|Saturday, May 13, 2000,
4 UN observers escape
from Sierra rebels
SC orders Pak army to restore
Emissaries regain contact with
Indonesia, Aceh rebels sign
India among top 10 nations in
Ethiopia launches border
Fresh threats in Zimbabwe
Indo-Canadian held for double
4 UN observers escape from Sierra rebels
FREETOWN, May 12 (PTI) Four UN military observers, three Britons and a New Zealander, who were being held captive by rebels in Sierra Leone had managed to escape and were safe in the capital Freetown, a British military spokesman said.
The four had been captured in Magburaka during a conflict between RUF rebels and Kenyan UN peacekeepers at the beginning of last week, the spokesman, Lt Tony Cramp, said yesterday.
They slipped away from their captors at the end of last week and were picked up on Tuesday by a British military helicopter, he said.
UNITED NATIONS: UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has appealed to the world community not to abandon the people of Sierra Leone who have put their faith in the world body.
Addressing an open meeting of the Security Council yesterday, Mr Annan asked the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels to release the 500 peacekeepers they were holding hostages.
Several African Ambassadors demanded strong action to tackle the rebels, saying the credibility of the United Nations was at stake.
Mr Annan, whose calls for a well-armed rapid reaction force had been rebuffed by western nations, asked the West African countries to form a nucleus of such a force to provide combat capability to peacekeepers in Sierra Leone.
Asking for the "immediate and unconditional" release of all United Nations personnel, Mr Annan expressed his gratefulness for the release of lance corporal Paucho Singh of India and Major Suresh Karki of Nepal who was suffering from malaria.
He also wanted the council to raise the number of 11,100 peacekeepers authorised by it.
Asking the world community and the Security Council to back words with deeds and give mandates backed by adequate resources, he said, "I plead with you. Let us not fail Sierra Leone. Let us not fail Africa."
Meanwhile, President Bill Clinton has pledged US support to the UN mission in Sierra Leone saying Washington would do "whatever it could to help in its reinforcement", even as White House refuted allegations that it was doing too little, too late for the crisis, a report from Washington said.
"Mr Clinton spoke on the telephone with UN chief Kofi Annan about getting more peacekeepers into Sierra Leone," White House Foreign Affairs spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters here.
Mr Clinton said he was sending civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson to the region to help resolve a crisis over renewed violence in Sierra Leone.
"I have asked Rev. Jesse Jackson, my special envoy for democracy in Africa, to return to the region to work with leaders there for a peaceful resolution of this crisis."
Affirming that it would not abandon the peacekeeping mission in Sierra Leone despite inherent risks, India has called for consolidation and strengthening of the mission and warned against inducting forces outside the world bodys command.
Addressing an open
meeting of the Security Council on Wednesday, Indian
Ambassador Kamlesh Sharma rejected suggestions for
abandoning the mission or changing its mandate to one of
peace enforcement for which, he said, it did not have
troops, equipment or logistic support.
SC orders Pak army to restore democracy
ISLAMABAD, May 12 (DPA) The Pakistans Supreme Court today validated last Octobers military takeover of the country on the principle of state necessity but for a period of three years to achieve its declared objectives.
Chief Justice Irshad Hasan Khan, announcing the verdict on several petitions filed by the ousted ruling party, Pakistan Muslim League, said its misrule had created conditions for a radical transformation.
The Chief Justice read out the verdict in the courtroom in Islamabad just hours after the military regime arraigned deposed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif before an accountability court on charges of corruption.
Sharif has already been convicted of terrorism and sentenced to a life term for trying to hijack a civilian aircraft carrying Army Chief Gen Pervez Musharraf on October 12, 1999, which led to the coup.
Sharif was accused of ordering all airports in Pakistan closed to the aircraft after dismissing the General while he was in the air. He thus endangered the lives of 198 people on board as it was dangerously low on fuel.
But the army commanders revolted against the Prime Minister and seized Karachi Airport, allowing the plane to land safely.
General Musharraf subsequently dismissed the Sharif government for being inept, corrupt and leading the country to economic disaster and disharmony.
He suspended the Constitution and the legislative Assemblies but did not declare martial law and gave an agenda of reforms to set things right.
Meanwhile, Wasim Sajjad, Chairman of the suspended Senate the Upper House of Parliament said he would have been happier "had our pleas (for the restoration of the national Assembly) been met."
Emissaries regain contact with kidnappers
JOLO, May 12 (AFP) Philippine negotiators resumed efforts to win the release of an ailing German woman and 20 other hostages from Muslim rebels today, a day after the military disrupted a scheduled meeting and sent the gunmen fleeing.
"We already have some contact, we are expecting some response hopefully within today," said Roberto Aventajado, President Joseph Estradas point man in the 19-day old crisis.
But Aventajado said there was no indication when the rebels would resume meetings with the negotiators, local Islamic scholar Ghazali Ibrahim and a former Libyan Ambassador to the Philippines, Rajab Azzarouq.
