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Saturday, February 12, 2000,
Chandigarh, India





THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
W O R L D


74 freed hostages seek asylum
STANSTED, Feb 11 — A chartered airliner arrived in Britain today to fly freed Afghan hijack hostages back to Kabul — but at least half of them don’t want to go.


Generals assure Wahid of loyalty
JAKARTA, Feb 11 — Indonesia’s President Abdurrahman Wahid said top Generals had assured him of their loyalty and would try to convince former military chief, General Wiranto to quit his post of Minister for Political and Security Affairs. The names of the Generals was not revealed.

TOKYO: An unexploded bomb is craned after being defused by military experts in Tokyo on Friday. The one-ton bomb believed to have been dropped by US forces during World War II was found during construction of a shopping centre on Jan 20. — AP/PTI

Pakistan coup ‘not prearranged’
KARACHI, Feb 11 — Pakistan’s army chief Gen Pervez Musharraf did not plan in advance the October military coup which swept him to power, his secretary told a court here today.


 

EARLIER STORIES
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  Syria, Israel agree to ‘renew talks’
JERUSALEM, Feb 11 — Syria and Israel have agreed in principle to renew their peace negotiations, which are currently stalled, the Israeli Ma’Ariv daily reported today.

Conservation award for Indian botanist
LONDON, Feb 11: Gargi Bannerji, an Indian botanist has won the most coveted prize of the conservation world — the Whitley Award. She heads a team working to save medicinal plants in the cold desert of Himachal Pradesh from extinction.


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74 freed hostages seek asylum

STANSTED, Feb 11 (Reuters) — A chartered airliner arrived in Britain today to fly freed Afghan hijack hostages back to Kabul — but at least half of them don’t want to go.

The Kampuchean Airlines plane arrived at the Royal Air Force airfield at Brize Norton, west of London, at around 6.30 pm IST.

“We expect some 50 to 60 persons to board the plane,’’ Kampuchean Airlines Managing Director Udom Tantiprasongchai told Reuters in Bangkok.

Britain faced requests for asylum from 74 of the hostages, triggering a potentially damaging political debate for Prime Minister Tony Blair over whether his refugee policies were too soft.

The opposition Conservatives seized on British newspaper reports that the hijack was an elaborate plot by many of those on board the Boeing 727 to flee war-ravaged Afghanistan and seek a comfortable life under Britain’s welfare system.

“We must not allow this country to reinforce its growing image as a soft touch for asylum seekers,” said Conservative leader William Hague.

Mr Blair aides insisted that the Labour government was tough on all but deserving asylum cases.

“We cannot end up in a situation where you send out a signal to the outside world that the way to get asylum is to hijack a plane,” one aide said.

Elation that the four-day hijack had ended peacefully was tempered by a quandary about how to handle the asylum requests to avoid a rush of copycat plane seizures.

A translator, who interviewed some of the passengers and crew for the police, gave credence to reports that only 12 were considering going home.

Another man was arrested during overnight interviews, bringing the total number of arrests from the plane to 22. They recovered four hand guns, five knives, two detonators and two grenades after the drama ended at London’s Stansted Airport yesterday.

Home Secretary (Interior Minister) Jack Straw told Parliament that of the 150 persons on board at the end of the hijack, 60 adults and 14 dependants, believed to be children, had applied for political asylum.
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Generals assure Wahid of loyalty

JAKARTA, Feb 11 (ANI, Reuters) — Indonesia’s President Abdurrahman Wahid said top Generals had assured him of their loyalty and would try to convince former military chief, General Wiranto to quit his post of Minister for Political and Security Affairs. The names of the Generals was not revealed.

“If he refuses to step down, this will hamper his future career, so it’s better that Wiranto resigns,” Mr Wahid was quoted as saying in Seoul.

In an interview, Mr Wahid said he would suspend Wiranto if he refused to quit.

“I believe it would be in General Wiranto’s best interest to resign as soon as possible,” Mr Wahid told the Korean-language Chosun Ilbo newspaper in an exclusive interview.

“I have a plan, in case General Wiranto does not step down upon my return, I can apply a regulation that suspend him of his duties temporarily,’’ he said.

Mr Wahid said “ad interim” rules allowed a minister to be suspended during an investigation, a trial or for any suspected wrongdoings.

SINGAPORE: Indonesia’s military is loyal to the President and will not stage a coup, Security Minister Wiranto pledged in an interview published on Friday. General Wiranto has ignored repeated calls by President Wahid to quit the Cabinet, sparking fears of a coup attempt by the country’s powerful military, known by the acronym TNI.

“The TNI is very loyal to the country and the President,” Singapore’s Straits Times newspaper quoted General Wiranto as saying.

“If there is any disagreement between the President and the TNI, we have our method of solving the disagreement, not through coups,” General Wiranto said. Like many Indonesians, General Wiranto uses only one name.

Meanwhile, the head of Indonesia’s armed forces, Admiral Widodo, said that the military would never stage a coup against the civilian government.

“The TNI (military) has no intention of staging a coup”, Adm Widodo said. “The TNI will always support the current government, because it is a legal government set up democratically.”

This was a reaction to a recent warning by President Wahid stating that 10 per cent of the TNI was not loyal to the government.

“We see this as a warning which deserves attention and there needs to be solidarity among the TNI,” he said after being summoned by a Parliamentary committee amid fears of a coup over tensions between Wahid and Gen Wiranto.

The Attorney-General’s office is expected to take at least three months to decide whether to punish Gen Wiranto or not.
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Pakistan coup ‘not prearranged’

KARACHI, Feb 11 (AFP) — Pakistan’s army chief Gen Pervez Musharraf did not plan in advance the October military coup which swept him to power, his secretary told a court here today.

