|Thursday, May 11, 2000,
Leone troops recapture town
troops withdrawn as crisis deepens
law on visa to benefit Indians
farms invaded in Kenya
|Plea on Fergies remarriage
LONDON, May 10 The father of Prince Andrews former wife today spoke of his frustration at the British royal familys antipathy towards his daughter, the flame-haired Duchess of York popularly known as Fergie.
abducted kids, women rescued
set for Cannes 2000
victim of unfair trial
Sierra Leone troops recapture town
FREETOWN, May 10 (AFP) Sierra Leonean pro-government troops have recaptured the strategic town of Masiaka, killing 20 rebels of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) military chief Johnny Paul Koroma said today.
Mr Koroma, a former junta chief who has rallied to President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, announced on a private radio station that the Sierra Leonean army and ex-junta soldiers had seized back Masiaka, 65 km east of the Capital.
The government troops also seized a vehicle and a large quantity of ammunition, Mr Koroma said.
UN peacekeeping troops had to withdraw from Masiaka on Monday after running out of ammunition in a fight with unidentified assailants, a UN spokesman acknowledged here late yesterday.
Mr Koroma said pro-government forces were now advancing north to Lunsar, on the road to the rebel stronghold town of Makeni.
Mr Koroma led the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) that took power in May, 1997, before being ousted by the Nigerian-led West African ECOMOG force, which has handed over to the UN peacekeeping mission UNAMSIL.
The AFRC is now allied with what is left of Sierra Leones regular army.
UN troops withdrawn as crisis deepens
UNITED NATIONS, May 10 (Agencies) In yet another setback for UN peacekeeping operation, 220 UN troops withdrew from Sierra Leone amid fears of an imminent rebels attack even as African leaders warned that any attempt to overthrow the government in the strife-torn nation would be dealt with military force.
With over 500 UN peacekeepers still held hostage, the contingent of 220 Nigerian and Guinean soldiers retreated from Masiaka, 65 km east of Freetown, when they come under attack from unidentified gunmen.
The contingent of 220 soldiers retreated after exhausting its ammunition in exchange of fire with the gunmen, a spokesman of the United Nations mission in Sierra Leone said even as the USA offered to airlift the Bangladeshi contingent, and is considering helping to transport Jordanian and Indian units.
UN spokesman Fred Eckhard said Russia had indicated it might help in the peacekeeping operation.
The UN hopes to round out the 11,100-member force to help reinforce the embattled 8,700 peacekeepers who have come under fire by rebels of the Revolutionary United Frontin (RUF) clashes that have resulted in the detention of 500 UN troops.
African leaders yesterday warned they would use military force to stop an overthrow of the government in Sierra Leone.
The leaders of nine African states said they could re-deploy the West African intervention force ECOMOG to end the crisis in Sierra Leone, where the RUF rebels have taken hostage up to 500 United Nations peacekeepers in a series of clashes that left at least two of the UN soldiers dead.
According to a BBC report Thousand of civilians are fleeing towards the Capital Freetown to avoid advancing rebels.
It follows the capture by the RUF rebels of the strategic town of Masiaka, 55 km from Freetown, the report, monitored in Nairobi, said.
The government troops and pro-government militia were patrolling the capital in readiness for a rebel offensive.
It is feared rebels might storm Freetown following the disappearance of RUF leader Foday Sankoh who has not been seen since Monday.
Yesterday, the United Nations put the number of casualties suffered by its peacekeeping force in Sierra Leone at five missing, two of them presumed dead, and 12 others wounded.
It also said yesterday it had evacuated 206 civilian members of the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) to Gambia, and that 265 Sierra Leonean refugees had crossed into Guinea.
The United Nationals refugee agency said hundreds of Sierra Leoneans have fled to Guinea by land and by sea over the last several days amid escalating tension between rebel and government forces.
LONDON: Britain today effectively rejected calls form Sierra Leone to commit combat troops to enforce peace in the West African country, saying it did not have the resources to wade into every international crisis.
Sierra Leone Information Minister Julius Spencer earlier urged Britain to contribute men and materials to a United Nations force, complaining London was not doing enough to end the violence in its former colony.
British Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon, however, stressed hundreds of troops sent to evacuate Britons and other nationals from Sierra Leone were there only for that purpose.
were sent there to do a specific job which was obviously
to assist in the evacuation, Mr Hoon told Sky
Television. Thats why they were sent there,
thats the job they will continue to do.
New law on visa to benefit Indians
WASHINGTON, May 10 (UNI) Indian computer hands are going to be the main beneficiaries if the congressional consensus on removing the limit on the number of (H-1B) visas to foreigners with prized technical skills, such as computer programmers and electrical engineers, becomes a law.
The House Judiciary Committee, after reviewing several competing measures yesterday, agreed on Bill that would remove visa limits for the next three years, apparently in recognition of the demand of high-tech companies in need of work force.
