Monday, January 24, 2000,
Chandigarh, India





THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
W O R L D


The seventh Reting Lama waves to people on his way from Lhasa to Reting monastery in central Tibet on Friday
The seventh Reting Lama waves to people on his way from Lhasa to Reting monastery in central Tibet on Friday. — AP

Riots leave 34 dead in Indonesia
JAKARTA, Jan 23 — Violence in eastern and western Indonesia claimed at least 34 lives, authorities and news reports said today, as bloodshed continued to plague this sprawling south-east Asian nation.

Sharif linked to 6 m fund
LONDON, Jan 23 — Deposed Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has been linked to million trust fund a 6.1 east Asian nation.

Ministerial meeting concludes
MUSCAT, Jan 23 — The two-day extraordinary ministerial meeting of the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation concluded here this afternoon, endorsing India’s suggestion that the association should keep controversial political issues out of its agenda and concentrate on trade and economic matters.

Congress clears Noboa’s elevation
QUITO, Jan 23 — The Ecuadoran Congress has approved Gustavo Noboa as the country’s new President, replacing Jamil Mahuad, who was ousted in a military coup.

Russians capture mountain base
MOSCOW, Jan 23 — Russia hammered Chechen rebel positions in mountain gorges and in the shattered capital Grozny today, making little headway in a gruelling week-long drive to storm the city.

UK Muslim youth ‘joining’ militancy
LONDON, Jan 23 — Relatives of an 18-year-old British Muslim youth, who was enticed to join a band of Islamic militants in Kashmir, have flown to Pakistan to look for terrorist training camps for him, a media report said yesterday.



EARLIER STORIES
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Criminal probe into Weizman’s dealings
JERUSALEM, Jan 23 — Israeli police and tax services were set to open an unprecedented criminal investigation into President Ezer Weizman’s financial affairs today, a police spokesman said.

Taliban’s warning to USA
ISLAMABAD, Jan 23 — The Taliban regime of Afghanistan has warned the USA that killing or arrest of Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden would have "strong reaction", even as it refused to hand him over to Washington for trial on charges of terrorism, official Radio Shariat said yesterday.

UN draft agrees to ban child soldiers
GENEVA, Jan 23 — In a move to prohibit the use of child soldiers, negotiators from 70 countries yesterday reached a draft agreement to raise the age for military conscription and participation in combat to 18 from 15, UN officials said.
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Riots leave 34 dead in Indonesia

JAKARTA, Jan 23 (AP) — Violence in eastern and western Indonesia claimed at least 34 lives, authorities and news reports said today, as bloodshed continued to plague this sprawling south-east Asian nation.

On Haruku island, about 2,600 km east of Jakarta, at least 18 people were dead after a Muslim mob attacked and burned a church today, the region’s military chief, Brig-Gen Max Tamaela said.

Local residents contacted by AP put the death toll at 25 and said several hundred houses in Haruku town on the island had also been set on fire.

On Halmahera island in North Maluku province, clashes on Friday and yesterday are reported to have left at least eight people dead and 18 injured.

Gen Tamaela said fighting erupted in a remote part of the island and his troops were unable to quickly reach the area to separate the warring sides.

Muslims and Christian gangs were also fighting on Seram island today, Antara news agency said. There were no reports of casualties.

About 2,000 people have been killed in a year of religious violence in the Maluku and North Maluku provinces.

Vice-President Megawati Sukarnoputri is scheduled to visit Ambon tomorrow to try to bring peace to the region.

Separatist rebellions also beleaguer Indonesia. In the strife-torn Aceh province, 1,750 km northwest of Jakarta, eight people were killed and scores injured in clashes yesterday between rebels and security forces, military spokesman Lt-Col Priyatna said.

In one incident in East Aceh, about 20 houses were burned after soldiers attacked a village, he said. Violence also broke out in several other towns and villages across the territory.

Acehnese guerrillas have been waging a struggle against Indonesian rule since the mid-1970s. At least 5,000 people have died in the violence during the past decade.

Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid is scheduled to visit Aceh on Tuesday to hold peace talks with the separatists. In the past week, at least 38 people have died as government forces cracked down on the insurgents.Top

 

Sharif linked to 6 m fund

LONDON, Jan 23 (PTI) — Deposed Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has been linked to a 6.1 million trust fund in Britain, media reports said here today.

According to documents obtained by the "Observer", the fund, registered with a firm of lawyers in Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire, was operated by a US agent hired to represent six companies owned by the Sharif family.

