|Monday, January 24, 2000,
Ministerial meeting concludes
Congress clears Noboas
Russians capture mountain base
UK Muslim youth
Criminal probe into
Talibans warning to USA
UN draft agrees to ban child
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 regions 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.
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.
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 Pakistans 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 familys 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.
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 Indias 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, Omans 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 associations forum to rake up its bilateral disputes with India, thus making it an organisation meant only for political speeches.
QUITO, Jan 23 (AFP, Reuters) The Ecuadoran Congress has approved Gustavo Noboa as the countrys 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 countrys largest city, after unrest in the capital forced its members to leave town. The vote adds legitimacy to the nascent Noboa regime after Mahuads 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 countrys 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 countrys 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 Noboas 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.
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 Groznys residential district number six, one of several neighbourhoods of high-rise apartment blocks on the citys edges. But the centre still remains in Chechen hands.
The pro-Russian militias leader, Bislan Gantemirov, said territory in the city often changed hands several times a day.
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 cant 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. Kyams 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 Muslims 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.
Criminal probe into Weizmans dealings
JERUSALEM, Jan 23 (AFP) Israeli police and tax services were set to open an unprecedented criminal investigation into President Ezer Weizmans 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 Israels 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.
Israels private Channel Two TV charged on Friday that Weizman received an annual salary of $ 50,000 in 1983 and 1984 as an "advisor" to Saroussis Madagascar Textile company. Police investigators discovered the salary for the job, which they suspect was a fictional position, the television said.
Talibans 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.
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.
offers talks to Begum Zia
deadline for disarmament
Czar Nicholas II
Timors first newspaper bids farewell
mauled by rats
Pak rights body
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