|Tuesday, February 29, 2000,
hints at Golan Heights pullout
defence lawyers protest
hearings on Pak plane case from Apr 3
|Kissinger appointed Wahids
JAKARTA, Feb 28 Indonesias armed forces today said it would appoint outspoken, reformist Major-General Agus Wirahadikusumah to head the countrys powerful army strategic command, Kostrad.
European rights envoy in
forgotten World War-II tragedy
let-up in eruptions
Barak hints at Golan Heights pullout
JERUSALEM, Feb 28 (AFP) Israel has for the first time given the Palestinians a limited choice over West Bank land to be transferred under an overdue troop withdrawal outlined under a signed accord, a Palestinian official said.
Under proposals presented through US Middle East envoy Dennis Ross, Israel is allowing the Palestinians to choose the 6.1 per cent due to be transferred out of a 10 per cent area earmarked by the government of Prime Minister Ehud Barak, the official said yesterday.
Mr Barak hinted he was prepared to withdraw from all of the occupied Golan Heights, the strategic plateau at the heart of the conflict.
He told a marathon Cabinet meeting on Lebanon yesterday that four of his predecessors had agreed to a withdrawal to the borders in place before Israels occupation of the Golan in the June 1967 war.
Four former government leaders accepted in very general terms that this June 4 line would be the basis of discussions with Syria in exchange for security arrangements, Justice Minister Yossi Beilin reiterated on Israeli radio.
While Barak did not specifically commit to such a withdrawal, he told ministers he does not intend to throw away the past, press reports said today.
The Haaretz newspaper, citing a diplomatic source in Jerusalem, reported that the US administration had informed Israel that Syria has shown an inclination in the past few days to renew negotiations.
Mr Ross has so far waged an unsuccessful shuttle diplomacy between the Israelis and the Palestinians in a bid to kickstart peace talks which have been stalled for more than three weeks, causing the two sides to miss a mid-February deadline for a framework peace accord.
Palestinian sources said a planned meeting last night between Mr Ross and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, the third since Mr Rosss return to the region, had been put off a day.
Mr Barak had earlier said a peace accord with Syria is far from certain although US President Bill Clinton is pressing for a deal to be concluded by May, Israeli radio reported.
Clinton is in a hurry because he is coming to the end of his term as President and fears a wave of Islamist violence that could ruin hopes for Middle East peace, the Israeli Prime Minister said.
Although Israel has left the way open to resuming the peace talks, Syrian President Hafz Assad is hesitating to continue the dialogue because he is a member of the Alawite minority and fears for the very survival of his regime if he makes peace with Israel, Mr Barak added.
RIYADH (AFP): Saudi Arabia is contributing to a discreet US effort to persuade Syria to resume peace talks with Israel in March, an Arab diplomat said here today after a visit by the Syrian Foreign Minister.
The diplomat, asking not to be named, told AFP that the USA had made proposals to work out a formula that would allow Damascus to return to the negotiating table.
An announcement of a resumption of negotiations could be made after the Arab League Foreign Ministers meeting on March 11 and 12 in Beirut, he said, adding that Washington was keeping its effort discreet.
Sharif defence lawyers
KARACHI, Feb 28 (Reuters) The entire legal team defending deposed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif against a possible death sentence will boycott the trial to protest against the courts refusal to let Mr Sharif testify in public, a key lawyer said today.
Mr Iqbal Raad, legal adviser to Mr Sharifs Pakistan Muslim League and member of the defence team, told Reuters television in an interview: We have boycotted this hearing because we have been denied the right of defence...we have walked out in protest.
Mr Raad said none of the several defence lawyers would be present at the anti-terrorism court in Karachi on Wednesday when the trial was set to resume.
We (have) stated that if ample opportunity is not being given to the defence, (and) to the accused persons in their defence, according to the law of the land and the rights which have been given by the constitution of this country.... there is no need for defence persons to be present there, Mr Raad added.
Mr Raad said Mr Sharif and the other accused were now at liberty to give their statements without the legal advice of their advocates or...they may engage other advocates to proceed with the case.
He said the court should adjourn the proceedings on Wednesday to give time to the accused to get new lawyers.
ICJ hearings on Pak plane
case from Apr 3
PAKISTAN does not let go of any opportunity to internationalise its dispute with India and that is what it did in September last year by instituting proceedings against New Delhi before the International Court of Justice at the Hague over the shooting of a Pakistani plane that had intruded into Indian air space. Now the court is to hold hearings from April 3 to decide whether it has jurisdiction to deal with the bilateral dispute.
The court had wished to hold hearings in March this year, but in view of requests by the parties, it had agreed to open them later. The April public hearings would last a week.
Pakistan had claimed that the aircraft which was shot by the Indian Air Force on August 10, 1999, was on a routine training mission with 16 personnel on board and that the plane was flying over Pakistani air space at the time of shooting. The Pakistani application had further alleged that in the two and a half hours which elapsed between the shooting down and the discovery of the wreckage, Indian helicopters sneaked into Pakistans territory to pick up a few item from the debris in order to produce evidence for Indias claim that the aircraft had been shot down over Indian air space.
Islamabads contention is that the Indian action breached the obligations to refrain from the threat of use of force under Article 2 of the UN Charter and of the provisions of the agreement of April 1999 between Pakistan and India on Prevention of Air Space Violations, and of the obligations under customary international law not to use force against another state and not to violate the sovereignty of another state.
In November last year,
India had told the Hague court that it had
preliminary objections to the assumption of
jurisdiction by the court on the basis of Pakistans
application. At a meeting with the then President of the
court, judge Schwebel, the two parties had provisionally
agreed to request the court to determine separately the
question of the court jurisdiction before any proceedings
on the merits of the case.
