Thursday, April 20, 2000,
Chandigarh, India





THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
W O R L D

131 killed in air crash
DAVAO (Philippines), April 19 — A Philippines airliner packed with Easter holiday-makers crashed and burst into flames on a resort island near the city today, killing all 131 passengers and crew members, officials said.It was the country’s worst air disaster.


DAVAO CITY, PHILIPPINES: A pile of recovered bodies of passengers lie near the still-smouldering wreckage of the Air Philippines Boeing 737-200 plane shortly after it crashed at Samal Island while approaching the Davao City airport in southern Philippines on Wednesday. — AP/PTI

White farmers country’s enemies: Mugabe
Z
IMBABWE president Robert Mugabe launched his most furious onslaught yet on the country’s white farmers on Tuesday, branding them “enemies of Zimbabwe” and blaming Britain for his country’s turmoil.



SHENZHEN, CHINA: Armed Chinese police stand guard near a burning car after they are dispersing "rioters" at a joint anti-illegal immigration exercise with Hong Kong border police at Luofang checkpoint in Shenzhen, on Wednesday. The exercise was held to prevent illegal immigrants from mainland China entering into Hong Kong as more than ten thousand illegal immigrants were arrested in Hong Kong last year. — AP/PTI

  ‘No withdrawal’ of invaders
HARARE, April 19 — President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe met leaders of war veterans occupying white-owned farms today and said that there would be no immediate withdrawal of the invaders.

How Sharif escaped noose
ISLAMABAD, April 19 — Pakistan’s deposed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was spared the death sentence in the plane conspiracy case because of the involvement of some top army officials in the conspiracy whom the military junta did not want to list as accused.

Italian PM resigns
ROME, April 19 — Italian Prime Minister Massimo D’Alema tendered his resignation today and President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi asked the Centre-Left government to remain in office in a caretaker capacity.

Net reinforcing family ties
SEOUL, April 19 — Senior citizens in South Korea have found a novel way to escape from the social isolation, thanks to the explosive growth of Internet which provide them with opportunities to come back to family and society.

$ 3 m US aid for Uzbekistan
WASHINGTON, April 19 — The US intends to provide about $ three million in assistance to Uzbekistan to combat terrorism and illicit trafficking in weapons of mass destruction, conventional arms and narcotics.

Scrapping of poll results fuels riots
TEHRAN, April 19 — Riots swept Sarvestan in southern Iran after a decision by Iran’s electoral watchdog body to cancel local election results, newspapers reported today.

Plan to buy backguns launched
WASHINGTON, April 19 — Days before the first anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre, the Clinton Administration has inaugurated a multimillion-dollar national programme for buying back guns.

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131 killed in air crash

DAVAO (Philippines), April 19 (Reuters) — A Philippines airliner packed with Easter holiday-makers crashed and burst into flames on a resort island near the city today, killing all 131 passengers and crew members, officials said.It was the country’s worst air disaster.

Air Philippines flight GAP 541 was preparing to land at Davao Airport at the end of an early morning flight from Manila when it slammed into a coconut plantation in the hills of nearby Samal island, officials said.

The cause of the crash was not known.

The Boeing 737-200 was packed to capacity with people leaving the Capital for the long Easter break, which begins on Thursday.

Airline officials said there were 124 passengers, including four infants, and seven crew members on board.

There were 122 seats for passengers on the plane.

The Australian Embassy in Manila said the victims included a 35-year-old Australian man, his two-year-old daughter and his wife. It was not immediately known if there were any other foreigners aboard the plane.

‘‘It is confirmed that there are no survivors, unfortunately,’’ Air Philippines spokeswoman Leah Sison said Transport Secretary Vicente Rivera also told reporters here that all aboard were killed. ‘‘All are dead. Some bodies are in pieces.’’

The tragedy was the latest in a week of transport disasters in the country of 7,000 Islands. On April 12, more than 140 people died when an inter-island ferry capsized off southern Jolo island. On Monday, another ferry sank just south of Manila but all 137 people aboard were rescued.