In previous years, Indians got more than half of the total H-1B visas issued by the US government. There is general agreement that the economy of this country is best served by some sort of increase, said Democratic Congressman Barney Frank.
The committee is expected to formally approve the Bill today as it could not do so yesterday for want of quorum. Then the measure would go to the floor of the House for discussion and passage.
A similar Bill already has cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee and awaits action as early as this week in the full senate.
H-1B visas are given to foreigners with college degrees, and allows them to work in the USA for up to six years. The number of visas is capped at 1,15,000 this year, but is scheduled to fall to 1,07,500 next year and 65,000 per year after that.
According to reports, there are at least 3,00,000 jobs are going unfilled for lack of qualified US applicants.
Congressman Lamar Smith, the mover of the bill, spoke about the shortage of American high-tech workers and said, according to a one study, the demand for highly skilled foreign workers is running at least 50,000 ahead of last year.
Such a demand can indicate an actual shortage of American workers, a spot shortage, a preference for cheap labour or replacement workers, or something else. But because of the importance of the high-tech industry to our economy, I think we should give the industry the benefit of the doubt, he added.
Opposing the cap on the number of visas, he said, The market should determine how many high-tech workers we need rather than have Congress set limits based on arbitrary numbers.
The Bill also contains
provisions that benefit workers and reduce fraud. H-1B
visas are available to aliens who are paid at least
40,000 dollars a year, unless working at universities.
High-tech companies need to employ highly skilled and
Whites farms invaded in
A WHITE Kenyan government minister said on Tuesday that two farms on the Kenyan coast one of which he owns had been invaded by landless families in apparent copycat occupations to those in Zimbabwe.
Basil Criticos, an Assistant Minister in the Public Works Department, said hundreds of people had invaded one of his farms, beaten up his security staff and burnt thousands of acres of his sisal crop.
Mr Criticos believed they had been incited by calls last month from maverick politician Stephen Ndichu for landless Kenyans to occupy and seize white-owned farms.
In a reference to Zimbabwe, where hundreds of white-owned farms have been invaded, Mr Criticos said: Since the debate on this sensitive subject began my farm has been invaded by over 300 families. He did not give the date of the invasion, but said the squatters had already started dividing up the land. Some had been arrested, he said, but most had since been released.
While confirming a land dispute involving Mr Criticoss farm, the Kenyan government yesterday said there was no connection whatsoever between events in Kenya and Zimbabwe.
Its statement, released from the office of Cabinet Secretary Richard Leakey the only other white member of the government said it was misleading to suggest that there was a racial element to the land problem in Kenya.
Like Zimbabwe, Kenya is a former British colony but most white farmers in Kenya gave up their land voluntarily after independence in 1963. However, the few farms which are still white-owned are some of the biggest farms in a country where land is a divisive issue.
The Guardian, London
21 dead, 56 hurt in China bus mishap
BEIJING, May 10 (AFP) A bus accident in southwestern China has left 21 persons dead, 56 injured and one missing, a police official said today.
The accident occurred yesterday when the bus carrying 78 persons skidded on a wet road and fell 150 metres into a ravine, according to a spokesman from the Police Department of the Qianjiang district in Chongqing municipality.
The bus was travelling between the city of Dongguan in the southern province of Guangdong and the district of Daxian in the southwestern province of Sichuan.
Negotiators fail to free hostages
JOLO (Philippines), May 10 (DPA) Philippine and Libyan negotiators today failed to convince Muslim extremist rebels to free two ailing Europeans, who are among 21 hostages being held in a southern Philippine jungle.
Islamic scholar Ghazali Ibrahim and former Libyan Ambassador to The Philippines Rajab Abdulaziz Azzarouq returned empty handed from their first face-to-face meeting with leaders of the Abu Sayyaf extremists.
A Red Cross medical mission also came back without the two ailing hostages.
Ibrahim and Azzarouq had hoped to secure the evacuation of German woman Renate Wallert, who was at risk of suffering from a stroke due to hypertension without immediate medical care, and Frenchman Stephane Loisy, who has a urinary tract infection.
The meeting was held at
an undisclosed venue in the hinterlands of Jolo Island,
Sulu province, 1,000 km south of Manila. It was the first
direct contact between negotiators and the rebels in the
18-day hostage crisis.
Pak areas in grip of drought
ISLAMABAD, May 10 (DPA) Two years ago this month, Pakistans Chaghai region became a symbol of pride for many Pakistanis and a symbol of horror to the world when six nuclear tests were carried out there.
Today the remote region is again in the news, but this time it is for the people and animals dying there of thirst.
At least 15 persons and hundreds of thousands of sheep, goats, cows and camels have died in Chaghai in the worst drought the region has experienced in many years.
Chaghai lies in Baluchistan province, which along with Sindh province has been among the hardest hit areas. A total of 3.2 million poor people have been affected by the drought.
