Tuesday, January 11, 2000,
Chandigarh, India





THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
W O R L D

Russian forces repel rebel attacks
MOZDOK (Russia), Jan 10 — Russian forces battled today to hold on to two key towns under heavy attack by Chechen rebels, and Moscow admitted for the first time that its forces had suffered major losses.

Hundreds buried in Indonesia
JAKARTA, Jan 10 — Aid workers in Indonesia’s ravaged Moluccas today said they had buried hundreds of charred and rotting Muslim corpses from recent attacks by Christians.

Army men ‘planned coup in Lanka’
COLOMBO, Jan 10 — Sri Lanka’s government media today alleged that the recent attempt by the LTTE to assassinate President Chandrika Kumaratunga was part of a wider plot by some disgruntled army officials to stage a military coup.

‘Israel-Syria peace pact possible’
SHEPHERDSTOWN (West Virginia), Jan 10 — US President Bill Clinton left the Israeli-Syria peacetalks here early today as the negotiations wound down, with the two West Asian leaders expected to depart soon.

UN ‘complicity in Tutsi genocide
SYDNEY, Jan 10 — The United Nations is being sued for alleged complicity in the 1994 Rwandan genocide in which 800,000 Tutsis were killed, it was reported here today.

Pik Botha to join ANC
JOHANNESBURG, Jan 10 — One of the most visible ministers of South Africa’s apartheid era wants to join the African National Congress, the ruling party that battled to end the country’s racist system, a newspaper has reported.

Yeltsin may be CIS chairman



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Russian forces repel rebel attacks

MOZDOK (Russia), Jan 10 (AP, DPA) — Russian forces battled today to hold on to two key towns under heavy attack by Chechen rebels, and Moscow admitted for the first time that its forces had suffered major losses.

With its offensive to take Chechnya stalled, the Russian military has been forced on the defensive by Chechen rebels in recent days. The rebels launched attacks yesterday to take the towns of Argun and Shali, which were captured last month by Russian forces.

An Interior Ministry spokesman said that rebels killed 26 Russian soldiers and wounded 30 during the last 24 hours. Russia has claimed for weeks that its losses are no more than one or two a day, despite persistent reports by soldiers in Chechnya that casualties are much higher.

Russian Defence Minister Igor Sergeyev said today that a temporary lull in bombing of the capital, Grozny for orthodox Christmas was over. But Russian forces did not stop ground operations around Grozny despite the weekend lull.

Russian commanders said their troops had gained the upper hand in Argun and Shali, but reports from the area said the rebels were still fighting for the two towns.

Col Gen Viktor Kazantsev claimed that Russian forces today pushed back a force of 300 rebels who attacked Argun, located 15 km east of Grozny. Federal troops were “mopping up” Argun, an indication that scattered groups of rebels were still putting up resistance in the area.

Heavy street fighting has rocked Grozny, with helicopter gunships rocketing rebel positions, as Russian forces resumed an offensive to take the city after a brief pause for orthodox Christmas.

After steadily retreating over the last few months, the rebels have also gone on the offensive in the past week in Grozny and other parts of Chechnya.

In a sign that Russian forces are far from victory, rebel forces launched new attacks outside the Capital, assaulting federal troops in three Russian-controlled towns and ambushing a Russian troop column yesterday.

The defence ministry said that its forces had encountered stiff resistance from well-armed Chechen fighters in Grozny, but insisted that the rebels were suffering high casualties. Helicopter gunships rocketed rebel positions in the north-western Staropromyslovsky district, supporting ground attacks, and the military claimed some 100 militants had been killed. They also admitted to losing 26 men, with 30 hurt in the fighting.

Chechen commanders claimed to have destroyed 10 Russian armoured vehicles and trucks in the fighting, the Interfax news agency reported. The report could not be confirmed.

Chechen presidential spokesman Selim Abdulmuslimov told Interfax that about 500 rebels had also taken over the centre of the town of Shali yesterday.