Brig Nadeem Taj, a prosecution witness in the trial of deposed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, told the anti-terrorism court how General Musharraf was told by a General on the ground speaking through the aircraft cockpit radio that he had been sacked.

Although General Musharraf spoke to the General, Brigadier Taj insisted the coup was not planned in advance.

“It is not true that the coup was prearranged”, he said.

The pilot also told General Musharraf that the plane had been denied landing permission anywhere in Pakistan.

Brigadier Taj quoted General Musharraf as saying: “Make sure that this information is not passed to the passengers because it will create chaos, panic and confusion.”

Brigadier Taj said he tried to contact people on the ground using three mobile phones, but none worked.

“The pilot was in a state of confusion. The situation was getting grim, tense and disappointing by the minute”, Brigadier Taj said.

He said the plane circled around Karachi until Gen Iftikhar Ali Khan came on the cockpit radio and said the airport was under army control and it was safe to land the plane, he said.

“They were trying to divert the plane so that it does not land here. We have taken over the airport and you are coming here”, Brigadier Taj quoted General Khan as saying.

Yesterday a witness testified that Pakistan’s army moved swiftly last October 12 to detain Premier Nawaz Sharif in his office and carry out a coup.

Mohammed Asif, a telephone operator at the PMO, said he learned at 6:35 p.m. on October 12 that the army had entered the grounds of the Prime Minister’s complex.

In less than one hour, they had entered the key offices and taken full control, Asif testified. Army troops told Asif to remain at his desk, but when he began looking around later in the evening, Mr Sharif and other top officials had been removed from their offices, he said.

Mr Sharif faces hijacking, terrorism and other charges in connection with the events of October 12, when the plane bringing the army chief back to Pakistan was denied permission to land. The plane did manage to land in Karachi, and the army chief, Gen Pervez Musharraf, promptly ousted Mr Sharif.
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Syria, Israel agree to ‘renew talks’

JERUSALEM, Feb 11 (DPA) — Syria and Israel have agreed in principle to renew their peace negotiations, which are currently stalled, the Israeli Ma’Ariv daily reported today.

However, Israel Radio reported this morning that while Israeli Government sources believe the negotiations will be renewed in the near future, the office of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak has rejected such assessments.

According to Ma’Ariv, the USA is working on reaching an agreement as to the time and place of the talks, the agenda and the level of delegates.

According to the Israeli daily report, US officials have been holding talks with the two sides, and have come up with a formula whereby Israel agrees that the negotiations will be based on the border which existed on June 4, 1967, before Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria.
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Conservation award for Indian botanist

LONDON, Feb 11 (ANI): Gargi Bannerji, an Indian botanist has won the most coveted prize of the conservation world — the Whitley Award. She heads a team working to save medicinal plants in the cold desert of Himachal Pradesh from extinction.

Her prize is worth 50,000 spread over two years, and with that goes the prestige of winning the Whitley Award. She told ANI: “It will do a great deal for the project. It will escalate the work, because of the additional funds. Secondly, it will bring greater understanding in the global community of the issue of medicinal plants and their conservation. Thirdly, there will be greater recognition of this project and that will enable us to expand our work.”

Ms Bannerji, who is director of Pragya, a Haryana based non-governmental organisation (NGO) , which focuses on environmental problems in the Himalayas, was one of seven selected from 68 entries world wide for a short list put before a final panel of judges in London.
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WORLD BRIEFS

22 killed in Algerian action
ALGIERS: Nineteen Muslim fundamentalist guerrillas and three soldiers have been killed in ongoing Algerian military operation to crush insurgents who have refused to surrender, El Khabar daily reported on Thursday. The latest clash took place on Wednesday at Merine, 440 kms southwest of Algiers, during a sweep against the hardline Armed Islami Group (GIA) in the Sidi Belabes region. — AFP

Plea against UN chief dismissed
THE HAGUE: A complaint accusing UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and other peace-makers of war crimes was dismissed by a prosecutor for the court trying atrocities in the former Yugoslavia. A group calling itself Mothers of Srebrenica filed the complaint against Mr Annan and 13 other current or former UN officials on Friday, accusing them of “genocide and crimes against humanity.” The group takes its name from a Muslim enclave in eastern Bosnia where up to 7,000 men and boys were massacred by Serb forces in July, 1995. — AFP

3 hurt in school parking shooting
TORONTO: Gunfire in a high school parking lot injured three persons and caused police and school officials to lock the school doors, preventing students from going home for the day. The police continued to search the school building for two hours after the shooting at Emery Collegiate Institute in suburan Toronto on Thursday, said a woman who answered the telephone at the school. One person was seriously injured and two others sustained less serious injuries, said police Constable Nick Doria. — AP

Love blooms become dear
HONG KONG: Florists in Hong Kong have raised the price of red roses by up to 550 per cent ahead of the Valentine’s day, according to a survey published on Friday. One florist who offered to deliver a dozen red roses for $ 7.8 on January 19 is charging $ 50.60 for the same delivery on February 14, the survey reports. The Hong Kong Flower Retailers’ Association blamed the price rises partly on recent heavy snowfall in Kunming, China, the source of many of Hong Kong’s flowers. — DPA

Playboy TV enters conservative Chile
SANTIAGO: Playboy Enterprises Inc. on Thursday launched erotic television in conservative Chile despite protests that it would corrupt traditional values in the predominantly Roman Catholic country. The only other Latin American countries that do not show Playboy TV are Paraguay and Bolivia, said Thomas Free, general manager of Playboy TV Latin America and Iberia. — ReutersTop

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