|Thursday, January 6, 2000,
Syria resolve agenda discord
Russian law comes into effect
for Bill to treat Pak terrorist state
|Cleric Azhar seen in Karachi
KARACHI, Jan 5 Maulana Masood Azhar, a Pakistani cleric freed by India in a deal with the hijackers of an Indian Airlines plane, has returned to Pakistan, a source in a militant group said today.
Indo-Pak tensions main goals
kill 9 cops in Nepal
consciousness after 16 years
Counter-attack by Chechens
GROZNY, Jan 5 (AP) Chechen fighters launched a strong counterattack against Russian forces in Groznys northern outskirts today despite Moscows claims that the rebels are close to a collapse.
Rebel fighters retook parts of the Grozny suburb of Khankala, which Russian forces claimed to have occupied days ago. By this morning, Chechen militants controlled the southern half of the area.
An Associated Press reporter witnessed heavy fighting in several other parts of Grozny and its outskirts that the Russians had claimed to have taken over in recent days.
Chechen leaders claimed the attacks marked the start of a change in the war and the Russian advance into Chechnya would be halted. A major Chechen counter-attack could be embarrassing to the Russian Government, which has claimed it is close to defeating the rebels.
The period of Russian armys triumphant march through Chechnya is over, a turning point in the second war in Chechnya is about to occur, said Chechen presidential administration chief Apti Batalov, quoted by Interfax.
But the Chechen offensive could be shortlived. The rebels in Grozny are reportedly short of ammunition, although their spirits appear to be high and they have vowed to hold the shattered capital.
Emerging from a meeting
with acting President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, Defence
Minister Igor Sergeyev said the federal forces were
regrouping in Grozny so that rebel fighters wouldnt
be able to break out. He insisted that the Russian
offensive was not in trouble.
Israel, Syria resolve agenda discord
SHEPHERDSTOWN, Jan 5 (AFP, Reuters) A day after a procedural dispute nearly derailed Israeli-Syrian peace talks here, US officials have pronounced the process back on track following Washingtons intervention.
In an hour-long trilateral meeting yesterday with US President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Syrian Foreign Minister Faruq Al-Shara said they remained committed to ending 50 years of enmity, they said.
The trilat was a very constructive and productive session that put the process clearly on track, State Department spokesman James Rubin said.
The leaders reaffirmed their commitment to what we are trying to do here, he said, admitting to a sense of relief over the substantial and vigorous meeting.
We were quite pleased with how today unfolded in light of the hurdles we had to overcome, he told reporters as Mr Clinton, Mr Barak and Mr Al Shara and their delegations met informally. That gathering lasted about an hour after which Mr Clinton left to return to Washington.
The three-way meeting had been anticipated on Monday the first time Mr Barak and Mr Al Shara had met since agreeing last month in Washington to fully resume the talks after a nearly three-year break but was abandoned after the dispute over the agenda emerged.
Mr Rubin declined to say exactly how the obstacle had been removed but said the solution provided for all contentious issues which also include water rights, security guarantees for Israel and a timetable for implementation to be addressed in the coming days by expert committees.
In addition, he rejected suggestions that either the Israeli or Syrian sides had given into concessions demanded by the other. Israeli and Syrian sources also denied they had backed down on their stances.
The problem has been settled and the four working groups from each side will carry out negotiations simultaneously, said a source close to the Syrian delegation who accused Israel of trying to change the agenda from what had been agreed upon at their first meeting in December.
At the same time, an Israeli official said the dispute had been resolved when the Syrians dropped some demands.
The crisis has been resolved to Israels satisfaction and talks are going to resume on normalisation and security, he said.
Earlier, a US-brokered compromise ended an agenda dispute that had clouded the resumption of land-for-peace talks on Monday. The talks resumed last month in Washington after a nearly four-year break.
The Israeli and Syrian delegations, chaperoned by US officials, were due later yesterday to attend what Mr Rubin described as an informal social gathering at which they could also talk business. The White House said Mr Clinton would be present.
Under the procedural deal hammered out by the USA, working committees were to meet through the week on a series of hard issues.
They include borders the extent of an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights security arrangements, normalisation and water resources, as well as a timetable for implementation of a peace deal, sources close to the negotiations said.
They have a work plan and an organisational structure, Mr Rubin told reporters. He said some of the committees would convene later and all would meet within the next few days.
