|Tuesday, May 2, 2000,
Doctor allowed to examine hostages
Trial of Iranian Jews resumes in
W. Asia peace talks resume
6 die in Ambon; curfew extended
Assets from Suharto charity seized
Monks seek Indian help against
Japan defends landing
Afghan peace talks in
Jeddah next week
Indian Prof in USA gets teaching
Doctor allowed to examine hostages
JOLO (Philippines), May 1 (AFP) A Filipino doctor said she had been allowed to visit a Muslim guerrilla camp the Abu Sayaff rebel camp, near here later today to take medical and other supplies to 21 hostages from seven nations.
"I hope I can bring back those who are very ill to the provincial hospital," said Jolo Provincial Health Officer Nelsa Amin.
She told reporters she did not know anything about the health condition of the hostages nine Malaysians, three Germans, two French nationals, two Finns, two South Africans, two Filipinos and a Lebanese woman.
"If any of the hostages are seriously ill, I will demand that the Abu Sayyaf bring them down to a hospital," she said.
Officials from the French, German and Finnish embassies also delivered 11 boxes of medicine, clothes and food today to a Muslim official who is serving as a go-between with the kidnappers.
Malaysia has also prepared a shipment of food and medicine for the captives, but it was unclear whether the rebels would allow the goods to be delivered.
They were seized from the resort island of Sipadan off Malaysian Borneo and taken by a speedboat across the sea border to Jolo island in southern Philippines where they have been kept crammed in a small jungle hut.
"I received a call from Governor Misuari to go and see the hostages," Ms Amin said, referring to chief hostage negotiator Nur Misuari.
Misuari has said he had received reports that one of the Finns was suffering from bleeding ulcers.
A Filipino journalist who was allowed by the kidnappers to their jungle camp on Saturday said they were hungry and dehydrated after suffering diarrhoea caused by drinking contaminated water.
Meanwhile, one of the 21 hostages, a South African woman, has collapsed apparently from hunger and exhaustion, a spokesman for the kidnappers said on radio today from their jungle camp.
"A woman hostage, from Africa, just collapsed this morning. Maybe shes tired and hungry," Aby Sayyaf spokesman Abu Issa told Radio Mindanao Network here in a telephone interview.
He did not identify the woman, but Philippine officials have said a South African couple was among the hostages.
European diplomats have, meanwhile, arrived in southern Philippines today bringing food, medicines and other supplies for the hostages.
Consuls Lars Leymann of Germany, Franck Simaer of France and Marja Korhonen of Finland handed over 10 boxes of medicine, food and clothing enough for 25 persons southern Philippines military spokesman Hilario Atendido told reporters.
In a development to the hostage crisis today, Singapore television has aired video footage confirming that the 21, mostly foreign, hostages held by Islamic militants were alive.
The brief Channel News Asia footage had one unidentified man telling the camera that they had to collect rainwater for their own use.
"We are getting quite weak," one hostage said. "We are afraid of malaria".
Meanwhile, on Basilan, a Philippine island about 80 km northeast of Jolo, army troops were searching for 2 other hostages, including many children, inside an extensive tunnel complex in the Abu Sayyafs main mountaintop stronghold.
The soldiers fired tear gas into the tunnel, estimated to be about 200 metres long, yesterday to flush out rebels seen fleeing inside as the sprawling stronghold was overrun by troops seeking to rescue the hostages.
The rebels claimed in a radio interview that they had escaped from the stronghold into the jungle with all 27 hostages.
Trial of Iranian Jews resumes in Shiraz
SHIRAZ (Iran) May 1 (AFP) The trial of 13 Iranian Jews accused of spying for Israel resumed today behind closed doors, after officials again insisted it would be fair in the face of international misgivings.
The trial opened on April 13, without the presence of three defendants who were on bail, but was almost immediately adjourned at the request of defence lawyers who said they had been given no time to examine the evidence.
Again today, only 10 of the accused were inside the Revolutionary Court presided by Judge Sadeq Nurani for an audience expected to last about three hours, said the spokesman for the Shiraz Justice Department, Mr Hossein-Ali Amiri.
The other three defendants were outside the building. One told AFP they had received summons but not yet been called into the courtroom.
The 13 Jews were arrested more than a year ago at Shiraz, Isfahan and Tehran on charges of spying for Israel, which is not recognised by Iran.
The affair has raised concern among the 35,000 Jewish community in Iran and internationally.
Today representatives from the embassies of Australia, Canada, Japan, South Africa, as well as Human Right Watch were on hand to follow the case.