Defence Secretary Orlando Mercado said the plane circled over Davao Airport preparing to land and then crashed into hills on Samal, which is well known in the country for its popular beach and diving resorts.

Davao, the second-largest city in the Philippines, is about 1,000 km southeast of Manila and Samal is just off the Davao mainland.
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White farmers country’s enemies: Mugabe
From Andrew Meldrum in Harare

ZIMBABWE president Robert Mugabe launched his most furious onslaught yet on the country’s white farmers on Tuesday, branding them “enemies of Zimbabwe” and blaming Britain for his country’s turmoil.

In two public statements marking the 20th anniversary of independence — one delivered in English, the other in Shona — he signalled divergent political messages. In English, he expressed regret for deaths on the farms. In the Shona version, he congratulated war veteran squatters.

White farmers, he said, perpetuated “vestigial attitudes from the Rhodesian yesteryears”.

His words came shortly after a second white farmer, Martin Olds, had been shot dead and an other farmer abducted and then later released.

“After 1997,” Mr Mugabe said “we also had to contend with the reluctance of the new (British) Labour government which did not want to honour commitments made by the previous British Governments on the land issue.”

Mr Mac Crawford, head of the farmers’ union in the south-western Bulawayo area, accused Mr Mugabe’s government of arming the veterans.

Ewen MacAskill adds from London: British Foreign Minister, Peter Hain, angrily denounced Mr Mugabe, on Tuesday for claiming Britain was to blame for the land reform crisis.

Mr Hain said no British money would be provided for land reform as long as farms were being given, as they had been for the past two years, to “cronies” of the Zimbabwean Government.

He accused Harare of “playing the same old gramophone record” in accusing Britain of behaving as if it was still the colonial master.

Mr Mugabe said the British Government had reneged on commitments to help fund land reform, allegedly given by the previous British Conservative government when the Lancaster House agreement giving Zimbabwe independence was signed in 1980.

Mr Hain said “The Conservatives stopped funding land reform in the late 1980s after giving 44m ($70m) because it was going off the rails. It was not being used to tackle the problems of the landless poor. In the past two years, the land has gone to cronies of the government and is not even being farmed.’’

He added: “We are only prepared to support a serious land reform programme, one that addresses the poor and is transparent.’’

There is nothing in the Lancaster House agreement about compensation for land reform, but Mr Mugabe has repeatedly insisted he was given a verbal promise by then British foreign secretary, Lord Carrington, who has been unable to substantiate the claim. According to the Foreign Office, Lord Carrington said he could not recall any such conversation.

There are 4,000 white farmers in Zimbabwe, mainly of British descent, who own 13m acres of prime commercial farmland — a third of the nation’s total. Meanwhile, millions of blacks are crowded into communal areas on small holdings.

— The Guardian, London
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No withdrawal’ of invaders

HARARE, April 19 (Reuters) — President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe met leaders of war veterans occupying white-owned farms today and said that there would be no immediate withdrawal of the invaders.

"There will be no withdrawal in the meanwhile", Mr Mugabe told a news conference after a brief meeting with leaders of the commercial farmers' union, the Zimbabwe Tobacco Association and the War Veterans Association led by Chenjerai Hunzvi.

Earlier Mr Mugabe ordered a representative of the farmers to leave the meeting.

War veterans’ leader Chenjerai “Hitler” Hunzvi went to President Mugabe immediately after being found guilty of contempt of court for inciting land occupations after they had been declared illegal.

Mr Hasluck was turned away without seeing Mugabe, who on Tuesday branded white farmers “the enemies of Zimbabwe”.Top

 

How Sharif escaped noose

ISLAMABAD, April 19 (UNI) — Pakistan’s deposed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was spared the death sentence in the plane conspiracy case because of the involvement of some top army officials in the conspiracy whom the military junta did not want to list as accused.

