation in the Kosovo crisis, three weeks after (NATO) bombing of Yugoslavia left the world body on the sidelines.

Mr Annan’s closed-door negotiations on Wednesday in Brussels with leaders of the European Union (EU) Council did not yield any immediate results. However, he warned that the diplomatic process was ‘’delicate’’ and would be kept secret. He added that negotiations were underway, including “a lot of intensive discussions with the Russians...To try to get the Yugoslav authorities to respond, to engage.”

The UN’s role in the crisis has been clearly strengthened since last

Friday when Mr Annan called on Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to stop expelling ethnic Albanians from Kosovo.


UK not to stay Pinochet extradition

LONDON, April 15 (AP) — Britain’s Home Secretary dashed Gen Augusto Pinochet’s hopes of immediately returning home by ruling today that Spain can continue seeking the former Chilean dictator’s extradition.

The ruling means that even though the House of Lords drastically reduced the case against the 83-year General last month, Home Secretary Jack Straw considered the remaining charges — which include torture and conspiracy to torture — serious enough to go forward.

It is the second time that Mr Straw, the government’s top law enforcement official, has ruled against the General. He had asked to reconsider Spain’s extradition request after the law Lords’ ruling last month.

Gen Pinochet, who remains under armed guard at a mansion outside London, now faces the prospect of months or possibly years in British courts battling Spain’s attempt to bring him to trial for allegedly torturing opponents while in power.

Gen Pinochet was arrested on October 16 in London on a Spanish warrant that alleged thousands of abuses committed during his 17-year regime.

An official Chilean report says 3,197 persons were murdered or disappeared at the hands of his secret police after he toppled the country’s elected Marxist President, Salvador Allende, in a bloody 1973 coup.

But last month, in a groundbreaking decision, Britain’s highest court ruled that Gen Pinochet enjoyed a limited immunity from arrest as a former head of state. They said most of the charges against the General had to be dismissed because they predated Britain’s 1988 adoption of an international law against torture.

Gen Pinochet, however, was denied immunity for acts committed after 1988, which upheld enough of the case to keep Spain’s extradition request alive.

The General’s lawyers immediately filed their next challenge in the high court, attacking Mr Straw’s December decision allowing the extradition process to go forward.

The court granted Mr Straw’s request to reconsider the case afresh, giving him until today to act. If Mr Straw had failed to act by the deadline, Gen Pinochet’s lawyers were granted permission to return to court and argue the Home Secretary’s earlier decision should be tossed out and their client freed.

Once again, Mr Straw had to agonise over a mountain of evidence and public appeals from all sides. But, unlike the courts, he also was allowed to consider political and humanitarian factors, in addition to legal issues.

Under English law, extradition requests are allowed to proceed through the courts only with the Home Secretary’s approval.

With Mr Straw’s go-ahead, legal experts said they expect the prosecuting lawyers now to prepare a fresh arrest warrant based on the reduced charges. That warrant will probably include some of the new cases of torture and torture conspiracy that Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzon has added in recent months to bolster his case.

Mr Pinochet’s lawyers still have the option of appealing Mr Straw’s new decision.


India, Pak told to halt arms race

MOSCOW, April 15 (AP) — Russia’s Foreign Ministry today urged India and Pakistan to halt their arms race after both countries tested missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads, a news report said.

It called on Pakistan and India to stop the arms race, which might result in the destabilisation of the situation “not only in the Asian region but also on a large scale,” a Foreign Ministry official said, according to the Itar-Tass news agency.

Pakistan announced today that it had test-fired its Shaheen-1 ballistic missile, capable of carrying a nuclear warhead to targets in India.

Mr Mansoor Alam, Pakistani ambassador to Moscow, defended his country’s decision yesterday, saying that Pakistan made the move to ensure its national security in view of India’s growing nuclear might.”

“Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will discuss the test along with other issues during a trip to Moscow from April 19 to 21,” Mr Alam said.

BEIJING (AP): China called on India and Pakistan to take steps to prevent an arms race today, hours after Pakistan tested a second ballistic missile capable of carrying nuclear warheads.

Both sides should seek concrete avenues to avoid an arms race in South Asia so that peace and stability can prevail,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Sun Yuxi said.

In contrast to its more strongly worded condemnation of the Indian test, China’s reaction to Pakistan’s was muted. The spokesman avoided using the word “regret” in his statement about the Pakistani missiles, as he did after the Indian test.

WASHINGTON (PTI): The USA has said it hoped India and Pakistan would show “tangible indications” of restraining their defence projects but admitted missile tests by the two countries did not “violate any commitment” made by either of them.

“We hope India will provide tangible indications that it is prepared to practise restraint, and Pakistan as well, consistent with its declared intentions,” state department spokesman James Rubin told reporters yesterday.

Mr Rubin, however, admitted the test firing of Agni-II by India and Ghauri-II by Pakistan “do not violate any commitments made by either country or US law.”

Although new sanctions are not triggered by these tests, Mr Rubin said sanctions imposed after last year’s nuclear blasts by the two countries would remain.

OTTAWA (Reuters): Canada has said India and Pakistan’s ballistic missile tests flouted international public opinion and wasted the two countries’ resources.

“We regret the decision taken by India and Pakistan to proceed with testing medium-range ballistic missiles.” Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy said in a statement yesterday.

“These actions fly in the face of international opinion, as expressed in UN Security Council resolution 1172.”

Global Monitor
  Priest charged with rape
MANILA: A 52-year-old Roman Catholic priest was on Wednesday charged with raping a 15-year-old girl in the Northern Philippines last year, prosecutors have said. State prosecutor Emmanuel Velasco said Father Macario Apuya, Assistant Parish Priest in the city of Dagupan, was the first-ever Catholic priest to be indicted for sexual misconduct. — DPA

Blast kills 13
LEGAZPI (Philippines): Thirteen persons were killed and about 50 injured when a home-made bomb exploded early on Thursday at a village dance on a small Philippine island, the police said. The explosion occurred at the height of an annual religious fiesta in the island town of Rapu-Rapu in Albay province, about 300 km south-east of the Philippine capital. No arrests have been made. — Reuters

Designer dead
MILAN: Italian designer Nicola Trussardi died on Wednesday night after being injured in a car crash, a hospital source here said He was 56. Trussardi had been in an “irreversible coma” after being injured in the crash while driving home to Bergamo from his office in Milan during the night of Monday to Tuesday. — AFP

BRAINTREE (Massachusetts):
A 54-year old Chilean immigrant and live-in baby sitter on Wednesday came forward to claim the $ 197 million big game jackpot, the largest individual lottery prize in U.S. history. — AP

Lennon’s ex-PA sued
In the latest episode in a long feud, Yoko Ono has sued a former personal assistant to John Lennon, claiming he stole priceless personal items after the ex-Beatle was killed. In a federal lawsuit, Ono contended that the former aide, Fred Seaman, agreed in 1983 to return boxes of Lennon’s personal items but has held on to hundreds of photographs. — AP

US Budget
Majority Republicans whisked a final $ 1.74 trillion budget for the fiscal 2000 through the House, paving the way for year-long combat with President Bill Clinton over tax cuts and spending. The near party-line vote was 220-208. Senate approval was expected which Republicans hoped would help them spotlight their tax-cut drive even as Americans contended with the April 15 deadline for filing income taxes.

Whooping cranes
Two whooping cranes have produced the first eggs laid in the US wild in decades, raising hopes that the majestic birds will make a comeback after nearly being wiped out. The 4-year-old cranes are part of an experimental flock raised in captivity and placed in Central Florida’s Kissimmee Prairie. None had produced eggs. — AP

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