Officials say 127 persons have died in the Thar desert, the worst affected area in Sindh, but attribute the deaths to tuberculosis and other diseases prevalent in the region.
After weeks of suffering, special water trains started moving on Monday for the scattered shepherd communities of Baluchistan. They disgorged water into underground tanks every 10 km for the thirsty to trek there from far and wide.
Chaghai has been promised 225,000 gallons of water in 72 hours.
Two helicopters are delivering food bags and fodder to mountainous areas in Baluchistan inaccessible by road.
Though the drought had been in the making for three years as it has not rained for that long, officials awoke to the situation only last week after the military ruler, General Pervez Musharraf, called a meeting to coordinate relief work.
Mr Musharraf has released Rs 2 billion (about $ 38.5 million) for providing food, fodder and cash to the drought-hit people. He has also appealed for public donations and prayers by Islamic clerics for gods blessings.
Plea on Fergies remarriage
LONDON, May 10 (Reuters) The father of Prince Andrews former wife today spoke of his frustration at the British royal familys antipathy towards his daughter, the flame-haired Duchess of York popularly known as Fergie.
Major Ron Ferguson used an interview with The Daily Mail to call on Queen Elizabeths husband Prince Philip and other royals to drop their opposition to any remarriage between Andrew and Fergie.
He said he was enraged by Philips reportedly vitriolic response to comments that Andrew made to a magazine in which he hinted at the possibility of remarrying Fergie.
I do feel like ringing Philip up and telling him to stop all this nonsense, Mr Ferguson said.
His comments came amid increased speculation that wedding bells may ring a second time for the Queens second son and the Duchess, who remain on friendly terms and live in different wings of Andrews mansion near London with their two daughters.
10,000 abducted kids, women rescued
BEIJING, May 10 (PTI) In a major crackdown, the Chinese police has rescued over 10,000 women and children from different places in the country, an official newspaper reported today.The nationwide campaign was officially launched by the Chinese Ministry of Public Security and a number of other departments on April 1 to halt the trafficking and abduction of women and children.
The crime, with its devastating effects on victims and their families, has become a major concern in China, the China Daily reported.
The campaign has also helped popularise legal knowledge among women, the paper quoted Liu Hairong, Director of the National Working Committee for Children and Women under the state council, Chinas Cabinet, as saying.
As part of the national campaign, Chinese courts had ordered the execution of four persons last month, who were convicted for abducting and selling women and children.
Last year alone, 6,802 woman and 1,662 children were reported abducted or missing while the police rescued 7,660 women and 1,814 children, according to official reports.
Some Chinese families purchase sons to carry on the family line because Chinas birth control policies restrict many couples to one child.
The price of children varies by province but usually ranges between 1,000 and 10,000 yuan (about Rs 5,000 to 50,000). Young girls are mostly destined to become wives for farmers unable to pay a dowry.
All set for Cannes 2000
CANNES, May 10 (AFP) The table is set, the guests are at the door: organisers of the Cannes Film Festival were preparing today to announce the start of its annual feast of cinema with a rich menu of offerings from five continents.
Cannes 2000 presents a programme in which old-style spectacle action, suspense, costume drama, melodrama, music and dance takes precedence over traditional arthouse preoccupations.
Festival director Gilles
Jacobs slate of competition offerings is likely to
prove a lot easier on the eye, the ear and even the
taste-buds than last years fare, when gruelling
aestheticism and social realism were much in evidence.
NRI victim of unfair trial
LONDON, May 10 (PTI) A non-resident Indian who accused the jury that convicted him of racism was victim of an unfair trial, the European Court of Human Rights has ruled.
Forty-year-old Kuldip Sander was jailed for five years in 1995 for conspiracy to defraud. But the human rights court in Strasbourg ruled yesterday that the trial at the Birmingham Crown Court had breached his human rights because it was not impartial.
However, Sanders claim for nearly half a million pounds as compensation was dismissed, the media reported today.
During the judges summing up at the end of the trial, a juror sent a note to the judge warning that some other jurors hearing the case might not be impartial because they had been joking and making racist remarks. The judge challenged the whole jury with the allegations, which the next day wrote a joint letter denying the racial allegations.
The trial continued, resulting in Sanders conviction, although another Asian involved in the case was acquitted.
But the human rights court said the racist claims in the original letter by one juror and the rebuttal in the second letter of all jurors could not be reconciled, and that the first letter was more reliable.
A Home Office spokesman
said Sander could now apply to have his conviction
overturned in the UK if he so wished. But there was no
guarantee Sander would succeed simply because he had won
his European claim, the spokesman added.
panel allows food sale to Cuba
burial on moon
Irish prize for
protest against novel
New bridge for
Life sold for $ 28.6 m
Life term for
Sea turtles as
lottery tickets in USA
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