|Monday, February 21, 2000,
sitting pretty in Majlis
wins South Carolina primary
LTTE talks in Oslo
spy ship in Gulf
2 lakh want Haiders party to quit
|USA expels Cuban diplomat
WASHINGTON, Feb 20 The USA, acting two days after the arrest of a US immigration official who allegedly spied for Havana, has ordered a Cuban diplomat to leave the country.
Peace talks put off amid fighting
quit key village
Reformists sitting pretty in Majlis
TEHRAN, Feb 20 (AFP) Reformist supporters of Iranian President Mohammad Khatami won 75 per cent of the 167 seats gained outside Tehran in the first round of Irans parliamentary elections, the main reformist party said today.
The newspaper Mosharekat of the Iran Islamic Participation Front (IIPF), citing what it said were official results, claimed reformists won 126 of the provincial seats decided in the first round after Fridays voting.
The conservative hardline Islamic right won 34 seats and Independents seven, the paper said.
It noted that in most constituencies where results had been declared IIFP candidates had won outright.
Preliminary results of the first round of voting that took place showed that the reformists had won 71 seats against 29 secured by the conservatives and Independents emerged victorious in 33 places.
Kuna quoted Radio Tehran as saying 147 MPs had already reserved their seats in the expanded 290-seat. Majlis, while 43 candidates would have to wait for the second round of voting.
Central Election Committee sources in Tehran were quoted as saying that counting in 37 constituencies, including the Iranian capital, was still continuing.
Candidates need a quarter of the votes of directly gain a Majlis seat for a four-year term. Those who fail to gather 25 per cent of the votes go on to a run-off election, whose date is yet to be announced.
The vote is being largely seen as a referendum on the governments plan of action and the standing of President Khatamis rivals, who had a majority in the outgoing house.
Political observers said a pro-reform majority would boost Mr Khatamis efforts to go ahead with his social and political agenda. It could also help bring Iran further out of its international isolation, normalising ties with Western Europe and the USA.
The conservatives have, however, still not given up and one of their spokesmen said there could still be surprises in the second round.
Media reports quoted a leading political writer Kazem Karvanavi as saying that the conservatives have to accept and digest their defeat.
He said former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who gave an impression of being close to the conservatives, had blown his return to active politics.
Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi said a pro-government Majlis would allow measures to be sent to the legislature to be passed more easily and in a positive atmosphere.
The reformists are
seeking to end the conservatives control of parliament.
The conservatives have been accused of hampering the
Presidents efforts to liberalise the economy,
burdened by high inflation and unemployment.
Bush wins South Carolina primary
WASHINGTON, Feb 20 (PTI) Having suffered a serious setback at the hands of Senator John McCain in the previous round, Republican frontrunner George W Bush regained the momentum by registering an easy victory over the challenger in the strategically important South Carolina primary.
I am relieved...excited and energised, Mr Bush said after his victory last night in South Carolina which is generally viewed by poll watchers as the state that shows the national trend.
With 97 per cent of the vote counted, Mr Bush managed 53 per cent to Mr McCains 42 per cent.
Mr Bush had suffered a serious setback by his defeat at the hands of senator McCain in new Hampshire, hence the unusual interest in the South Carolina primary to see whether Mr Bush has what it takes to fight back and be the front runner again.
The debate was brewing but Mr Bush stood the ordeal well and when the returns were coming in, his supporters were all smiles.
Mr McCain too showed a positive face as he told his supporters, We have just begin the fight, and I cannot wait for the next round. The next round consists of polls in Michigan and Mr McCains home state of Arizona in three days.
Meanwhile, in the Democratic Party the challenge to Vice President Al Gore continues to be rather insignificant so far, meaning thereby that after all the primaries are over, in November it will be Mr Bush against Mr Gore to succeed President Clinton as the next president in the grand poll finale.
Lanka, LTTE talks in Oslo
COLOMBO, Feb 20 (PTI) The first round of direct peace talks between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE under Norwegian facilitation would be held in Oslo, the state run newspaper Sunday Observer said here today.
Quoting official sources the daily said preliminary discussions to finalise the modalities of talks between the government and the LTTE would be held in Oslo and not in London as speculated earlier. However no timeframe has been fixed.
We will move very cautiously. It will be long and painstaking process, the daily quoted a government official as saying.
The newspaper said that Norweigian Foreign Minister, Knut Vollebaek, who visited Colombo on February 16 to discuss the modalities for peace talks with President Chandrika Kumaratunga and other Lankan leaders, would hold further consultations with all other parties before mapping out his strategy for peace talks.
He has already completed one lengthy round of talks with senior LTTE spokesman Anton Balasingham in London and the Lankan leaders. The second round expected to begin soon.
Russian spy ship in Gulf
MOSCOW, Feb 20 (UNI) Russia has sent a naval vessel to the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean for reconnaisance, barely a week after it shook hands once again with the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).
