|Wednesday, April 5, 2000,
military dictatorship: Sharif
snub UN rights envoy
summit focuses on debt
|Elian to be handed over to father
MIAMI, April 4 Cuban castaway Elian Gonzalez looked set to be reunited with his father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, as soon as this week after US officials announced yesterday they were negotiating how to turn the boy over.
tiger may be extinct soon
TV sets torched in Pak
Fight military dictatorship: Sharif
KARACHI, April 4 (AFP) Deposed Pakistani Premier Nawaz Sharif has called on democratic forces to fight the military dictatorship, as he awaits the verdict in his trial on hijacking charges.
I hope and am confident that all democratic forces will join hands to wage a struggle to take the country out of this crisis, Mr Sharif said in notes made available to AFP tonight.
Mr Sharif faces the death penalty if he is convicted by an anti-terrorism court which is scheduled to announce its verdict on Thursday.
No civilised and democratic country will accept military dictatorship, Mr Sharif said. Democracy and Pakistan are inseparable. My only crime is that I struggled for the supremacy of democracy and Pakistan. Mr Sharif was ousted in a coup on October 12 last by Army Chief Gen Pervez Musharraf hours after the Prime Minister sacked the military general.
I did not know that instead of organising the army he (Musharraf) would jump into politics. I removed him because he was maintaining contacts with politicians and started conspiring against my elected government, Mr Sharif said.
The ex-premier said the 10-week conflict with Indian forces in Kargil last year, also became a point of difference between him and General Musharraf. General Musharraf started giving an impression that I made mistake on the Kargil issue. As far as Kargil issue is concerned, I visited America for the sake of Pakistans security and integrity and to prevent the internal dissensions within the army, Mr Sharif wrote.
Meanwhile, the Pakistani authorities have warned members of the former ruling party against holding street protests when the verdict in the trial of deposed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is released on Thursday.
No one will be allowed to take the law into his own hands, said Mr Muhammad Safdar, governor of Punjab, the countrys most populous province and Sharifs power base.
Pak, US officials hold meetings
WASHINGTON, April, 4 (PTI) Senior officials of Pakistans military regime are holding meetings with the US authorities here, official sources said.
Pakistan military ruler Gen Pervez Musharrafs adviser Javed Jabbar , Interior Minister Moinuddin Haider, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief Lt-Gen Mehmood and National Database Registration Authority Chairman Maj-Gen Zahid have already held meetings with US officials and were scheduled to meet more, they said.
Japanese Cabinet quits
TOKYO, April 4 (Reuters) Japans Cabinet resigned today, paving the way for the appointment of a successor to stricken Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi, who was clinging to life after a massive stroke.
Ruling politicians are keen to anoint a new Prime Minister who must be approved by Parliament to avoid a leadership vacuum as they struggle with a string of headaches from an erupting volcano on the northern island of Hokkaido to a fragile economic recovery.
Choking back tears, acting Prime Minister Mikio Aoki said earlier Mr Obuchi remained in a coma and on a life-support machine two days after his stroke and was unable to perform his duties.
The Cabinet has resigned, taking into account the condition of the Prime Minister and to avoid a disruption of state affairs, said a statement released after an emergency Cabinet meeting.
The decision was unanimous. We all signed, said Health Minister Yuya Niwa.
All ministers would remain in their posts until a new Cabinet was formed, Mr Aoki told a news conference after the meeting.
As a preliminary step, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party must pick a successor to Mr Obuchi as its President.
Election of that successor is scheduled for tomorrow morning, to be followed by a parliamentary vote to validate the appointment a formality since the government holds a 70 per cent Lower House majority.
Mr Aoki said he had no specific successor in mind, but political sources said the ruling LDP had settled on party stalwart Yoshiro Mori, renowned as an adept party insider but who has scant foreign policy experience.
The mass resignation was necessary to enable a successor to be named in the case of the incapacitation of a Prime Minister.
speculated that Mr Obuchis departure could speed up
the schedule for an election for the powerful Lower House
that must be held by October, with some saying that the
poll could be held as early as May to enable his LDP to
take advantage of a sympathy vote and seek a stamp of
approval for the new government.
Russians snub UN rights envoy
THE UNITED Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms Mary Robinson, ended a much-delayed and frustrating visit to Chechnya yesterday with her attempts to assess alleged war crimes and atrocities by Russian troops stymied by her Russian escort.
She was prevented from travelling to three villages outside Grozny where international human rights monitors say Chechen civilians were massacred by Russian troops. Her requests to inspect several detention centres where Russian troops were alleged to have tortured prisoners were also ignored. Instead, she was taken to a jail in Grozny where the only inmates were two women held for theft.
Her Russian hosts added insult to injury by cancelling meetings with senior government officials in Moscow after her return from the north Caucasus was delayed by a day, officially because inclement weather kept her grounded in Dagestan, neighbouring Chechnya.
The high commissioner had asked to visit a number of locations, none of which were satisfied. So there was some disappointment and frustration, said her spokesman, Jose Diaz, adding that he would describe the visit to the jail in Grozny as ironic.
Mr Vladimir Kalamanov, president-elect Vladimir Putins special representative for human rights in Chechnya, dismissed the UN envoys complaints, insisting that we have honoured our commitments.
We were quite open, we showed her everything she wanted to see, he said.
Mrs Robinson has infuriated the Kremlin with her outspoken criticism of Russias human rights record in Chechnya. Moscow denied her permission to visit the republic in February when she declared that war crimes could not be perpetrated there with impunity. She repeated the criticism in Chechnya.
Her letter asked for information on mass human rights violations by Russian troops or [Chechen] terrorists.