Irans judiciary has commuted the death sentence on
four student leaders involved in last Julys unrest
in Tehran to 15 years imprisonment, the official
Iranian news agency reported on Sunday. The head of the
judiciary, Mahmud Hashemi-Shahrudi, recommended clemency
and the proposal was approved by Irans supreme
leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the agency said, quoting
the judiciary information department. In july, students
in Tehran initially directed their protest at limitations
set by Parliament on press freedom, but the protests
developed into riots.
W. Asia peace talks resume
EILAT (Israel), May 1 (AFP) Top Israeli and Palestinian negotiators resumed talks today in the Red Sea town of Eilat to try to forge a draft peace agreement in the next two weeks.
Chief Israeli negotiator Oded Eran and his Palestinian counterpart, Mr Yasser Abed Rabbo, are leading the peace talks, which kicked off yesterday overshadowed by a dispute over Jewish settlement activity in the occupied West Bank.
They are due to be joined tomorrow by US Middle East troubleshooter Dennis Ross in an effort to reach the framework agreement, outlining solutions to the key outstanding questions in the conflict, including control over Jerusalem, the fate of Palestinian refugees and the final borders of a future Palestinian state.
The start of the talks was delayed yesterday after Palestinians protested at reported plans by Israel to expand a large Jewish settlement outside Jerusalem.
The Eilat talks follow two similar rounds held in Washington.
Under the existing, self-imposed peace schedule, the two sides are supposed to have the framework agreement in place by May 13 and a definitive accord signed by September 13.
JERUSALEM (PTI): Determined to advance the peace process with the Palestinians, Prime Minister Ehud Baraks apparent bid to hand over three villages east of Jerusalem to the Palestinian Authority (PA) is threatening his coalition, media reports said here today.
Mr Baraks apparent determination to hand over Abu Dis, Eizariya and Suwahara villages east of Jerusalem to PA is threatening to collapse his coalition, leading English daily Jerusalem Post reported.
Besides, crisis was emanating from his coalition partners Shas Meretz, now in the National Religious Party (NRP), and Yisrael Baaliya. Both coalition partners were threatening to quit the coalition if Mr Barak transferred the three villages to the PA, the daily said.
Earlier yesterday, Mr Barak held private meetings with the leaders of the two parties Interior Minister Natan Sharansky (Yisrael Baaliya) and Construction and Housing Minister Yitzhak Levy (NRP) to discuss his proposal to give the PA full rather than just civilian control of the villages before the final redeployment.
"To transfer Abu Dis and another two villages....as an advanced payment means the main course will be East Jerusalem, which we oppose," Mr Sharansky was quoted by the paper as saying following his session with Mr Barak.
6 die in Ambon; curfew extended
JAKARTA, May 1 (AFP) The curfew in Ambon, the Capital of Indonesias riot-torn Maluku province, had been extended by an hour following fresh sectarian clashes that claimed six lives, the military said today.
"As of yesterday, the curfew has been advanced by one hour following the worsening conditions here," said Sutarno from the Maluku military commands information office.
Brig-Gen Max Tamaela, head of the Maluku military command, was quoted by the Media Indonesia daily as saying: "Whoever are still found on the street will be arrested, no matter what their reasons are."
Sutarno said six persons were killed in downtown Ambon yesterday afternoon. He declined to give further information, including details of how the victims died.
The Antara state news agency reported late yesterday that five persons had been found dead and all had gunshot wounds.
It was not clear whether the shots had been fired by security forces or by rioters carrying rifles and home-made firearms.
Sutarno said six security personnel were wounded by gunshots yesterday. Antara said at least 24 persons were injured in the violence.
Assets from Suharto charity seized
JAKARTA, May 1 (DPA) Indonesian state prosecutors today began seizing assets from a second charitable foundation controlled by former President Suharto as part of its corruption investigation against him.
Attorney-Generals office spokesman Yushar Yahya told a press conference that prosecutors confiscated letters and documents from the Dharmais Foundation.
Last week, the Attorney-Generals office began seizing assets from another foundation following a court order allowing it to do so.
Gen Suharto has been declared a suspect in a corruption probe to determine whether he, his family and cronies amassed billions of dollars in ill-gotten wealth during his 32-year rule.
Gen Suharto, (78) is currently banned from leaving Jakarta, and Yahya said prosecutors would decide tomorrow whether to extend that ban. "The extension of the city arrest will be decided tomorrow, he said.
Global AIDS threat: USA
THE AIDS epidemic is now so widespread globally, according to the US government, that it could help destroy foreign governments and contribute to ethnic wars.
"At least some of the hardest-hit countries, initially in sub-Saharan Africa and later in other regions, will face a demographic catastrophe, says a national Intelligence estimate study by government analysts. "This will further impoverish the poor and often the middle-class and produce a huge and impoverished orphan cohort unable to cope and vulnerable to exploitation and radicalisation."