The Abu Sayyaf group had pledged during their first meeting with the negotiators on Wednesday that they would decide within 24 hours on releasing Renate Wallert who requires urgent medical treatment.
But the follow-up meeting was aborted yesterday when military units moved into the rendezvous area and the rebels fled with their captives.
Meanwhile, negotiators dealing with Muslim extremists holding 21 mostly foreign hostages dismissed reports today that a deal had been clinched for a ransom of up to $ 1,700 per head.
Nearly all kidnappings staged by the Abu Sayyaf in the past have ended up with payments of so-called "board and lodging" expenses incurred on the captives, the unofficial term used by the Muslim rebel group for ransom.
Top government negotiator Ghazali Ibrahim and former Libyan Ambassador to the Philippines Rajab Azzarouq, who is helping in the mediation effort, denied claims the hostage-takers had sought the "board and lodging," expenses during their first meeting on Wednesday.
DPA adds: However Libyas former ambassador said he contact had been established Mr Azzarouq said the militarys withdrawal from the area prevented emissaries from reaching Abu Sayyafs new hideout on the slopes of Mount Gasam, 8 km away from where negotiators met the kidnappers leaders for the first time earlier the day.
Window on Pakistan
THERE is a silver lining in the dark clouds over India and Pakistan. It is not that the leaders of the two countries have suddenly agreed on a dialogue to settle contentious issues, but a few well meaning people of peace have started asserting themselves.
A delegation of Pakistani women, including lawyers, journalists, teachers and social activists, has returned to Pakistan after a two-week visit, reassured that the people in India may be ill-informed as are those in Pakistan, but their desire for peace is real. They were lead by the indefatigable human rights activist Ms Asma Jehangir. Theirs was a return visit to the one Indian women made to Pakistan last month. "Men have fought enough, let women spread the message of love and peace". This sounds like a rhetoric, but the underlining message and desire are loud and clear.
At another level a retired Indian army General from India who once lead the forces in Jammu and Kashmir was in Pakistan with a similar message. Lieut-General M.L Chibber, a decorated officer, and his doctor-wife had been working for a reconciliation ever since he retired from the army in 1985 He has written two books on the Indo-Pakistan situation, which have been well received. They met a large number of Pakistani writers, lawyers, and journalists four times and had a 75-minute meeting with Pakistani ruler, General Pervez Musharraf.
They also met the Sindh Governor and leading politicians in Lahore, Peshawar and Islamabad. General Chibber and his wife, Dr Ramesh, were born in Abbotabad, Pakistan. Since 1985 General Chibber, who had joined the British Indian Army in 1945, has been writing to his friends, colleagues and Pakistani rulers pleading for a settlement of the issues, arguing that the two countries, poor and underdeveloped as they are, could hardly afford another war. Even the present scale of escalation was costing them a lot in terms manpower and resources.
In the two countries, newspapers covered the visits not only in great detail but with some sympathy. Inconvenient questions as are normal in these reports, were either cut out or played down. Wherever the Pakistani women went and they covered not only the North, but some parts of the South there was warmth and this made Ms Jehnagir say," We are discovering the treasure of the world." That pithy comment encapsulates the struggle of women of the subcontinent for peace and sexual liberation. She said, "The women in the subcontinent are a undiscovered treasure and long before the West started its fight for liberation, these women had begun a meaningful fight."
Dawn, a major English daily, carried a detailed interview with General Chibber who also heads an independent institution working for peace and development. "Only a soldier really knows what war is," he has been saying and hence his consistent effort to win peace.
But General Chibber had a tough time talking to the media in Pakistan. After all, he was the one who lead the armed forces in Siachen and was Director of Military Operations for three crucial years from 1976 to 1979. What he told the Dawn is meaningful in the people-to-people contact and campaign. He said, "People of India and Pakistan are with me. The problem has been not the people but the establishment in the two countries. The establishment preserves its public image and it is the duty of people like me to raise hopes for the future."
"My conviction after spending nearly a fortnight in Pakistan is stronger than ever before that reconciliation will come soon. I feel this deep in the hearts of the people in both the countries," General Chibber says.
While replying to a question on the Siachen glacier dispute, he says the world must recognise the truth behind the issue. Lieut-General. Jehan Dad Khan (retd) of Pakistan has mentioned many hidden truths of the issue in his book published last year.
The General claims that Siachen was an undemarcated area and India came to know in 1978 that an enterprising agent of Pakistan was promoting mountaineering expedition there. He alleges that many developments that followed indicated a Pakistani desire to occupy the area in May, 1984. And India occupied the place on April 13, 1984, in order to prevent its occupation. General Chhibber says the Nawaz-Vajpayee meeting was a breakthrough which he alleges was sabotaged by the Kargil issue. Mr Vajpayee is also a follower of the Satya Sai Baba and had taken the peace initiative despite criticism from some quarters. And he was criticised when the Kargil issue erupted. "But I have no doubt that peoples anger with the Kargil issue will soon calm down."