Thats an insult, Mr Kalamanov told this reporters. Ours is a modern, civilised European army. You cant put it together with terrorists in a war against religious extremism. That makes us angry.
Accompanying her, Oleg Mironov, Russias human rights commissioner, belittled the catalogue of complaints from the homeless. Conclusions cannot be drawn only from the words of excited people in refugee camps, he said. Other officials said the lack of transparency on Mrs Robinsons tour was predictable.
The Russians dont want to show Robinson the real face of what this war is all about, said Diederik Lohman, the Moscow director of the New York-based Human Rights Watch. Its not surprising.
The FIDH said Russia should be banished from the Council of Europe for its conduct in Chechnya. The council will decide whether to suspend Russian membership on Thursday.
EU-Africa summit focuses on debt
CAIRO, April 4 (Reuters) Europes recipe for conflict prevention in Africa through good governance and human rights is expected to get a lukewarm hearing from African leaders on the second day of the EU-Africa summit today.
A communiqué thrashed out on Sunday and due to be issued at the close of the conference contains compromise language on the importance of democratic principles and civil society, with African demands for a watered-down version prevailing.
Many African leaders who can remember the days of European colonial power on their continent say they will not be lectured by the affluent European Union, whose 15 members are embarking on a long-term strategy that embraces Africa as a whole.
Instead, virtually all 52 African states represented at the summit stressed the need for radical measures to relieve their external debt burden.
The Europeans resisted African calls for a general conference on the subject, saying there was no universal solution for all cases. The EU has agreed to draft a joint report on debt, but expects that process to be tortuous.
Egyptian President Hosanna Mubarak opened the landmark dialogue between the European Union and the organisation of African Unity with a call for a radical solution to debt.
EU sources said the Egyptians had shown regional superpower consciousness and oriental patience in dogged and apparently fruitful efforts to shape the agenda and the conference summary.
However, their bid to insert communiqué language aimed at Israels suspected nuclear weapons capability was rejected at German and Dutch insistence.
Despite economic reforms and efforts to spread democracy and human rights, Mr Mubarak said, western aid to Africa had slumped in the past two decades, commodity prices had fallen and the continents share of world trade had shrunk.
Under these unfavourable external conditions, the African debt crisis has aggravated into unprecedented dimensions while existing mechanisms proved to be either extremely slack or short of easing its burdens, he said.
The Oaus current President, Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, said Africa was sagging under the weight of a debt which prevented all possibility of improvement, and OAU Secretary-General Salim Ahmed Salim appealed for faster, quicker and broader debt relief.
On the summits fringes, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi appeared to take another step towards rehabilitation in the West by meeting European Commission President Romano Prodi.
But diplomats said Gaddafi had spoiled the effect by launching one of his classic anti-western diatribes behind closed doors.
President Robert Mugabe came to Cairo ready to defy
European critics of his authoritarian rule and appeared
to concede little to Foreign Secretary Robin Cook in
frosty talks aimed at defusing his heated row with
Elian to be handed over to father
MIAMI, April 4 (AFP) Cuban castaway Elian Gonzalez looked set to be reunited with his father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, as soon as this week after US officials announced yesterday they were negotiating how to turn the boy over.
The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) announced that as soon as Gonzalez arrives in the USA, which could be as soon as today, it would transfer legal responsibility for the care of Elian to him, ending months of deadlock.
As soon as the father arrives he will have legal authority to care for Elian, INS spokeswoman Maria Cardona said.
Visas for Gonzalez, his wife, their infant son and a young cousin, were approved yesterday, the US State Department said.
Elians paediatrician and kindergarten teacher have also been given permission to come to the USA, but the State Department is still reviewing visa applications submitted by 22 other people.
Indian tiger may be extinct soon
LONDON, April 4 (Reuters) British Environment Minister Michael Meacher was quoted today, as saying Indias tigers could be extinct within 10 years because of an upsurge in poaching for skins and traditional Chinese medicine.
Mr Meacher was commenting on a report due to be published shortly following a mission to India by the United Nations Convention on Trade in Endangered Species, the Daily Telegraph said.
There could be no tigers in five to 10 years. It is a very extreme situation, Mr Meacher said.
The Telegraph said the U.N. team led by Briton Rob Hepworth found tiger poaching was accelerating and that officials and conservation groups were refusing to face up to the problem.
India is not looking after tigers properly, one unidentified member of the team was quoted as saying.
Satanic TV sets torched in Pak
KARACHI, April 4 (AFP) A Pakistani extremist group modelled on the Taliban of Afghanistan has launched a campaign against un-Islamic practices here by collecting and burning satanic television sets.
Hundreds of people gathered to watch the show staged by activists of the Tehrik-e-Insdad Munkirat or the Movement for Prevention of Evil Practices near a mosque on Sunday.
These gadgets are satanic devices which corrupt people and society, said one of the leaders of the group, which mirrors itself on the hardline Taliban who rule neighbouring Afghanistan.
The Pakistan movement is a replica of the Talibans religious police, which enforces a radical form of Islamic rules that bar women from attending schools or showing their face in public and forces men to wear untrimmed beards.
The movement started its campaign in poor parts of Karachi inhabited by ethnic Pashtuns the same group that dominates the Taliban ranks. Like several other such groups here, it has close links with the Taliban.
Our role model should be the Taliban. We should become pure Muslims and should stop un-Islamic practices, Maulvi Abdul Jabbar told the gathering on Sunday where electronic goods were smashed up by a frenzied mob armed with bamboo poles.
Since these TV sets and VCRs have been introduced in our country, adultery and crime have become common. These are devilish things taking us away from the right path and towards hell.
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