Kissinger appointed Wahids adviser
JAKARTA, Feb 28 (Reuters) Indonesias armed forces today said it would appoint outspoken, reformist Major-General Agus Wirahadikusumah to head the countrys powerful army strategic command, Kostrad.
Meanwhile, Indonesian President today appointed former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger as a political adviser.
Mr Kissinger said he would confer with President Abdurrahman Wahid at least once a year on political and social policy for the worlds fourth most populous nation.
I responded to the request of the President out of friendship for the Indonesian people and the importance I attach to the Indonesia nation, he told reporters after the meeting. I would like Indonesia to be strong, unified and democratic.
Major-Gen Wirahadikusumah, outspoken critic of the militarys involvement in politics, will replace a close ally of former military commander General Wiranto who was suspended from the Cabinet this month after being implicated in last years violence in East Timor.
The 49-year-old Wirahadi-kusumah, who currently heads the south Sulawesi military command, will take over the post on March 1, chief military spokesman Graito Usodo told reporters.
Usodo, who announced
that another senior Wiranto ally would also be replaced,
denied that President Abdurrahman Wahid had been directly
involved in the appointment but added : There has
to be a communication between...(the President) and the
military command especially for strategic
European rights envoy in Chechnya
MOSCOW, Feb 28 (Reuters) The Council of Europes Human Rights Commissioner was today set to visit rebel Chechnya as Russian troops battled to crush the last main stronghold of separatist fighters in the regions southern mountains.
Mr Alvaro Gil-Robles, a Spanish diplomat, was hoping to visit Chechnyas devastated capital Grozny, abandoned by the rebels earlier this month after weeks of heavy Russian bombardment.
His visit comes amid strong Western pressure on Russia to allow independent investigators into Chechnya to probe allegations of human rights abuses by its troops among parts of Groznys civilian population and at special detention centres.
As he prepared to leave for the volatile North Caucasus, a lawyer for Russian war reporter Andrei Babitsky said he would protest against the detention of the journalist in the region.
Babitsky (35) reappeared on Friday in Makhachkala, the capital of Dagestan, the region neighbouring Chechnya, but was immediately arrested by police for allegedly holding a false passport.
Mr Gil-Robles was not expected to visit the detention centre of Chernokozovo, centre of allegations by Chechen refugees of systematic torture, rape and executions by Russian troops. The camp is about 50 km north of Grozny.
But a group of Western
reporters was due to be shown the camp on Monday. Russia
rejects the charges of rights abuses and acting president
Vladimir Putin has appointed a human rights envoy to
Chechnya, Mr Vladimir Kalamanov, who is accompanying Mr
Gil-Robles on his trip.
A forgotten World War-II tragedy
PARIS, Feb 28 (Reuters) In one of the worst friendly fire disasters of World War II, British planes bombed and shot up to 10,000 concentration camp inmates in the last hours of the war, according to a new documentary film.
Some of the British pilots who took part in the attack on four Nazi floating prisons in the Baltic on May 3, 1945, three days after Adolf Hitlers suicide, learned only recently that most of the dead were allies and not diehard Nazi SS troops as they believed.
The Typhoonss Last Storm, by Paris-based US film-maker Lawrence Bond, includes shocking testimony by rare survivors recounting how Royal Air Force planes returned time and again to strafe swimmers who survived the initial attacks.
Former RAF pilots who flew in the mission are shown telling Bond they were told the ships carried Nazi leaders and troops trying to flee crumbling Germany to make a last stand in Norway, then still in German hands.
We used our cannon fire at the chaps in the water...We shot them up with 20 mm cannon in the water. Horrible thing, but we were told to do it and we did it. Thats war, said Allan Wyse, formerly of 193 Fighter Squadron.
David Ince, who led one of the aircraft formations, said the RAF pilots had just learned of conditions in the Bergen Belsen concentration camp, newly liberated by British troops, and had no qualms about killing people they thought were Nazis.
I saw people killed. When they got hit, their bodies would jerk and sink into the water, said Maurice Choquet, then a teenager, captured by the Nazis during a sweep against Maquis guerrilla bands during their occupation of France.
I could do nothing so I just held on to my plank. Then the planes came back again, right down on the water firing their machine guns, he said.
Some of the prisoners, resistance fighters and Jews from 24 European countries, managed to stumble ashore only to be shot dead on beaches near Lubeck, north Germany, by members of the Hitler Youth Movement or by SS troops, the survivors said.
Although there was an investigation after the war, references to the operation in official histories mention the sinking of the ships but do not say who the people were that they were carrying, Bond told Reuters.
Military specialists and people in northern Germany are aware of the incident but it is not widely known. It was one last horror forgotten in the joys of victory celebrations, Bond said.
No let-up in eruptions
MANILA, Feb 28 (Reuters) A restive volcano in the Central Philippines blew its top seven times overnight and scientists said today they expected eruptions to continue for weeks.
Tens of thousands of people have abandoned their homes on the slopes of Mayon and sought refuge in evacuation centres since it began erupting five days ago.
According to a bulletin of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology the restlessness displayed by Mayon, including the occurrence of swarms of earthquakes, strongly indicates that explosive activity shall continue over the next weeks.
Chief Provincial Relief Officer Cedric Daep said he expected the number of evacuees to swell.
Mr Daep said more than
47,000 persons now in evacuation centres included several
thousand villagers whose houses were outside the
designated no-mans land of six km from Mayons
crater but who fled anyway for fear of their lives.
kills cook, commits suicide
rescued from ice floe
serve sentence at home
firms chief quits
Queen Mother dies
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