In another surprise action, Chechen gunmen seized a school in the republic’s second largest city of Gudermes and took a number of people hostage, Itar-Tass said citing military sources.

General Kazantsev rejected recent reports that he had replaced his two senior commanders in Chechnya owing to dissatisfaction with the conduct of operations. Generals Gennady Troshev and Vladimir Shamanov were merely engaged in other “additional work” in the region, he added.
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Hundreds buried in Indonesia

JAKARTA, Jan 10 (Reuters, AFP) — Aid workers in Indonesia’s ravaged Moluccas today said they had buried hundreds of charred and rotting Muslim corpses from recent attacks by Christians.

Workers from a local Muslim aid group in Halmahera Island, in the north of the Moluccan Spice Islands, told Reuters by telephone they had found hundreds of putrefying bodies, many burnt in mosques in three neighbouring villages.

They said they were coming under attack as they spoke.

“It is very difficult to count the bodies .... (they) were torched and burned by unidentified people”, said Mursal Amal Tomagola of the medical emergency aid group.

“We found most of the bodies inside the mosques that were also burned”, he said.

He said the killings followed attacks by Christians, adding the number of dead could run into thousands.

The killings are the latest in a year of clashes in the once-idyllic Spice Islands in what has become some of the worst sectarian violence in Indonesian history.

Military Chief Admiral Widodo flew to the troubled region on Monday to discuss the surging violence, which many fear will spread to other parts of the predominantly Muslim Indonesia.

A military source in the nearby town of Galela, 2,500 km northeast of Jakarta, said a large number of bodies had been buried in a mass grave yesterday.

“We found most of the bodies in the mosques, and the other bodies were found on the roads and in buildings,” he said, without giving his name. Many buildings, especially mosques, were burned to the ground, he said.

A police source also confirmed that a large number of bodies were being buried.

The police say at least 1,500 people have been killed in the Moluccas since last January, but the Independent Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence says several thousand have been killed in Halmahera alone, Christians and Muslims in roughly equal numbers.

A doctor with medical emergency said on condition of anonymity that bodies had been found piled up to five deep inside a mosque in Popilo village and he had been asked by the military to bury the bodies.

Bodies from all over the village were buried in front of the mosque with a bulldozer, he said.

“I think it was about 200 bodies,” he said, adding that they appeared to have been there for about 10 days.

“We were afraid that if we didn’t bury these bodies, they would spread diseases like cholera,” he said, adding that another 300 bodies in neighbouring Togoliwa village were still awaiting burial.

Widodo’s trip to Ambon follows the setting up last week of a naval blockade and comes amid pressure for Moluccas Governor Saleh Latuconsina to be replaced.

Meanwhile, fresh ethnic unrest in Indonesia has left at least five persons dead in Borneo and South Sulawesi, according to reports today.
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Army men ‘planned coup in Lanka’

COLOMBO, Jan 10 (PTI) — Sri Lanka’s government media today alleged that the recent attempt by the LTTE to assassinate President Chandrika Kumaratunga was part of a wider plot by some disgruntled army officials to stage a military coup.

Elaborating on the allegations aired over state radio and tv last night, state-owned Daily News said the plot came to light with the arrest of Renuka Shanmuganathan, sister of a Colombo-based Tamil businessman, Thirukumar Nadesan.

An unnamed party from the south and a few journalists were involved in the plot, it said quoting the police.

“There are also reports that several army personnel too are linked to this alleged plot and there had been plans to capture power through a military coup if the President was killed in the Townhall bomb blast,” it said.

Defence spokesman Palitha Fernando, however, refused to comment on the allegations saying he had no information on the subject.

The paper said the police had unearthed “vital information” pointing to the involvement of a “southern hand” along with businessmen sympathetic to the Opposition United National Party, (UNP), whose leader Ranil Wickramsinghe was defeated by Ms Kumaratunga in last month’s presidential elections.

The UNP denied the charges and criticised the government for making “irresponsible” statements. UNP secretary-general Gamini Athukarale told reporters that the allegations were part of a conspiracy by the government to discredit his party.