The decision of the military authorities not to try certain army officers on the charge of conspiracy in an open court weakened the case against Mr Nawaz Sharif who was sentenced to life imprisonment, according to a report published in the Lahore weekly Friday Times edited by journalist Najam Sethi.

“For the conspiracy charge to stick, the military authorities needed to indict certain military officers of conspiring with the Pakistan Muslim League (PML) government to complete the picture”, it said.

It was a known fact that several top army officials, including Lt-Gen Khwaja Zia-ud-Din, Lt-Gen Tariq Pervez and Brig Javed Iqbal were involved in the hijacking conspiracy case but were deliberately not made accused in the case. The weekly said it would not have been difficult for the prosecution to establish the conspiracy charges had they been included as co-accused.

“The conspiracy began when Mr Sharif met with former Corps Commander of Quetta, Lt-Gen Tariq Pervez, in the first week of October,” the weekly said in its latest edition yesterday.

It said the army took almost three weeks to decide the fate of the civilian rulers and army conspirators after the take-over on October 12, 1999. They conducted the military trial before the civilian trial and called it the board of inquiry. This was done to examine whether the military officers should be included in the trial or not. What happened in that inquiry and what its legal position was, remains a mystery.

At least six army officers were arrested from the Prime Minister’s house on October 12. However, none of them was included in the list of accused when the case of criminal conspiracy, waging war against Pakistan, hijacking and terrorism was first registered at the airport police station on November 10, 1999.

“The choice of Colonel Atiq, protocol officer of the corps in Karachi, as the complainant also caused a lot of embarrassment to the state. The complainant should have either been Capt Sarwat, the pilot of PK-805, or Brig Taj, military secretary to General Musharraf who was on board the flight,” the weekly said.

It said that during the past 25 days of the board of inquiry conducted by senior officers of the armed forces, they could not decide who would be the complainant, the accused and the witnesses. For instance, at the time of the inquiry Brigadier Javed, Captain Kheli and others were the accused in the case. Later, Brigadier Iqbal emerged as a witness and Colonel Kheli was not even brought forward as witness.

At the time of registering the FIR, the names of Brigadier Javed Iqbal and Colonel Tahir Kheli were dropped as accused and they were replaced by Mr Shahbaz Sharif, Mr Saifur Rehman and Mr Saeed Mehdi.

Another blunder was the decision to include sections of ‘high treason and waging war against Pakistan’ in the FIR. The prosecutors in their initial meetings were of the opinion that these sections could have been relevant if the army officers who revolted against General Musharraf, had also been included to establish the conspiracy in the post-Kargil scenario.

The decision not to include General Musharraf, General Usmani and Maj-Gen Iftikhar as key witnesses also weakened the case.

The weekly quoting political observers and legal experts said the case of conspiracy lost its credibility after the army officers were “saved” and civilians were charged.

Moreover, by deciding not to disclose the Kargil secrets and the names of the three Generals who wanted him to sign some papers in the judge’s chamber, Mr Sharif implied a compromise with the general headquarters. Earlier, in the open court he had declared that he would give some details in-camera but later dropped the idea for some reasons.

“Whatever might happen when the appeal goes to the high court, Mr Sharif has evaded the death sentence and all his co-accused have been acquitted. The defence is confident that the decision has brought Sharif back into the political arena and put General Musharraf on the defensive. The only way left for the government now is to bring cases of corruption against Mr Sharif and his loyalists,” the weekly said.
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Italian PM resigns

ROME, April 19 (Reuters) — Italian Prime Minister Massimo D’Alema tendered his resignation today and President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi asked the Centre-Left government to remain in office in a caretaker capacity.

Presidential spokesman Gaetano Gifuni told reporters after a meeting between the head of state and Mr D’Alema that the President would begin consultations tomorrow to seek a successor.

"Prime Minister D’Alema...has presented his resignation. The Head of State has asked the government to remain in office to carry out ongoing business,’’ Gifuni said. ‘’consultations are to begin tomorrow (Thursday) at 9 a.m. (0700 GMT) and will end on Friday.’’

