|Monday, March 20, 2000,
of West Bank land cleared
holds out olive branch
suicide by Uganda cult
back govts N-power policy
|Suspected suicide bomber stripped
COLOMBO, March 19 A woman suspected to be a suicide bomber was ordered to strip at a checkpoint here, a local newspaper said today.
All set for launch of
Handover of West Bank land cleared
JERUSALEM, March 19 (Reuters) Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Baraks Cabinet today gave the green light to a handover of 6.1 per cent of the West Bank to full Palestinian control, paving the way for the renewal of US-brokered peace talks on Tuesday.
The Cabinet today endorsed the further withdrawal from 6.1 per cent of territory in Judea and Samaria, said a statement from Mr Baraks office, using biblical names for the West Bank.
It said 16 ministers voted in favour and six were against the handover, to take place on Tuesday. One minister abstained.
The handover will bring land under full or partial Palestinian control to 39.8 per cent of the West Bank, said Deputy Defence Minister Ephraim Sneh. Palestinian officials had said last week the total would be 42.9 after the transfer.
Chen holds out olive branch
TAIPEI, March 19 (Reuters) Taiwan has dumped its long-ruling Nationalist government and elected as President the leader of a pro-independence party reviled by Beijing.
President-elect Chen Shui-Bian immediately held out an olive branch of the mainland but China reacted cautiously, saying yesterday it was listening to the words, watching the action.
China has long threatened to invade the island, which it considers a rebel province, if it declared independence.
Outgoing President Lee Teng-Hui vowed a smooth transfer of power and said he had urged high-ranking officials, including Defence Minister Tang Fei, to be ready for threats from China.
Jubilant Chen supporters set off firecrackers to celebrate an end to more than half a century of rule by the Nationalist Party, whose candidate Lien Chan was crushed partly by a wave of disgust with corruption and the power of organised crime.
Mr Chen narrowly defeated Nationalist rebel James Soong running as an Independent. Mr Lien trailed a distant third.
Within an hour of his victory, Mr Chen reached out to Beijing, saying that before his inauguration on May 20 he hoped to make a journey of reconciliation to the mainland.
Mr Chen said he would welcome a visit to the island by Chinese President Jiang Zemin and Premier Zhu Rongji and wanted to talk about opening direct trade, travel and investment links.
He also proposed a peace agreement and military confidence-building measures.
But Mr Chen set out his bottom line on reunification, saying he rejected as unacceptable Chinas one country, two systems formula under which it reclaimed Hong Kong and Macau.
In its first reaction, Beijing issued a statement saying Taiwan independence in any form is absolutely impermissible, and it made clear it reserved judgement on Mr Chen.
We are listening to the words and watching the actions of Taiwans new leader and waiting expectantly to see which direction he will take cross-straits relations, said the statement issued by the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, or Cabinet. It did not mention Mr Chen by name.
China is willing to exchange views on cross-straits relations and peaceful reunification with all Taiwan political parties who approve of the one-China principle, the statement said. Diplomats noted the wait-and-see tone of statement.
US President Bill Clinton, congratulating Mr Chen, urged Taipei and Beijing to begin constructive talks to improve relations.
Mr Clinton said the USA would continue its one-China policy and would conduct close, unofficial ties with Taiwan.
The final official tally showed Mr Chen with 4.9 million votes, Mr Soong 4.6 million and Mr Lien 2.9 million. The turnout among Taiwans 15.46 million eligible voters was 82.69 per cent, compared with 76 per cent in the last election in 1996.
A report from Singapore said Asian countries had urged China and Taiwan to embrace a fresh era of meaningful dialogue.
In Tokyo, a statement by Japanese Foreign Minister Yohei Kono said: Japan expects that under such new circumstances, the issue relating to Taiwan will be settled peacefully through direct dialogue between the parties on both sides of the Taiwan Strait and that this dialogue will be promptly resumed.
Minister Alexander Downer said Chens offers
and Chinas toned-down rhetoric gave cause
for optimism but warned that regional stability could be
upset unless the two sides tread carefully.
Mass suicide by Uganda cult
MBARARA, March 19 At least 235 members of a millennium cult, including dozens of children, are believed to have died in mass suicide at a blazing church in south-western Uganda.
