|Saturday, January 1, 2000, |
|Killer of 100 kids surrenders |
LAHORE, Dec 31 A man who confessed to killing 100 children surrendered to the military authorities yesterday in a dramatic episode that began in the office of the Pakistans largest Urdu-language newspaper, the Jang. Javed Iqbal, who wrote a letter to the police last month leading them to the remains of two bodies as well as the pictures and clothes of 100 boys he said he killed, was the target of a massive manhunt.
Ploy to blame India fails
2000 Chinese couples tie the knot
Yeltsin quits: poll on March 26
MOSCOW, Dec 31 (Reuters, DPA) Russian President Boris Yeltsin today stunned his own people and the world when he chose the last day of the 20th century to resign prematurely after eight years as leader of the worlds largest country.
He named Prime Minister Vladimir Putin as acting President and said presidential elections would be held three months early, in March.
Mr Yeltsin, who led Russia out of Communism, said he had done all he could for his people but also asked for forgiveness for the fact that not all the dreams of his rule following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 had been fulfilled.
I am going. I am going earlier than my established time, the 68-year-old President, who has been dogged by ill-health in recent years, said in a broadcast on state-owned ORT television.
Today on the last day of the old century I am resigning, he said, becoming the first democratically elected Russian President to leave office voluntarily. Mr Yeltsin would have had to quit anyway next June, when Presidential elections were originally scheduled.
A Kremlin source told newsmen that Mr Yeltsin had signed his resignation decree, a decree to name Mr Putin as acting President for three months and a decree to set March 26 as the day for the Presidential election.
Meanwhile, acting President Vladimir Putin is likely to appoint Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu as the new Premier, reliable sources here say.
The other formidable candidate is First Deputy Prime Minister Alexei Aksyonov.
Mr Yeltsins shock decision was intended to improve Mr Putins chances of becoming Russias next President, a source in the presidential administration told Reuters.
We believe that if an election is held within three months Mr Putin has a good chance of winning in the first round, the source added. Mr Yeltsin has already named Mr Putin as his successor.
Mr Yeltsin, speaking slowly and calmly as he dropped his bombshell, said Russia needed to go into the new century with new political leaders. Russian shares surged after Yeltsins announcement. A key share index was 10.54 per cent higher.
Mr Yeltsin took office with high hopes for a new era of democracy but his two terms have been marked by the dashed hopes of many Russians for new prosperity, amid stop-start market reforms and two wars in breakaway Chechnya.
His often poor health, including a multiple heart bypass in 1996, has often sidelined him and made him a far less effective leader than the burly former construction worker and regional communist party boss who burst onto the world stage in 1991.
Mr Yeltsin said he did not want to hold on to power. I am going. I did all that I could, he said in a speech in which he defended his record. A new generation is coming to replace me, a generation of those who can do more and better.
By the end of his reign, his own ill health and widespread public disillusionment had left him isolated, unpopular and often seemingly disoriented or confused.
Mr Yeltsin, 68, told Russians: I apologise. I have done all that was in my power. He added that he was not resigning for health reasons. Russia, he said, needed young political leadership for the new millennium.
Before quitting President Yeltsin signed the 2000 budget and only the second time in post-Soviet history that the main financial law has been ahead of the new year.
The presidential seal of approval was another feather in the cap of Prime Minister Vladimir Putins Government, although many analysts have questioned whether the budget can be implemented in its present form as revenue targets are ambitious.
The compromise document, which cleared parliament earlier this month, may have to be rewritten unless Russia persuades the International Monetary Fund and other foreign creditors to release new loans and ease the countrys foreign debt burden.
However, timely approval of the budget is an achievement in itself. Russia last entered the new year with a budget in place in 1996 and most years have been marked by prolonged wrangling between the state Duma (Lower House) and the government.
The budget targets spending of 855.1 billion Roubles ($ 26.7 billion) at a projected 2000 average rate of 32 roubles per dollar), and revenues of 797.2 billion Roubles, leaving a deficit of one per cent of gross domestic product.
After announcing his resignation today, Russian President Yeltsin must hand over to his acting successor one of the most important symbols of power in Russia: The briefcase with codes to launch nuclear missiles.
Mr Yeltsin received the briefcase from Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who resigned on Christmas day in 1991. Yeltsin parted from it only once during his term in office in 1996, when he underwent heart surgery and turned over his powers briefly to then Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin.