“The government is trying to destroy democracy by implicating Opposition parties in needless controversies,” he said.
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Israel-Syria peace pact possible’

SHEPHERDSTOWN (West Virginia), Jan 10 (AP) — US President Bill Clinton left the Israeli-Syria peacetalks here early today as the negotiations wound down, with the two West Asian leaders expected to depart soon.

“We’re clearly coming to the end of the leaders’ participation here this week,” State Department spokesman James Rubin told reporters following a two-and-a-half-hour working dinner which brought together Mr Clinton, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Syrian Foreign Minister Faruq al-Shara.

Although lower-level talks might continue, Mr Barak is expected to leave for Israel later today with Shara’s departure expected to follow shortly after that.

Mr Clinton is not expected to return to Shepherdstown, a White House official said.

Although the talks which began a week ago look set to and with little definitive progress towards ending the 50 years of enmity between the two nations, Mr Rubin insisted the talks had produced “a lot of positive developments”.

He said Mr Clinton, Mr Barak and Mr Shara had discussed all issues of contention at the three-way meeting as well as in separate bilateral meetings between the President and the two leaders.Talks yesterday produced the first official talks on the critical issue: the future border between the countries.

Yet, before Mr Clinton’s arrival here, US officials said enough progress had been made since the talks began on Monday to raise their hopes for eventually achieving a core agreement, although not in the next few days.

“We can see that an agreement is possible. Our hopes are now more justified,” Mr James Rubin said, stressing however that Washington did not expect even a tentative pact to be secured in the current round of talks.

The creation by US mediators of a seven-page “working document” which sets out areas of agreement and dispute and could form the basis for an eventual peace treaty, paved the way for the first meeting of the committee created here earlier in the week to discuss the critical issue of the border, officials said.

Despite the optimism surrounding the existence of the document, the border talks held yesterday did not appear to have made any substantial progress.

A Syrian official told AFP the border committee meeting did not “bring anything new” to the table, adding that except for the fact that that all groups were now meeting “there was nothing new in the activities of the committees.”

DPA adds: Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk Al-Sharaa “is no longer as inflexible as he was” in negotiations with Israel, and had definitely “softened” his position, Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy said in remarks published today in the Israeli media.

In his first public comments since the Israeli and Syrian negotiating teams convened in Shepherdstown, a week ago, Mr Levy voiced his opinion yesterday that he could detect a change in Al-Sharaa’s approach.

“The Syrians, indeed, are known for their stubbornness, but Al-Sharaa has definitely softened,” the Yediot Aharanot daily quoted Mr Levy as saying.

“There definitely is progress,” he said, but did not go into details.
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UN ‘complicity in Tutsi genocide

SYDNEY, Jan 10 (AFP) — The United Nations is being sued for alleged complicity in the 1994 Rwandan genocide in which 800,000 Tutsis were killed, it was reported here today.

Prominent London-based lawyer Geoffrey Robinson and former South Australian state prosecutor Michael Hourigan are acting for two Rwandan women whose families were murdered by rampaging Hutu militants.

Mr Hourigan is a former investigator with the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Kigali where he said he uncovered documented evidence that UN headquarters received advance warning of what was to happen, The Age of Melbourne reported today.

The documents show that Annan was given extensive warnings that the genocide was taking place, that the Hutus were being exhorted by government controlled radio to kill the Tutsis and had ignored pleas for more troops to prevent the massacres.

One of the women, Anonciata Kavaruganda, is the widow of Rwandan Supreme Court Judge Joseph Kavaruganda, who was killed because he sympathised with the Tutsis.

The other is Louise Mushikiwabo, sister of Lando Ndaswinga, the only Tutsi member of a Hutu-dominated government, who was shot dead along with their mother and his wife and two children.

Kavaruganda says the Ghanaian UN soldiers who were supposed to protect her and her family were drinking and socialising with the Hutus while she and her children were being tortured.
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Pik Botha to join ANC

JOHANNESBURG, Jan 10 (REUTERS) — One of the most visible ministers of South Africa’s apartheid era wants to join the African National Congress, the ruling party that battled to end the country’s racist system, a newspaper has reported.