The ousted Premier was a director and shareholder in at least one of the companies, the newspaper claimed.

A report drawn up by investigators from Pakistan’s intelligence agencies, with help from the Federal Investigation Agency, alleges that the trust is part of the "easiest" case of money laundering.

The report said while his family’s firms owed millions of pounds to the Pakistani exchequer and commercial creditors, Mr Sharif was linked to a scheme to secure millions of pounds in loans using the money in the British trust as collateral.

The new loans were then used to get more of finance from Pakistani banks.

The investigators have built up 16 separate cases of corruption to be registered against Mr Sharif in the coming weeks, the report said.Top

 

Ministerial meeting concludes

MUSCAT, Jan 23 (UNI) — The two-day extraordinary ministerial meeting of the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC) concluded here this afternoon, endorsing India’s suggestion that the association should keep controversial political issues out of its agenda and concentrate on trade and economic matters.

India has all along held the view that the 19-member grouping should not touch political issues as that would derail it from its avowed objective of promoting trade among member countries of the region.

New Delhi reiterated its viewpoint in this regard at the committee of senior officials meeting, which came in for appreciation from all quarters.

Addressing a press conference at the conclusion of the conference, Oman’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Yousuf bin Abdullah said: "There is a desire on the part of every member country to avoid controversial issues.’’ There were many important trade and economic matters on which the IOR-ARC could concentrate instead of wasting its time on political issues, he said.

Many members of the association felt that if Pakistan was allowed to join the grouping, Islamabad would used the association’s forum to rake up its bilateral disputes with India, thus making it an organisation meant only for political speeches.

External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh, who represented India at the conference, said the meeting had demonstrated the will and determination of the member nations to promote trade among themselves.Top

 

Ecuador coup
Congress clears Noboa’s elevation

QUITO, Jan 23 (AFP, Reuters) — The Ecuadoran Congress has approved Gustavo Noboa as the country’s new President, replacing Jamil Mahuad, who was ousted in a military coup.

The Congress held its session in the southern coastal city of Guayaquil, the country’s largest city, after unrest in the capital forced its members to leave town. The vote adds legitimacy to the nascent Noboa regime after Mahuad’s was ousted late Friday by military forces with support from thousands of Indians.

The native Indians blocked streets and brought Quito to a standstill yesterday in their attempt to oust Mr Mahuad, who they blame for much of the country’s economic crisis.

Mr Mahuad urged all Ecuadorans in a surprise television speech to support their new President.

Last night, Ecuador Vice-President Gustavo Noboa announced he was taking over the Andean country’s presidency with backing from the military after President Mahuad was deposed in a coup.

"Under the laws laid out in the constitution I find myself under the obligation of assuming the Presidency of Ecuador,’’ Mr Noboa said at a news conference. "I have the support of the armed forces and national police.’’

Mr Mahuad, a 50-year-old lawyer who struggled to lead Ecuador out of its worst economic crisis in decades, said he had been forced from power and had not resigned. But he said he would accept the new civilian government.

"A thrown-out president does not resign. He is thrown out,’’ Mr Mahuad said in a television address to the nation, adding that he accepted the new leadership of Noboa. "I will never be an obstacle for the Vice-President to assume the Presidency.’’

Mr Noboa’s move to assume the Presidency followed the resignation of a top military chief, Gen. Carlos Mendoza, from the three-person junta that declared itself in charge of the government on Friday night. The junta appeared to have lost the support of the military.

The junta, comprised of Mendoza, an Indian leader and a former judge, had taken power in a revolt against Mahuad and his inability to revive the economy.Top

 

Russians capture mountain base

MOSCOW, Jan 23 (Reuters) — Russia hammered Chechen rebel positions in mountain gorges and in the shattered capital Grozny today, making little headway in a gruelling week-long drive to storm the city.

Despite severe winter weather, Russian warplanes and helicopters flew more than 100 sorties over Chechen targets, interfax reported from Russian headquarters in Mozdok, outside Chechnya.

It quoted military status reports as saying that heavy fighting was under way in the city. Russian troops had taken complete control of a bridge over the Sunzha river which bisected the city, but were still fighting for Central Minutka Square.

The reports were a sign of the grindingly slow progress troops had made since beginning an all-out onslaught on Grozny a week ago. Russians had reported several times that they held Minutka and the bridge.