Social consequences of the disease appear "to have a particularly strong correlation with the likelihood of state failure in partial democracies.
The analysts estimate that one African in four is likely to die of AIDS, that the numbers will continue to rise for 10 years and that the disaster could be repeated in south Asia and the former Soviet Union.
This would "challenge democratic development and transitions and possibly contribute to humanitarian emergencies and military conflicts to which the US needs to respond.
The World Health Organisation says that 23 million people are infected in sub-Saharan Africa and that new cases are running at about 5,000 a day.
"The thing thats most staggering and people are just beginning to grasp is that Africa is just the tip of the iceberg, said Sandra Thurman, co-chairman of a White House working panel set up to find initiatives to fight the disease, and due to produce draft proposals this month.
President Clinton has doubled to $ 254 m his budget requests for funds to tackle AIDS overseas but the United Nations says that $ 2 bn is needed for prevention in Africa alone, and as much again for treatment.
Even Vice-President Al Gores national security adviser, Leon Fuerth, concedes that the money does not match the task for which it is intended. "The numbers of people who are dying, the impact on elites like the army, the educated people, the teachers, is quite high," he said.
The pace of the Aids epidemic has been slowed in the west by better preventive measures and drugs that enable sufferers to live longer. One way in which the worst affected countries might be helped is by allowing them to make or import generic versions of drugs patented by pharmaceutical companies.
Monks seek Indian help against LTTE
COLOMBO, May 1 (PTI) Heads of Sri Lankas hardline Buddhist monks, who have been agitating against the Norwegian initiative to broker peace talks between the Lankan Government and the LTTE, have sought Indian military assistance to "crush the Tamil guerrilla outfit".
The leaders of the influential National Sangha Council, representing all Buddhist sects in Sri Lanka met the Indian High Commissioner, Mr Shiv Shankar Menon, on Saturday last to ask for Indian Governments assistance to halt the LTTEs highly successful military offensive in northern Jaffna peninsula, monk Maduluwawe Sobhitha Thera told the local media today.
The monk, known for his nationalist and militant views has been quoted in the "Daily Mirror" today that during their meeting with the High Commissioner, they discussed the possibility of bringing the Indian forces, if required, to Sri Lanka.
He said the government should consider getting assistance from India not simply because it was a powerful neighbour but also because New Delhi was a fellow SAARC country. "There is a room for such an assistance to be obtained", he said.
Significantly, monk Sobhitha Thera, along with other prominent monks has also suggested the revival of the much maligned Indo-Lanka treaty of 1987, which remained dormant ever since the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) left Sri Lanka in 1990 at the instance of the then President R. Premadasa.
Meanwhile a former Sri Lankan diplomat, Mr Nanda K. Godage, has said that the Lankan Government should either revoke provisions of the Indo-Lanka accord or enter into a security peace pact with India to protect its unity and integrity.
In a hard hitting
article in the "Island" newspaper over the
military reverses in Jaffna, Mr Godage, who has
previously served in India, said, "We cannot depend
on our military alone to ensure the security of the
state...the defence establishment has failed this country
and those who have hitherto been in charge should be
thrown out or asked to leave."
Japan defends landing
TOKYO, May 1 (AFP) Japan today defended a landing on the disputed Diaoyu Islands by a group of nationalists which sparked a protest from China.
The April 30 landing on the uninhabited islands, called Senkaku in Japanese, was legal as they belonged to Japan, said a Foreign Ministry official.
"The Senkaku Islands belong to Japan and their territorial legitimacy is guaranteed by international law," the official told AFP.
"We do not see any illegality in the act as claimed by the Chinese side."
Afghan peace talks in Jeddah next week
RIYADH, May 1 (Reuters) Afghanistans ruling Taliban movement and the Opposition are due to hold a second round of peace talks next week in Saudi Arabia, officials said today.
Officials from the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), which is organising the May 7-11 talks in the Red Sea port of Jeddah, told Reuters the two sides would not meet face to face.
Indian Prof in USA gets teaching award
WASHINGTON, May 1 (UNI) The University of California, Berkeley, has conferred on Indias Nilabh Shastri and two others professors its highest award for teaching, placing them among an elite group of instructors.
Besides, Professor Shastri, who teaches molecular and cell biology, the others are German Prof Claire Kramsch and Law Professor Eleanor Swift. Each of them received the Distinguished Teacher Award at a formal ceremony.
centre set up for hi-tech crime
theft of poisonous plant
Pub owner helps
clients lie to spouses
makes emergency landing
Witches night in
transplanted hand in danger
ruckus makes robbers flee
for Barbie ex-boss
lands husband in hospital
Man shoots 3
Cop who arrested
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