Mr Pik Botha, who was the white regime’s Foreign Minister for 17 years, said in an interview in yesterday’s city press newspaper that it was time Afrikaners stopped hiding and worked alongside the black majority to build a new South Africa.

If there are things in the ANC that bother you, you must try to rectify them from within the ANC, Mr Botha told the newspaper.

The process of healthy political re-grouping and restructuring will only start when Afrikaners join the ANC, he said, adding the descendants of Dutch and French settlers could feel at home with ANC policies.

ANC spokesman Smuts Ngonyama told Reuters the party had heard rumblings that Mr Butha was interested in joining.

Mr Botha, 68, said Afrikaners could identify with ANC policies on freedom of speech, freedom of religion and the protection of private property. The country’s liberal constitution also protects Afrikaans as one of several official languages.
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Yeltsin may be CIS chairman

MOSCOW, Jan 10 (UNI) — Former Russian President Boris Yeltsin may be offered honorary chairmanship of the Commonwealth of Independent States of which he has been one of the architects, reports Novosti.

Although he retired from the Kremlin on New Year’s Eve, he continues to head the CIS.
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WORLD BRIEFS

Karimov re-elected Uzbek President
TASHKENT: Authoritarian President Islam Karimov was overwhelmingly re-elected President of Uzbekistan with 91.90 per cent of the vote against 4.10 per cent for his sole apponent Abdulhasiz Dzhalalov, the head of the country’s electoral commission said on Monday. Karimov, 61, is a former Communist Party chief who has ruled the central Asian nation since its independence in 1991. His re-election for a new five-year term had been widely anticipated. — AFP

Ex-Speaker of Duma loses to General
MOSCOW: A Prominent Communist leader and former speaker of Duma Gennady Seleznyov, has lost the run-off gubernatorial polls in the key Moscow region to Afghan war veteran General Boris Gromov, a media report has said. Interfax reported that in a neck-and-neck race on Sunday, Boris Gromov polled 48.09 per cent votes, 1.7 per cent more than Seleznyov’s 46.39 per cent. — PTI

German Jews have new leader
BERLIN: A 62-year-old who hid with Catholic farmers during the ‘holocaust’ was elected to lead Germany’s Jewish community, and immediately pledged to help integrate thousands of Soviet immigrants who are rejuvenating Jewish life in the country. Paul Soiegel was voted president of the Central Council of Jews by a 6-3 vote on Sunday, stepping into the position left vacant after the death of Ignatz Bubis. Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder congratulated Spiegel on his election. — AP

Llyod Webber buys 10 theatres
LONDON: Composer and entrepreneur Andrew Llyod Webber has bought 10 theatres in London’s West End in a 87.5-million venture to expand his showbusiness empire, his company has announced. His Really Useful Group (RUG), which already owns three theatres in London will transfer his existing venues — the Adelphi, Palacse and New London theatres — into the new company. — AFP

Robot sent to free sub
BREST, France: US Robot submarine has been sent to try to release the robot submarine Abyssub, trapped on the seabed as it examined the sunken halves of the tanker Erika off the French West Coast. Officials said the US Robot Triton spent Sunday night tracing the trapped submarine, which had been on a mission to look for possible leaks and ways of recovering oil trapped in Erika. — DPA

Falun Gong followers leave China
BEIJING: Three Australian Falun Gong followers questioned by the police after appealing to Chinese leaders against the ban on the movement have left China, an Australian diplomat said. He said the Bureau gave no details on when or by which route the Australians had left the country after issuing a written plea to Chinese leaders to reconsider the ban on the Falun Gong. — Reuters

Novelist Nigel Tranter dead
LONDON: One of Britain’s most prolific authors, Nigel Tranter, has died aged 90 after contracting flu, his biographer said. Tranter, who published more than 130 works, mainly novels and historical books, died on Sunday at his home in Scotland after falling ill last week, biographer Ray Bradfield said. — AFPTop

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