Russians hoisted their flag over Vedeno, the largest village in the mountains, which marines in white snowsuits captured after crossing high-altitude passes from neighbouring Dagestan province to the east.

Yesterday pro-Russian Chechen militiamen raised a Russian flag over Grozny’s residential district number six, one of several neighbourhoods of high-rise apartment blocks on the city’s edges. But the centre still remains in Chechen hands.

The pro-Russian militia’s leader, Bislan Gantemirov, said territory in the city often changed hands several times a day.

The other main focus of fighting was in the mountains in the south, part of the caucasus, europe’s highest range.Top

 

UK Muslim youth ‘joining’ militancy

LONDON, Jan 23 (PTI) — Relatives of an 18-year-old British Muslim youth, who was enticed to join a band of Islamic militants in Kashmir, have flown to Pakistan to look for terrorist training camps for him, a media report said yesterday.

Omar Kyam, who was captain of the Sussex under-18 cricket team and was tipped for a career as a county cricketer, is the latest teenager to be recruited by militant Islamic groups, The Times reported.

Up to 200 young British are believed to have been sent to fight conflicts in Kashmir, Afghanistan and Chechnya in the past three years, the report said.

A number of them have been killed, but despite protests from parents, the authorities say there is little they can do to stop the young men from enlisting.

Anti-terrorist squad detectives monitor the groups responsible for recruiting the volunteers, but a senior police source said "these men are over 18, they have valid British passports and we can’t stop them getting on a plane."

Kyam, who lived in Crawley with his mother and two younger brothers, was recruited by activists from the Al-Muhajiroun group, led by Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed.

The group boasts that it is intensifying its campaign to enlist British Mujahidin. Kyam’s uncle, Sajjad Ahmed, said "he and boys like him are being given a rifle and told martyrdom is a good thing and sent on a suicide mission to places like Kashmir."

Sheikh Omar yesterday said he had received many complaints from families in Crawley and other places, but "I tell them it is a Muslim’s duty to have military training when they reach puberty."

Recruits are sent to training camps in Pakistan, Sudan, Afghanistan, or Yemen. Sheikh Omar refused to say how many young people had been recruited by the Al-Muhajiroun through internet sites or by activists outside mosques.

Ahmed said his nephew was approached by young activists as he left Crawley mosque. "In the past few weeks, four boys have gone from this mosque alone to fight abroad."

Leaders of the mosque have condemned the activities of the Al-Muhajiroun, the name of which means the voice, the eyes and ears of the Muslims, and told them they are no longer welcome.

Omar Kyam is typical of the recent recruits. He was studying for his ‘A’ levels at a sixth-form college in Reigate after leaving Hazelwick school and intended going to university to study electrical engineering.Top

 

Criminal probe into Weizman’s dealings

JERUSALEM, Jan 23 (AFP) — Israeli police and tax services were set to open an unprecedented criminal investigation into President Ezer Weizman’s financial affairs today, a police spokesman said.

"The fraud squad has been charged with the inquiry and is to begin its work today. In principle, it will question various witnesses on the suspicions weighing against the head of state," the spokesman said.

It is the first time in Israel’s history that a head of state — whose role in the country is essentially ceremonial — has been the subject of judicial inquiry.

Mr Weizman is suspected of tax fraud and corruption in his relations with a French businessman, Edouard Saroussi.

State attorney Edna Arbel, who told public radio yesterday the investigation could be broadened if further evidence emerged, was quoted by the daily Haaretz as saying today that Weizman could be called for questioning this week.

From today, the investigators are set to examine documents relating to the relationship between Mr Weizman and Saroussi, particularly a contract done in 1983.

Israel’s private Channel Two TV charged on Friday that Weizman received an annual salary of $ 50,000 in 1983 and 1984 as an "advisor" to Saroussi’s Madagascar Textile company. Police investigators discovered the salary for the job, which they suspect was a fictional position, the television said.

They suspect that instead, Mr Weizman was using his influence on behalf of Saroussi, it added. Top

 

Taliban’s warning to USA

ISLAMABAD, Jan 23 (PTI) — The Taliban regime of Afghanistan has warned the USA that killing or arrest of Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden would have "strong reaction", even as it refused to hand him over to Washington for trial on charges of terrorism, official Radio Shariat said yesterday.

"Laden was not a big issue, but the USA blew it out of proportion. Now every event in the world is linked to Laden. The US policy has made him a hero in the Muslim world. If he is arrested or killed there would be a strong reaction," a Taliban delegation, led by Mr Amir Khan Muttaqi, told a visiting US team here on Friday.

