|Monday, January 17, 2000,
Russian blitz on Grozny stepped up
killing was planned
Pak rejects Indias stand on
Chashma N-plant unsafe:
Hindus, Sikhs may be made Lords
Man slams into gates outside
USA offers reward in rocket attack
Reincarnation of Reting Rimpoche
Voting gets under way in Chile
Senior US official to visit Pak
3,000 troops killed: army group
GROZNY (Russia), Jan 16 (AFP) Russian bombs and rockets rained down on the Chechen capital overnight and this morning as federal forces intensified strikes on rebel bastions in the southern mountains, where fierce clashes were reported.
Plumes of thick black smoke and dust rose from central and eastern districts of Grozny which bore the brunt of a pounding that the Russian military said was needed to cover its advancing troops.
The barrage, which thundered throughout the night and was continuing today, was one of the heaviest in recent days, an AFP reporter said, and came as European lawmakers were due in Moscow to discuss Russias bloody campaign in the rebel republic.
The Council of Europe delegation, led by British peer Lord Russell-Johnston, was to meet acting President Vladimir Putin tomorrow as part of a five-day fact-finding tour triggered by concerns over human rights and the cost of the conflict in civilian lives.
The group from the parliamentary assembly is scheduled to fly to the troubled North Caucasus for talks with regional leaders, and could visit Russian-controlled zones of Chechnya, reports said.
The visit came as a servicemens support group said at least 3,000 federal soldiers had died in the current conflict and accused the authorities of seeking to cover up the true extent of losses in the 15-week drive in Chechnya.
Officially, Russia has admitted to around 500 dead since ground operations in Chechnya began on October 1.
Meanwhile, Chechen rebels fighting Russian forces in the breakaway region today said they were holding up the advance of Moscows troops both in the mountainous south and the outskirts of the regional capital, Grozny.
Russian television correspondents, reporting from the Mozdok military base just outside Chechnya, said Russian warplanes were taking off almost without interruption to bomb rebel targets.
Acting President Vladimir Putin said on Saturday that the offensive, on which he has largely built his popularity, was going according to plan despite setbacks last weekend when the rebels launched several surprise raids on Russian positions.
Rebel spokesman Movladi Udugov said clashes had taken place in the southern villages of Duba-Yurt and Serzhen-Yurt on yesterday and that Russian forces were beaten back.
"Fierce battles continue but the Russians cannot move forward, said Udugov, speaking by telephone from an unknown location.
He said Chechen forces had re-established control over strategic heights outside Duba-Yurt after the encounter. The Russian Defence Ministry was not immediately available to comment on Udugovs statement.
Udugov also said that Russian warplanes were concentrating their bombing on several villages in the south today, including Vedeno, Sharoi, Shatoi and Itum-Kale.
Arkans killing was planned
BELGRADE, Jan 16 (AFP) A Yugoslav newspaper today reported that the assassination of Serb war-crimes suspect Zeljko Raznatovic, known as "Arkan," was carefully planned, and speculated that it had been carried out by a well-organised group.
At least one masked gunman opened automatic pistol fire on Raznatovic and his entourage in the lobby of Belgrades Intercontinental Hotel yesterday.
Raznatovic (47) was shot in the left eye and died later at a city hospital. One of his bodyguards and another man were also killed.
The independent daily Blic quoted Arkans unnamed associates as saying that the "assassination was carefully planned, for a long time."
"One can conclude that Arkan could have been killed at a close range only by a professional, backed by a well-organised and extremely qualified organisation," the daily speculated.
But it warned that "at this moment, it is almost impossible to guess who had the most reasons to kill Arkan," adding that the USA Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina had all offered rewards for his capture.
In September 1997, Raznatovic was secretly indicted for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina between 1991 and 1995 by the International Tribunal for former Yugoslavia at the Hague.
The indictment was made public only in March 1999 after it was reported that the Tigers had begun to attack ethnic Albanians in the southern Serbian province of Kosovo.
PANAMA CITY (AFP): US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has "noted" the reports of the killing of indicted Serb war criminal Zeljko Raznatovic, but said the USA took "no satisfaction" in his murder.
Raznatovic, known as "Arkan", was wanted for some of the worst atrocities committed during the wars in ex-Yugoslavia. He was shot in the left eye by masked gunmen at a Belgrade hotel yesterday and died later at a city hospital.
"We take no satisfaction in Arkans murder and would have wanted him to stand trial in The Hague for his crimes," Ms Albright said.
British Foreign Minister Robin Cook said in London it was no surprise Arkan had died a "violent death".
Pak rejects Indias stand on hijacking
ISLAMABAD, Jan 16 (PTI) Pakistan has rejected Indian accusations of involvement in the hijacking of an Indian Airlines plane saying that they were part of a "vain attempt to malign Pakistan" and "deflect criticism" from New Delhis "mishandling" of the incident.
A Foreign Office spokesman in a statement here yesterday said allegations regarding Islamabads involvement in the hijacking, outlined in an Indian demarche handed over to Pakistani High Commissioner in New Delhi Ashraf Jahangir Qazi, were rejected forthwith.
The spokesman said the Indian demarche repeated "The now familiar baseless allegations which have been already dismissed by Pakistan and the international community."
He said "Media continues to make allegations, which are unfounded and not supported by a shred of credible evidence."
"This is part of a vain attempt to malign Pakistan. The Indian purpose is to deflect domestic criticism of the governments mishandling of the hijacking incident. The international community has already asked India to desist from provocations against Pakistan in the interest of peace and stability in the region."
