|Saturday, February 12, 2000,
coup not prearranged
|Syria, Israel agree to renew
JERUSALEM, Feb 11 Syria and Israel have agreed in principle to renew their peace negotiations, which are currently stalled, the Israeli MaAriv daily reported today.
award for Indian botanist
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 dont 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 Britains 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 Londons 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
Generals assure Wahid of loyalty
JAKARTA, Feb 11 (ANI, Reuters) Indonesias 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 its 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 Wirantos 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: Indonesias 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 countrys powerful military, known by the acronym TNI.
The TNI is very loyal to the country and the President, Singapores 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 Indonesias 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.
Pakistan coup not prearranged
KARACHI, Feb 11 (AFP) Pakistans 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 Pakistans 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 Ministers 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
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 MaAriv 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 MaAriv, 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.
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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