Mr D’Alema had already offered to resign on Monday following poor results by his ruling Centre-Left bloc in regional polls but Mr Ciampi asked him to first test the feeling of parliament.

The President was expected to call on party leaders, ex-Heads of State and the speakers of both chambers of Parliament to discuss a possible successor. Treasury minister Giuliano Amato and Bank of Italy Governor Antonio Fazio are viewed as frontrunners. If Mr Ciampi fails to find a suitable successor he may have no option but to call a general election a year ahead of time.

DPA adds: Addressing the Senate, Mr D’ Alema said it was important that Italians first have the chance to vote on major changes to the country’s electoral laws. A referendum has been set for the end of May.

“We need a government to look after the company for the last 11 months of this term of Parliament,’’ he said.

Mr D’Alema has been Prime Minister since autumn 1998.

The changes submitted to the referendum will strengthen a first-past-the-post system that stops mini-parties elected by proportional representation from dictating the tune in coalitions. Advocates say it will bring Italy more stability. Similar proposals have failed in the past.

Mr D’Alema held a slim majority in Parliament and had only just survived a government crisis in December. Even before he was due to meet the President, his allies were already circulating a list of possible candidates to succeed him.

The Green Party, a small member of the ruling Centre-Left coalition, yesterday announced it would propose Treasury Minister Giuliano Amato as the next head of government.

Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini, Cabinet Minister Antonio Maccanico, Senate President Nicola Mancino and Bank of Italy Governor Antonio Fazio are among other names circulating as possible successors.
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Net reinforcing family ties

SEOUL, April 19 (Oana-Yonhap) — Senior citizens in South Korea have found a novel way to escape from the social isolation, thanks to the explosive growth of Internet which provide them with opportunities to come back to family and society.

Having over 10 million web users, comprising one fourths of the population, senior citizens in South Korea, notwithstanding the experts warning on extensive net usage causing health hazard, have discovered Internet as a medium to reach society since July 1998.

Foundation official Kim Yu-Sun says, “Calls are from across the country as we put pictures of missing kids on the Internet.”

There still does remain room for debate on whether the Internet demolishes or solidifies society with its revolutionary changes.

But experts contend that the cyber community the Internet creates is also a type of community. The question thus boils down to on whether cyberspace can function as real and effective as the real world.

Cyworld started providing the service of helping locate old friends or lovers. A thousand people have requested the service in less than two months.

The Internet is also strengthening family ties by getting missing children back home.

The Korea Welfare Foundation has used the Internet (www.missingchild.or.kr) as an effective means to get separated family members together.

SINGAPORE (AP): The Internet is helping people in Asia keep in closer contact with loved ones but it may come at the cost of time spent together in person, according to survey results released on Tuesday.

When asked about the Internet’s role in their interpersonal relationships, 85 per cent of net users polled said they used e-mail to stay in touch with loved ones, said Mastercard International, which conducted the survey.
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$ 3 m US aid for Uzbekistan

WASHINGTON, April 19 (PTI) — The US intends to provide about $ three million in assistance to Uzbekistan to combat terrorism and illicit trafficking in weapons of mass destruction, conventional arms and narcotics.

Stating that terrorism and illegal trafficking in arms posed a serious threat to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all central Asian states, US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who was on a visit to Uzbekistan, said that the aid would be meant for equipment and training for combating the dual menace.

The proposed assistance would be provided for the anti-terrorism assistance programme (ATA), international narcotics and law enforcement (INL) programme, non-proliferation, counter proliferation, and border defence.

Ms Albright said what happens in Central Asia can affect South Asia by influencing Afghanistan "and thus Pakistan and India," noting Uzbekistan’s proximity to Russia, China, Turkey and Iran. The future of the Caucasus is also linked to developments in Uzbekistan.

Thus, "you are very closely connected to some of our most vital interests," she said.