Chashma N-plant unsafe: experts
ISLAMABAD, Jan 16 (UNI) The Chinese-designed Chashma Nuclear Power Plant (Chasnupp) on the banks of the Indus river in Punjab is becoming a bone of contention between Pakistan and its most tested friendChina.
Sources claimed that there was a fire in the plant late last month but the government ensured that it was not reported by the Press.
Chasnupp will be a major subject of Pak-Sind discussion during Gen Pervez Musharrafs forthcoming visit to China, according to sources.
Independent nuclear experts in Pakistan have never been at ease about the design and the location of this plant. This was brought out at a panel discussion on this plant at Sustainable Policy Development Institute here last month. There was a veiw that Chasnupp was built on a very dangerous site and had design flaws which could lead to a major nuclear disaster.
Dr A.H. Nayyar of the physics department at Quaid-e-Azam University, quoted a report of a Columbian University team, which made studies here, to say that the plant was located at a seismic fault and near the earthquake centre.
In addition to this, Dr Nayyar said China had supplied a faulty design to Pakistan which they themselves could not work.
This plant is designed on the model of the Chinese Qinshan Power Plant which has faced many problems. The Chinese Government had to seek the help of foreign experts because it did not trust its own experts, he said.
Chashmas main components were manufactured by China, which Dr Nayyar doubted, were not of international specification and quality. In fact Chinas own Qinshan-1 experienced an accident in July 1998. It resulted from vibrations generated by the high pressure cooling water. The plant was closed down for one year and a US company, Westinghouse, was requested to identify and correct the problem.
This accident alarmed
Pakistan about Chinese honesty in providing it a model.
This model and the selection of the site had been
criticised bitterly by a former chief of Pakistan Atomic
Energy Commission (PAEC), Dr I.H. Usmani, in 1981. But
Gen Zia-ul-Haq ordered that it should not be made a
public issue. He did not want to alienate China at a time
when, having executed former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali
Bhutto, originally entered into the Chashma deal with
China in 1974, he badly needed foreign support for his
Hindus, Sikhs may be made Lords
LONDON, Jan 16 (PTI) Leading religious figures from Sikh and Hindu religions in Britain may find places in the House of Lords under proposals for reform to be unveiled this week, the media reported today.
The recommendation, from the Wakeham report into the future of Lords, will give representatives of the Jewish and Muslim faiths an automatic right to be appointed as members. "Roman Catholic churchmen will be eligible for the first time and Sikhs and Hindus could also be allocated seats," The Sunday Times reported today quoting sources close to the committee drawing up the report.
Allowing non-Christian clergy or elders into the reformed Lords as religious representatives is the most controversial suggestion from the committee, set up by Prime Minister Tony Blair and chaired by Lord Wakeham, Chief Whip and leader of the Lords.
Man slams into gates outside Blairs home
LONDON, Jan 16 (Reuters) The police charged a man with dangerous driving after he smashed his car yesterday into security gates across Londons Downing Street, home to British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
"Stephen Edward Bonnett, 26, an engineer from Essex (east of London) appears at Bow Street magistrates court, tomorrow January 17 charged with grievous bodily harm on Ursula Webster and dangerous driving", said a police spokesman.
Tourist Webster, sightseeing with her three young children, suffered a leg injury when the red car careered across the road and slammed into the gates. "It is not life-threatening", the police spokeswoman said of her injuries.
Newspapers identified her as an American and said she had risked her life to push one of her sons to safety as the car sped at her. No further family details were given.
Mr Blair was not in his official residence at Number 10 at the time of the incident.
Witness Peter Saacs, who was driving a bus past Downing Street at the time, said: "The driver pulled up as to show someone Downing Street.
USA offers reward in rocket attack case
ISLAMABAD, Jan 16 (Reuters) The USA today offered a reward for information about rocket attacks late last year on its embassy, cultural centre and UN offices in the Pakistani capital.
The offer, advertised in local newspapers, was described as a "substantial monetary reward" but no sum was specified.
In November, two rockets were fired at the embassy, two at the American Centre and two at a building housing the UN offices. Most missed their targets and one person received minor injuries.
An embassy official said the reward aimed "to try to push this along" after no progress had been made in finding the culprits.
Reincarnation of Reting Rimpoche ordained
BEIJING, Jan 16 (Reuters) The Chinese Government ordained the reincarnation of a Tibetan "living Buddha" today in a move that could exacerbate already bitter relations between Beijing and the Tibetan Government-in-Exile. Supported by the religious affairs bureau in Beijing, the government of the Tibet Autonomous region approved selection of a two-year-old boy as the reincarnation of the sixth Reting Rimpoche, who died in February 1997, the official Xinhua News agency said.
The Reting Rimpoche is significant as one of the few Tibetan lamas who can act as regent in the absence of the Dalai Lama.
Voting gets under way in Chile
SANTIAGO, Jan 16 (AFP) Voting got underway in Chiles run-off presidential elections between moderate leftist Ricardo Lagos and right-winger Joaquin Lavin.
The race was expected to be extremely tight, following the December 12 first round in which Lagos, 61, took 47.9 per cent of the vote, barely 0.4 per cent more than his rival.
"Todays elections could be close," said Interior Minister Raul Troncoso.
Senior US official to visit Pak
WASHINGTON, Jan 16 (UNI) US Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Karl Inderfurth will visit Pakistan on January 22 for talks on bilateral and regional issues.
He will be the highest US official to visit Pakistan since Gen Pervez Musharraff overthrew the Nawaz Sharif government in a coup last October.
killed in Costa Rican plane crash
collect funds for research
raping a toddler
freed by error
3 pilots sacked
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