Expecting the end of the world, followers of the obscure Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God locked themselves in the church in the small town of Kanungu at breakfast time on Friday, the police said yesterday.
After several hours of chanting and singing, they set the church on fire, taking their own lives in the worlds second biggest mass suicide of recent times.
A police spokesman, Mr Assuman Mugenyi, who visited the scene 320 km south-west of the capital Kampala, said all 235 registered members of the sect had probably perished in the fire and unregistered new arrivals may also have died.
He said police were having difficulty counting bodies burned beyond recognition. There were about 235 registered (cult members) but there are likely to be more killed in the fire women, children and men, Mr Mugenyi said.
The cult leaders, who included three excommunicated priests and two excommunicated nuns, taught that the world would end in 2000. Their followers dressed in a uniform of white, green and black robes.
Prior to this incident their leader told believers to sell off their possessions and prepare to go to heaven, Mr Mugenyi said, adding that the police were treating the incident as both suicide and murder because children were involved.
Definitely it is both because there were large numbers of children led there by their parents, he said.
He said the wooden-framed windows of the church appeared to have been boarded up and there was no sign of a struggle. The bodies burned beyond recognition lay in the centre of the shell of the building.
People said they heard some screaming but it was all over very quickly, he said, adding that locals had also heard an explosion. The corpses had been left where they lay for forensic experts to examine today.
The church is 40 km north of Rwanda, where 8,00,000 people were slaughtered in the 1994 genocide, and 15 km from the Democratic Republic of Congo, where armies of the six African states have been sucked into messy civil war.
A former British colony once called the pearl of Africa for its fertile soil and plentiful rains, Uganda became a byword for horror during the 1971-79 dictatorship of Idi Amin, whose regime killed up to 5,00,000 opponents and expelled 70,000 people of Asian origin.
More bloodshed followed Amins downfall, until guerrilla leader Yoweri Museveni came to power in 1986, restoring relative peace.
But an extreme and violent Christian cult, the Holy Spirit Movement, sprang up among northern ethnic groups in the late eighties. Many hundreds of believers died in suicidal attacks, convinced that magic oil would protect them from the bullets of Musevenis troops.
Its successor, the Lords Resistance Army, is still pursuing a guerrillas war, kidnapping large number of boys and girls to serve as soldiers and sex slaves and dodging back and forth across the border with southern Sudan.
Since last year, the police have asked all religious sects or cults to register their members locally. In September, the police disbanded another doomsday cult, the 1,000-member World Message Last Warning sect in central Uganda. The cults leaders were charged with rape, kidnapping and illegal confinement.
The largest mass suicide of recent times took place in 1978 when a paranoid US pastor, the Reverend Jim Jones, led 914 followers to their death at Johnstown, Guyana, by drinking a cyanide-laced fruit drink. Cult members who refused to swallow the liquid were shot, Jones had carved a sign over his altar at Jonestown, reading those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it. Reuters
AFP adds: Ugandas Chief Inspector of Police, Mr John Kisembo, told AFP: It is not clear exactly how many died or who they were, because inside the church it was a mass of charred bodies.
He added that it was also not clear whether the cults leader, Joseph Kibwetere, was among the dead, or whether he had escaped.
Local people told police that last week cult members had been selling their property in Kanungu trading centre, near the Democratic Republic of Congo border, in apparent preparation for their death.
On March 14, Kibwetere, held a party for his church-buying up crates of soft drink for the event.
A police investigation
team flew to the scene yesterday but have not returned to
Kampala yet. A group of doctors will also go to the area
to begin the gruesome task of sifting through the burnt
remains, Kisembo told AFP.
Clintons Pak visit
WASHINGTON, March 19 (PTI) The White House and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton have denied that US President Bill Clintons decision to visit Islamabad was influenced by Pakistani Americans donations to her (Rodham Clintons) senatorial campaign.
The First Lady has got donations not only from Pakistani Americans but also from Indian Americans the implication apparently being that one neutralises the other if influence is charged, Clintons campaign spokesman Howard Wolfson said yesterday.
Earlier in the week, Ms Rodham Clinton had said if anybody thinks they can influence the President by making a contribution to me, they are dead wrong, and I think there is no evidence of that.