Uzbekistan was in the news recently when material, meant to help Pakistan make radiation bombs, was intercepted while an Iranian was transporting it through Uzbekistan by truck.
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Scrapping of poll results fuels riots

TEHRAN, April 19 (Reuters) — Riots swept Sarvestan in southern Iran after a decision by Iran’s electoral watchdog body to cancel local election results, newspapers reported today.

The decision by the Guardian Council, dominated by hardline clerics opposed to political and social reforms, replaced the initial winner in recent parliamentary elections with the runner-up.

People attacked and damaged the town’s local courthouse and later set car tyres on fire, Entekhab newspaper said. Other dailies carried similar reports of unrest. Attempts to set a petrol station on fire was thwarted by the police, the daily reported.

Rioters closed the main road between Bandar Abbas, Iran’s main port, and the nearby provincial centre, Shiraz. A road bridge was heavily damaged, the newspaper added.
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Plan to buy backguns launched

WASHINGTON, April 19 (Reuters) — Days before the first anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre, the Clinton Administration has inaugurated a multimillion-dollar national programme for buying back guns.

The plan, sponsored by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, initially provides $ 2.6 million to 84 localities across the nation, so they can buy thousands of guns from individuals.

“We must do many things to stop gun violence,’’ Housing Secretary Andrew Cuomo said, calling the Columbine, Colorado, shootings of April 20, 1999, “senseless’’ and pleading with congress to pass tough gun-control legislation.Top

 
WORLD BRIEFS

Chief Prosecutor’s sack voted
MOSCOW: Chief Russian Prosecutor Yuri Skuratov, who was suspended from his job a year ago, was finally dismissed on Wednesday from his post by the Russian Federation Council. A total of 133 legislators voted in favour of Mr Skuratov’s dismissal while 10 were opposed and six abstained. Former President Boris Yeltsin failed three times last year with motions to have Mr Skuratov sacked. Mr Skuratov, early last year accused the Yeltsin family and top Kremlin officials of corruption. The Kremlin in turn accused the Chief Prosecutor of involvement in a sex scandal and abuse of power. — DPA

Air raids on Sudan rebels stopped
KHARTOUM: Sudanese President Omar Beshir has ordered his army to halt air raids in the southern part of the country, the official Sudan News Agancy (Suna) reported. The President ordered the air force to use their fighter planes only for defence and in the battlefield. — DPA

American reaches North Pole in plane
WASHINGTON: Mr Gus McLeod, a Maryland pilot, travelled 5,632 km to stake his claim as the first person to reach the geographic North Pole in an open cockpit plane. Mr McLeod, 45, told WRC-TV, the local NBC affiliate here, he felt “slated” when he reached the North Pole around 9 p.m. EDT on Monday and circled it thrice. — Reuters

Madonna expecting baby boy
LONDON: A routine scan has revealed that pop star Madonna will have a baby boy, a British newspaper claimed. The Sun tabloid said in its Wednesday’s edition that Madonna was ‘delighted’ that her three-year-old daughter Lourdes will have a brother in September. The baby’s father, British film director Guy Ritchie, 31, was said to be “over the moon”. —AP

4.2 m HIV cases in South Africa
JOHANNESBURG: South Africa has said an estimated 4.2 million South Africans, or just under 10 per cent of the population, were infected with the HIV that leads to AIDS. The figures, extrapolated from a national survey of women attending public antenatal clinics also released on Tuesday, confirmed South Africa as having one of the world’s highest HIV infection rates. — Reuters

Taking school exam at 83
KATHMANDU: Undeterred by 50 years of failures in high school graduation exams, a Nepalese octogenarian has tried his luck again this year, reports have said. Dal Bahadur Karki, 83, of Solukhubu, 260 km east of Kathmandu, sat in the exam with more than 2,50,000 boys and girls from around the country. His fellow examinees at the Janajagriti Secondary School Examination Centre at nearby Sunsari were old enough to be one of his 17 grandchildren. — AFPTop

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