The nuclear button is an effective mechanism to control Russian nuclear forces and also a symbol of the presidency, Former Presidential Press Secretary Sergei Yastrzhembsky said when asked to describe the device.
Killer of 100 kids surrenders
LAHORE, Dec 31 (AP) A man who confessed to killing 100 children surrendered to the military authorities yesterday in a dramatic episode that began in the office of the Pakistans largest Urdu-language newspaper, the Jang.
Javed Iqbal, who wrote a letter to the police last month leading them to the remains of two bodies as well as the pictures and clothes of 100 boys he said he killed, was the target of a massive manhunt.
Yesterday he walked into the three-story Jang paper office in Pakistans eastern Lahore, where he allegedly committed his crimes, and said he wanted to write a confession, said Jang Editor Shaheen Quereshi.
Trembling and dirty, Iqbal said he feared the police would try to kill him.
He told us he was afraid to be captured by the police because he believed the police would kill him rather than arrest him, said Quereshi.
However, it wasnt clear what prompted Iqbal to surrender.
Newspaper employees watched Iqbal speak softly to one of the editors, ask for a piece of paper and begin to write his confession. Slowly, quietly one of the employees made a telephone call to the Pakistans military authorities, who sent more than 100 soldiers and officers to surround the building, Quereshi said.
The newspaper employees refused to hand him over to the police, he said.
Ploy to blame India fails
MOST leaders now part of Pakistans new ruling military establishment have cried foul and found fault with India over the hijacking of an Indian Airlines plane on December 24.
Far from condemning it as an act of international terrorism. The rulers have said it was handiwork of Indian intelligence agencies. The purpose is to defame Pakistan, said Pakistans Foreign Minister, Mr Abdus Sattar, on December 27. The incident involves a pre-conceived design by a foreign intelligence organisation, he added. The reason according to him was some of the suspicious actions of the pilot.
He found a lot of similarity between the 1971 hijacking and said: the incident was similar to the hijacking of an Indian airliner to Lahore in 1971. Ever since October 12, the Government of India made every possible effort to isolate Pakistan. He cited the Indian efforts to seek suspension of Pakistans membership from the Commonwealth and its unilateral postponement of the SAARC Summit at Kathmandu. They are disappointed at the failure of their efforts, he pointed out.
Mr Sattar said Pakistan had normal contacts with the governments among the comity of nations. Perhaps the Indian Government has decided to manufacture another incident to pursue its aim of maligning Pakistan internationally.
He said the Indian Government was not disclosing the facts to its people. I understand that Indian Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh has talked about the transfer of hijackers from a Pakistan airliner to the ill-fated Indian aircraft at Kathmandu without telling the people that the PIA flight had left Kathmandu at 10.35 a.m., while to the best of our knowledge the Indian plane was not even present at that time at Kathmandu airport.
The Pakistan Foreign Minister wanted the Government of India to persuade its airlines to disclose the names of all passengers especially those whom India alleged had disembarked from the PIA flight. There was no transit passenger abroad the PIA flight for the Indian airline at Kathmandu, he asserted.
The Foreign Minister found the root of the trouble in the relations between Pakistan and India can be ascribed to the generalisation that India is not prepared to resolve differences with Pakistan on the basis of international law and justice and seeks to exploit power disparity to impose solutions to problems.
Most newspapers and Pakistan TV have been making similar attempts to cover up the operation, which obviously has been masterminded by the Pakistani-supported militants. This should be clear from the demands made by the hijackers and the way the hostages are being kept in Kandahar, a cold mountainous region of Afghanistan.
The Pakistan Times and other English newspapers initially played to the tune of Sattar and Co. There was a chorus in most newspapers. It indeed was a shoddy way to cover up Pakistans own involvement as at least four of the hijackers are from Pakistani Punjab, whose major demand is to get a Muslim cleric, Maulana Masood Azhar of Multan, released from a jail in Jammu. Mr Sattar must be trying to hoodwink the international community and escape blame. He must be realising that this kind of subterfuge does not pay.
Nawa-e-Waqt, a leading Urdu daily published from six Pakistani cities, as well as other major newspapers have been publishing prominently, just like Indian newspapers, reports stories about the hijacking. But the blame first was on India for having masterminded a plot to defame the Pakistani Government and when it was no longer acceptable, they shifted it by asking why the plane was allowed to leave Amritsar. The whole attempt has been to push Kashmir issue to the central stage.