The First Lady, who had stated at the New York fundraiser, I deeply hope that the President will visit Pakistan, told the media on whether she conveyed that hope to Mr Clinton, I dont talk about what I talked to the President on any issue.
But it would be very difficult to run for office in New York if a Senate candidate refused to take campaign donations from any New Yorkers who belonged to an ethnic group with foreign policy concerns, she added.
However, Mr Scott Harshbarger, President of Common Cause, a public watchdog body, said though the fundraiser was not illegal, it still fed the perception that political access could be bought.
What we find troubling, said Mr Harshbarger, is that a group of Americans is being told that the price of admission is $ 50,000 dollars (raised by Pakistani Americans at New York fundraisers) to have access to a future US Senator.
President Clinton will briefly stop in Pakistan on his way back home after a trip to India.
Clintons rival for the Senate, New York Mayor Rudy
Giuliani, took the see no evil, hear no evil, speak
no evil stance, saying: Whatever happened
with Pakistan or did not happen I
dont know. Somebody else can figure that out.
Greens back govts N-power policy
KARLSRUHE (Germany), March 19 (Reuters) Germanys Greens Party rallied behind the governments nuclear power policy and stopped short of threatening to quit the ruling coalition over arms sales to Turkey.
The party, which has been divided over compromises made by its ministers in the coalition, gave a standing ovation to Environment Minister Juergen Trittin as he defended the governments 30-year nuclear phase-out plan.
The conference voted to back Mr Trittin by an overwhelming majority, finally laying to rest a demand for the immediate closure of all reactors that dated back to the partys long years in the Opposition. The motion also called on the government to force a phase-out on the energy industry if it failed to agree to terms.
Mr Trittin said Chancellor Gerhard Schroeders Social Democrats, the senior partners in the 18-month-old coalition, would not accept pushing for speedier closure. The plan has yet to be agreed with the power industry.
There are no contradictory goals, said Mr Trittin. Our goal is the end of nuclear power. But to achieve it with 7 per cent of the vote we have to work to build a majority for our views.
The party conference in south-western Karlsruhe was due to vote on the plan.
Dont let our chief negotiator leave the conference with the legs cut from under him, said the meetings co-chairman Antje Radcke, an environmentalist hardliner.
The party leadership had been pushing initially for a 25-year limit.
Shabana Azmi honoured
DEAUVILLE (France), March 19 (PTI) Noted actress and social activist Shabana Azmi was honoured at the prestigious Panasian film festival with a retrospective featuring four of her films.
At a glittering ceremony last evening in this northern coastal town, an audience of over 1,000, including many film personalities and critics around the globe, gave a standing ovation to Shabana Azmi, who also had the honour of her recent film Godmother, shown as the opening film at the festival.
The film Godmother, for which Shabana Azmi won Indias Best Actress award last year, talks about the life of a rural woman who turns out to be a political leader fighting against corruption.
There is a silent revolution going on in India with 33 per cent reservation at the local panchayat level making a difference in the lives of rural women. Godmother gives an example of what it means to be a woman leader in a rural area, Shabana Azmi said in her speech.
Suspected suicide bomber stripped
COLOMBO, March 19 (DPA) A woman suspected to be a suicide bomber was ordered to strip at a checkpoint here, a local newspaper said today.
The woman failed to produce her identity papers and was directed to strip in the centre of a main road on Saturday as the police believed that she was carrying a bomb strapped to her, the Sunday Times reported.
All set for launch of INSAT-3B
PARIS, March 19 (PTI) Indias INSAT-3B communications satellite is all set to be launched from Kourou in French Guiana by an Ariane-5 rocket on March 22 with officials saying that the final launch readiness review and other tests on the satellite have given satisfactory results.
The final launch readiness review was conducted on Friday and all trials have been very successful. Now we are eagerly looking forward to the launch, Mr P. Sivasankaran Nair, Project Director of INSAT-3B, told PTI on the phone from Kourou.
gets 5 weeks to defend licence
over sexual liaison
Bachchans new movie soon
Myanmars Suu Kyi
12 killed in
A $ 99 computer
20 killed in
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