Israel and Syria, after 50 years of conflict, had disagreed over what the talks should tackle first, with Mr Barak insisting on security discussions and Mr Al Shara seeking to put the focus on withdrawal from the Golan, captured by Israel in 1967.
In remarks earlier to reporters in Washington, Mr Clinton said: I think theyre both very serious. I think they both want an agreement.
The outlines of a deal have been clear for years since even before the talks broke off in 1996.
JERUSALEM (DPA): After weeks of wrangling, Israeli and Palestinian officials have signed maps detailing the transfer of 5 per cent of the occupied West Bank to full or partial Palestinian control.
Israel will also release 22 Palestinians from its jails today, in a gesture to mark the end of Ramadan, Israel Radio reported.
Twenty of the prisoners from Gaza were serving terms of up to a year for being in Israel without the necessary permits, the radio reported.
The remaining two prisoners, from Jenin on the West Bank, had been jailed for up to 12 years, for murdering family members.
New Russian law comes into effect
MOSCOW, Jan 5 (AFP, UNI) Russias presidential elections should be held on March 26 under the new rules in line with an electoral law published today in the official Rossiskaya Gazeta, Itar-Tass news agency reported.
The law on the election of the President of the Russian Federation, which comes into effect on publication, was adopted by the lower house on December 1 and signed on December 31 by President Boris Yeltsin just hours before he resigned.
It differs in several points from the 1995 electoral law which was in vigour until yesterday: the voting date in the case of early elections was now set as the last Sunday in the three months following a resignation.
Under the law, the next presidential election would thus be held on Sunday, March 26. The upper house, the Federation Council, was to meet today to announce a definite date.
The Russian constitution says that if a President resigns before his term is up, the elections should be held within a maximum three-month period after his resignation.
In another change, new law makes it necessary for candidates to have at least a million signatures to take part, against 500,000 in 1995 text in case of early elections.
This point will make it harder for certain Russian politicians to stand in the coming elections.
The new law also demands candidates to reveal their police records, dual nationalities, their income as well as that of their family over the past two years. Government workers were not allowed to use their positions to campaign, Itar-Tass said.
The results must be published within 10 days of the vote, compared to 14 days under the previous law.
Meanwhile, Kremlin has scorched speculations of acting President Vladimir Putin giving up his premiership to dilute his powers in running the government.
Pallone for Bill to treat Pak terrorist state
WASHINGTON, Jan 5 (UNI) Democratic US representative Frank Pallone Jr has said that he may draft a legislation calling on the State Department to declare Pakistan a terrorist state if the department failed to do so on its own.
Mr Pallone, known for his strong anti-terrorism stand, said yesterday that now is the time for the United States of America and other major nations to declare Pakistan a state sponsor of terrorism.
The recently concluded Indian Airlines hijacking crisis is only the latest in a long series of incidents that point to Pakistans role in promoting violence and instability in the region, he said in a statement.
Mr Pallone said he would formalise his request to cite Pakistan a terrorist state through a letter to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Pending a response from the State Department, he said he may draft a legislation to enforce his decision.
Referring to the US State Department statement on Monday that Ms Albright has not yet made a determination to name Pakistan a terrorist state, Mr Pallone said he will continue to press for the status to be reviewed.
While not rejecting outright Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayees demand that Pakistan be declared a terrorist state, State Department spokesman James Rubin told reporters on Monday that Pakistan had told the USA it would meet its obligations under the international convention to apprehend and bring the hijackers to justice.
Mr Pallone, the founder of the Congressional caucus on India and Indian Americans, said, besides the terrorist organisations themselves, those countries that harbour terrorist organisations or provide them with technical, financial, political or other support should also be held accountable.
Citing top security adviser Brajesh Mishra, Mr Pallone said the last straw to Pakistans clear association with terrorist activities are the radio conversations between militant groups in Kashmir, with links to hijackers, that were intercepted by Indian intelligence.
He said Indian officials had quoted reports indicating the presence of hijackers somewhere in Pakistan despite denials by the latter countrys military dictatorship.
Pakistans response to these serious charges is to make the absurd allegation that India engineered the hijacking of its own citizens, he added.
PTI: Pakistan, Mr Pallone pointed out, has acknowledged its political and moral support for the separatist movement, but credible reports from Indian and other sources indicate that Pakistans support goes far deeper. Last year, Pakistan increased tensions in the region by launching a military campaign against Indian positions across the Line of Control in Kashmir.