The naval ship Kildin will monitor the activites of the US armada in the region and submit a report to the Kremlin, Novosti reported today. The move comes close on the heels of the detention of a Russian oil tanker by a US warship in the Gulf region.
Meanwhile, the Defence Ministry has decided to resume production of SM-54 ICBMs for the Dolphin Class submarines. It has also decided to provide funds for speeding up the repair of the worlds largest missile submarine Typhoon which can carry 200 nuclear warheads. The SM-54 has a range of 8,000 km.
Defence experts calculate that Russia must maintain 1750-1800 warheads on submarine-launched ballistic missiles and along with it raise the overall number of strategic nuclear warheads to 3000-3500 in order to prevent the USA and its allies from attaining strategic superiority over Russia.
Cash-strapped Russia is in no position to put a nuclear shield over its territory. An advanced navy, capable of tackling it, could be Russias reply to the adversary, observers say.
Over 2 lakh want Haiders party to quit
Vienna, Feb 20 (Reuters) Over 200,000 Austrians rallied in Vienna in the countrys biggest anti-government protest to demand the resignation of the new government of Conservatives and Joerg Haiders far-right Freedom Party.
The Heldenplatz Square where Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler addressed the masses after annexing Austria in 1938 was a sea of candles as children and pensioners joined thousands of others to express their opposition to the new coalition.
Organisers accused Conservative Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel of isolating and dividing the country by striking a deal with Haiders party.
You only have to resign and the demonstrations will stop very quickly, rally organiser Robert Misik told the cheering crowd which had packed into Heldenplatz Heroes Square in front of Viennas imposing Hofburg Palace.
The police said some 150,000 persons took part, making it the biggest rally in Austria since an protest drew up to 300,000 persons seven years ago. Organisers said yesterdays rally was as big as the 1993 protest.
Buses and trains brought protesters from other cities in other countries, including Italy, Germany, Belgium and The Netherlands. Around 100 German anarchists clashed with police at the Westbahnhof Railway Station, but there were no arrests.
Peaceful protests were also held in other Austrian cities. But in Paris several persons were detained when 300 Leftists clashed with police after 9,000 persons demonstrated in front of the Austrian Embassy.
Meanwhile, Haider was forced to leave a restaurant in Vienna under police guard after he was spotted having dinner by a small group of protesters returning from the rally.
In Los Angeles Arnold Schwarzenegger added his voice at the weekend to the chorus of prominent figures critical of the inclusion of Haiders Freedom Party in the new Austrian coalition government a DPA report said.
The Austrian-born star said he was saddened by the effect Haiders anti-foreigner public remarks have had on the image of his homeland.
became a US citizen in 1983, said: As an immigrant
myself, I am offended by anyone who makes anti-immigrant
statements, and it is my opinion that someone who makes
statements like Haiders has no place in
USA expels Cuban diplomat
WASHINGTON, Feb 20 (Reuters) The USA, acting two days after the arrest of a US immigration official who allegedly spied for Havana, has ordered a Cuban diplomat to leave the country.
The identity of the diplomat, who worked at the Cuban Mission in Washington, was not disclosed. The FBI has said it watched a Cuban diplomat from Washington meet suspected spy Mariano Faget at a Miami airport bar.
We requested the withdrawal of a member of the Cuban interest section within seven days, State Department spokesman James Foley said. This action was undertaken in response to evidence presented by the FBI.
A spokesman at the Cuban mission said the latest turn in the spy case was a smokescreen to distract attention from the case of Elian Gonzalez, survivor of a shipwreck that killed his mother while fleeing Cuba. His father wants the 6-year-old boy to return to Cuba but US relatives want him to stay in Miami.
Meanwhile, Cuba has denied spying charges against the Cuban-born US immigration officer and a Cuban diplomat in Washington and rejected the US Government order to withdraw the diplomat a report from Havana.
A government statement
yesterday read out at a patriotic rally in eastern Cuba
condemned Washingtons allegations and the ordered
expulsion of the Cuban diplomat as a desperate and
spectacular manoeuvre by the USA.
Peace talks put off amid fighting
Manila, Feb 20 (DPA) Formal peace talks between Muslim separatist rebels and the Philippine Government have been put on hold amid escalating hostilities in the south, where at least 33 people have been killed, officials said today.
Defence Secretary Orlando Mercado said he was told by retired Lieutenant General Edgardo Batenga, the chief government negotiator, that the talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) tomorrow have been cancelled.
Chechens quit key village
MOSCOW, Feb 20 (Reuters) A Chechen rebel spokesman has said that separatist forces had quit a key southern village as Russia tightened security ahead of an anniversary of the Soviet-era mass deportations of Chechens.
Fighting has been raging in the South for several weeks after most of the rebel forces quit the regional capital Grozny. Much of the fighting has been centred around the village of Duba-Yurt, controlling access to the key Argun mountain gorge.
Chechen rebel spokesman Movladi Udugov said this village had now been abandoned.
6 officials face probe
Bin Laden link
Lennons papers: judge
celebrates bday with Fergie
Nurse jailed for
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