He assured the USA that Osama Laden would not be allowed to operate against the USA from the Afghan soil, according to English daily The Nation.Top

 

UN draft agrees to ban child soldiers

GENEVA, Jan 23 (Reuters) — In a move to prohibit the use of child soldiers, negotiators from 70 countries yesterday reached a draft agreement to raise the age for military conscription and participation in combat to 18 from 15, UN officials said.

But campaigners expressed disappointment that the draft accord, the fruit of six years of negotiations, failed to set 18 as the minimum age for voluntary recruitment into armed forces.

Instead, government armies may recruit volunteers aged 16 who have parental consent and give proof of their date of birth.

The compromise reflects a concession to Britain and the USA, who recruit from 17 and 16, respectively.

However, states must make "all feasible measures" to ensure recruits do not take a direct part in hostilities before the age of 18, a provision welcomed by campaigners.

The UN estimates that 300,000 under-18s take part in combat worldwide, mainly in African conflicts.Top

 
WORLD BRIEFS

Hasina offers talks to Begum Zia
DHAKA: Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed on Saturday made a fresh dialogue offer to main Opposition leader Begum Khaleeda Zia to discuss all issues, including its one-point demand for resignation of her government. "I am offering the main opposition leader (Zia) to a public dialogue to be broadcast live through radio and television... If she wants she can even get an audience of her choice to ask me questions," she said at a conference of top Bangladeshi businessmen. — PTI

Nine-day deadline for disarmament
BELFAST:
Protestant leaders in northern Ireland on Saturday gave the Irish Republican Army (IRA) a nine-day deadline to begin disarming or risk a suspension of the power-sharing government. If a report to be issued by Canadian General John De Chastelain at the end of the month concludes that disarmament has started, "Then of course that is fine," Mr John Taylor, number 2 in the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), said on BBC radio. If disarmament has not begun, "Then obviously we cannot continue any further and the executive will be brought to an end," he said. — AFP

Czar Nicholas II absolved
MOSCOW:
The Russian orthodox church now believes there is nothing to prevent the canonisation of Nicholas II, the last Czar of Russia. A church commission has established that Czar Nicholas was not responsible for the bloody Sunday massacre of February 9, 1905, according to reports on Saturday. — DPA

Kohl denies payments
HAMBURG:
The German funds scandal around ex-Chancellor Helmut Kohl widened at the weekend with new claims that late French President Francois Mitterrand contributed millions in undeclared funds to help finance Mr Kohl’s re-election campaign. Secret service officials helped make the deal in which some 30 million German marks ($ 15.7 million) flowed into the Christian Democrats’ (CDU) war chest as part of a bilateral oil industry deal, according to reports by German and French television stations. The payments were allegedly made in 1992 when France’s state-owned oil giant ELF, Aquitaine bought the Leuna oil refinery in Saxony-Anhalt, Germany’s public ARD station and France Deux Television said on Saturday. — DPA

Free East Timor’s first newspaper bids farewell
DILI (East Timor):
Independent East Timor’s first newspaper, New East Timor, published with the help of Australian troops, bade farewell to its readers this weekend. The weekly, published for the past four months in Tetum, the local language of the territory, as well as in Indonesian and English, rolled out its last edition on January 21, wishing its readers "a brilliant and happy future." — AFP

Film-maker joins presidential race
MOSCOW:
A hard-line filmmaker has joined Russia’s presidential race, while feuding lawmakers sought ways to end a boycott of the new Parliament by opposition parties. Stanislav Govorukhin said he decided to run for President because Russia is suffering a "crisis of immorality," in remarks aired on Russia’s NTV Television on Saturday. — AP

Nine-month-old mauled by rats
BUDAPEST:
Two fingers of a nine-month-old baby boy had to be amputated after rats mauled his face and hands in the eastern Hungarian village of Tiszaboe, the MTI news agency has reported. The boy was in intensive care after he was attacked by the rats while sleeping with his parents, who however discovered the attack only in the morning, the agency said on Saturday. — AFP

Pak rights body protests detentions
ISLAMABAD:
Pakistan’s main human rights organisation on Saturday protested against "violations" of fundamental rights related to cases of detention after the recent military coup in the country. A number of detainees, including former ministers, have not been told of the charges against them although they have been in custody for weeks, the private Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) said in a statement. In several cases, their families have not been informed of the places of detention, it said. — AFP
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