For a long time I have been expressing concern about the role of Pakistan in terms of international terrorist activities, Pallone continued. in particular, we have seen Pakistans involvement in the ongoing terror campaign in Kashmir.
There have been
reports that a significant number of the individuals
involved in the terrorist camps in Afghanistan are
Pakistani nationals. We have seen some of the most
international terrorists turning up in Pakistan. Pakistan
actually protested the US military action against
terrorist training camps in Afghanistan.
Cleric Azhar seen in Karachi
KARACHI, Jan 5 (AFP) Maulana Masood Azhar, a Pakistani cleric freed by India in a deal with the hijackers of an Indian Airlines plane, has returned to Pakistan, a source in a militant group said today.
Maulana Masood Azhar, who emerged as a central figure in the hijacking saga, has returned to Pakistan and spent hours with his friends at an Islamic seminary in Karachi, the source at the Harkat-ul Jihad-el Islami told AFP. The group was once part of the Harkat-ul-Ansar.
It is a great feeling to have him back. He deserved to be back as he did not commit any crime and is a Pakistani citizen, the source said.
The source said he knew nothing about the whereabouts of the five hijackers, who seized the Indian Airlines jet on Christmas Eve and held the passengers and crew hostage on board for a week.
The hijackers escaped after India gave in to their demands and released Azhar and two other militants, Mushtaq Ahmad Zargar and Ahmed Umar Syed Sheikh, a British passport holder.
Easing Indo-Pak tensions main goals
WASHINGTON, Jan 5 (PTI) US President Bill Clinton has declared that easing of tensions between India and Pakistan and fighting weapons proliferation and terrorism will top his agenda this year, his last in office.
Easing tensions between India and Pakistan and fighting weapons proliferation, terrorism and the nexus between them are the main goals during this last year of his tenure, Clinton said, in his annual national strategy report to Congress.
Outlining his heavy national security agenda to change the world, Clinton said his other goals include working to change the regime in Iraq, restraining the North Korean and Iranian missile programmes and forging a lasting peace in West Asia.
Securing peace in the Balkans, Northern Ireland, helping Russia strengthen its economy and fight corruption as it heads towards its first democratic transfer of power and furthering arms control through discussions with Russia on the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and deeper reductions in strategic nuclear weapons are also among his agenda.
Mr Clinton will also strive towards implementing Chinas entry into the World Trade Organisation WTO and other global institutions while promoting freedom and human rights there.
Mr Clinton claimed that the USA had done much over the past seven years during his tenure to build a better world which included negotiating the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (though it was rejected by the US Senate).
Maoists kill 9 cops in Nepal
KATHMANDU, Jan 5 (DPA) In one of the most daring and audacious attacks on a police post so far, the Maoist insurgents killed at least nine policemen and injured 10, media reports said today.
The mass circulation Nepali language daily Kantipur quoting the police said, the Maoist rebels attacked the police post at Rarali of Jumla district, 450-km North-West of the capital, towards midnight on Monday.
A pitched gun-battle between the rebels and the police went on into the early hours yesterday morning after which the Maoists hurled bombs at the police post and forced the police personnel to surrender, the paper reported.
The remote village of
Rarali is located about a full days walk West of Jumla
district headquarters and this is the first time that the
Maoists have attacked the police post in the district in
such a big way.
Regains consciousness after 16 years
ALBUQUERQUE (New Mexico), Jan 5 (AP) For 16 years, Patricia White Bull was unresponsive to the world unable to speak, swallow or move much. On Christmas eve, she suddenly snapped back to consciousness.
Dont do that, she blurted out when nurses were trying to fix her nursing home bed on December 24.
Doctors cannot explain why White Bull (42) awakened from the catatonic state she slipped into while delivering her fourth child. Her mother, Snowflake Flower, said it was a Christmas miracle from God.
Since then, Bull known as Happi has been speaking her childrens names, catching up on family developments and spending a lot of time just watching her children and smiling.
I just went up to her and gave her a hug, and she gave me a hug back, said her oldest child, Cindi, a 26-year-old senior at the University of North Carolina. It was the first time she had ever hugged back. It was scary at first. It was overwhelming emotionally.
Bulls speech is clear but still limited. She has talked very little but listened a lot. Her hands, which had been clenched tightly for 16 years, have loosened.
She has been driven up into the mountains to breathe the fresh air. She has been wheeled around a shopping mall. She has eaten a small bite of pizza. And on Monday, with her ability to swallow improving, she ate chicken.
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