It is clearly established that aim of the hijackers is not only to get some militants released, but also draw international attention to Kashmir. Both the Pakistani establishment and the hijackers have only one mission: to paint India as a weak and soft state that can not tackle hijacking on its own soil even when it had a chance. This does help the new military ruler Gen. Parvez Musharraf, who is running out of steam.
2000 Chinese couples tie the knot
BEIJING, Dec 31 (Reuters) With a sports stadium as their cathedral and Communist Party parliamentarians their ministers, 2000 Chinese couples tied the knot today in a mass ceremony on the eve of the millennium.
I never thought I would need a ticket to my own wedding, said Yang Xiaoguang, 25, as he presented his invitation to a stadium guard.
I think itll be the biggest Chinese wedding ever, and spanning the century gives it even greater meaning, he remarked.
The stadium corridors were abuzz with scores of brides peeling off their winter coats and pulling kinks from their white gowns as parents snapped last-minute photographs. Teams of beauticians scurried about with tool boxes filled with hairs pray and make-up.
The event, sponsored by the All-China Womens Federation, drew couples through advertisements for the combination wedding and honeymoon, which includes a trip to the Great Wall and photos at the Great Hall of People near the Tiananmen Square.
Among the newlyweds were a pair of identical twins who married another pair of twins all of them with bleached blond hair and scores of the Peoples Liberation Army soldiers.
Fireworks ring in new millennium
HAMBURG, Dec 31 (DPA) The year 2000 began with traditional dancing on a remote South Sea atoll, but as the celebrations moved across the globe there were no signs of the dreaded computer millennium bug.
Millennium island, a tiny, normally uninhabited atoll in South Sea Kiribati chain which straddles the international dateline, had the honour of welcoming the big event with simple chanting, dance and the symbolic lighting of a beacon.
Remote Kiribati had even moved the date line so that the new millennium would come to it first, although the claim was disputed thousands of kilometres to the north in the Chukotka region of Russia.
Television crew from around the world were on Kiribati and Tonga to see in the New Year. The first sun rays of the new millennium shone on Kiribati at 5.43 a.m. local time.
The celebration action moved next to Tonga, the Chatham Islands, New Zealand and Australia where spectacular firework displays lit up the skies.
Some 1.2 million people in Sydney watched a giant fireworks display in the port outside the Sydney Opera House.
The far eastern reaches of Russia also entered the next millennium without registering computer glitches at their nuclear and electricity power companies or nuclear arms centres. Phone services have remained in service as have gas deliveries and transports.
Japan also broke into the year 2000 the year of the dragon without havoc from feared computer problems. Japanese media reported state officials as saying air and rail transportation were working without interruptions as were electric, water and gas services.
In Seoul, tens of thousands of South Koreans packed the area between the Old City Hall and the Old Kings Palace to celebrate the next millennium. South Korean officials detected no problems in any of the countrys critical sectors.
China greeted the New Year with some 10,000 people at The Great Wall of China as well as the unveiling of an enormous millennium monument.
Taiwan and Indonesia also hosted millennium festivities, which went off without any computer or service problems.
Malaysians by the tens of thousands welcomed the new millennium with fireworks, street parties and prayers.
Europe was bracing itself for rumbustious celebrations on Friday amid painstaking precautions in most countries against the millennium bug and a fear that extremists may seize the moment to launch attacks.
Britains Queen Elizabeth ii looked on benignly at a millennium funfair which began outside her London residence Buckingham Palace on Friday, the first time the monarch has allowed public merriment at such close quarters.
AUCKLAND, Dec 31 (AFP) The new millenniums first child is a baby boy born here at 1201 local time Saturday (4.31 p.m. IST today), New Zealand media reports said.
Fijis first millennium birth, a boy, is already 5,000 Fiji dollars ($ 2500) richer for being first.
The worlds first baby of the new millennium, also a boy, was delivered at Waitakere Hospital in west Auckland.
Radio New Zealand quoted hospital authorities saying they could give no details immediately as the family wanted privacy.Zealand said six babies were born within 20 minutes of the millenniums arrival.
In Fiji, which greeted the millennium at the same time as New Zealand, the first birth occurred at 1218 Saturday (1648 IST Friday).
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