When asked why if the people of India wanted peace Mr Vajpayee was rejecting repeated offer of talks by General Pervez Musharraf, he says trust is not something which "you can switch on and off." Time and action marked by absence of covert or overt violence will regenerate confidence, he says.
He says there is no immediate danger of war despite "routine" shelling across the LoC by the two sides. "This is my professional judgement that I have gained from learning the art of warfare."
He says war can be averted by avoiding tough talk. "This is my advice to both countries because it is action that shapes human destiny. I will also request the media to stop looking for sensational headlines."
General Chibber avoids a direct replay to a question about a likely solution of the Kashmir issue and says he had himself sought an answer to this question during his meetings in Islamabad.
Indonesia, Aceh rebels sign ceasefire
GENEVA, May 12 (Reuters) The Indonesian Government and separatist Aceh rebels signed a three-month ceasefire in Geneva today aimed at ending over two decades of violence in the northwestern province, an Indonesian statement said.
The ceasefire will come into effect on June 2 and will be regularly reviewed, said the statement from the Indonesian mission to the United Nations in Geneva.
The deal was signed at a secret location in or around Geneva, under a strict news blackout, by Indonesias Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Hassan Wirajuda, and Zaini Abdullah, Minister of Health of the free Aceh movement which says it will not give up its demand for independence. Indonesia is offering greater autonomy for the province.
"This joint understanding is an early step of a hundred-step journey in the efforts to find a final solution to the Aceh problem if it is implemented successfully could help boost the confidence for the subsequent problem," the statement quoted Wirajuda as saying after the signing.
It said both sides set
up two joint committees to oversee the ceasefire, each
consisting of a maximum of 10 members. One committee
would coordinate humanitarian aid deliveries while the
other would seek to ensure the reduction of tension and
the cessation of violence.
India among top 10 nations in kidnapping
WASHINGTON, May 12 (PTI) India is among top 10 nations reported to have the highest number of kidnappings for ransom, according to a control risks group.
Out of the 1,789 kidnappings for ransom reported worldwide in 1999, nearly 17 were from India, says a Hiscox group study reported in Wall Street Journal.
Others in the list included Columbia which topped the list with 979 kidnappings for ransom cases, Mexico with 402, former Soviet Union with 105, Brazil with 51, the Philippines with 39, Nigeria with 24, India with 17, Ecuador and Venezuela 12 each and South Africa with 10 cases.
There were believed to have been more kidnappings but many victims did not report their experience, the agency said.
The latest case, says Wall Street Journal involves 21 foreign tourists and resort workers kidnapped by a Muslim guerrilla group from a Malaysian diving resort and held in the Philippines, adding in 1998, four engineers were kidnapped for ransom in Chechnya and beheaded.
Several companies have also introduced kidnap and ransom insurance for their employees but have asked them not to advertise the fact lest the information make them a target.
Ethiopia launches border offensive
NAIROBI, May 12 (AFP) Ethiopia launched a new offensive along its disputed border with Eritrea early today, the Eritrean Embassy in Nairobi said in a statement.
It said the offensive began shortly after midnight on the right and left flanks of the Mereb-Setit front, but gave no further details.
It was the first reported bout of fighting along the disputed border since February and followed a breakdown in peace talks held in Algiers last week.
Tens of thousands of troops have already been killed since the war first erupted in May 1998.
Hundreds of thousands of troops from both sides face each other across the 1,000-km border, whose poor definition at the time of Eritreas independence in 1993 served as a catalyst for the conflict. At least 600,000 civilians have been displaced since the war began.
The statement from the
Eritrean Embassy noted that earlier this week Ethiopian
Prime Minister Meles Zenawi had told a visiting UN
Security Council mission that Ethiopia was "going to
war and that it will resolve the conflict very
Fresh threats in Zimbabwe
HARARE,, May 12 (AP) Threats of more violence and demands by squatters for white-owned farmland dampened hope for a quick end to months of farm occupations in Zimbabwe.
Representatives of farmers and the reported leader of the squatters toured some of the worst-affected farming districts this week. The goal was to persuade squatters to at least allow the farms to work unhindered while the issue of land ownership was resolved.
But the excursion failed to ease tensions, making peace talks seem headed toward failure.
Australia has sent additional staff to its diplomatic
missions in Harare and Pretoria to handle an increase in
migration and visa applications from strife-torn
Zimbabwe, an Immigration Department official said on
Indo-Canadian held for double murder
SURREY (BRITISH COLUMBIA), May 12 (IANS) An Indo-Canadian based in this Canadian city has been arrested for his alleged involvement in two murders.
wears Marilyns bikini
raising visa limit
exchange chief dead
statue in funeral exhibition
Baby dies of
Jews depicted as
ministers brother held
HIV positive job
seeker gets damages
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