|Saturday, June 17, 2000,
Palestinian state in 3
9 Tamil Tigers killed in clashes
6 more held in sexual assault
rampage in NY
Palestinian state in 3 months
WASHINGTON, June 16 (AFP) US President Bill Clinton and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat discussed efforts to break the deadlock between Israel and the Palestinians in the West Asia peace process.
Asked about the prospects for a comprehensive deal by September, Mr Clinton told reporters ahead of the talks yesterday: I can only tell you that I want to finish the job, and Id like to see it finished on time.
Mr Clinton dismissed a suggestion that the Palestinian-Israeli track of the peace process was in danger of collapse. No. I think its an important moment, and we just have to keep working on it, Mr Clinton said.
At the three-hour meeting between Mr Clinton and Mr Arafat, the two leaders talked one-on-one for two hours, and were then joined by their respective teams, said White House spokesman P.J. Crowley.
Mr Arafat then continued discussions with US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright during a working lunch at her home. Following that, Ms Albright met the chief Israeli negotiator, Public Security Minister Shlomo Ben Ami, at the State Department, officials said.
Mr Arafat, speaking to reporters after his meeting with Mr Clinton, accused Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak of lacking the will to achieve a settlement.
At this difficult time, and in the face of the obstacles we are facing, we do need the help of President Clinton, he said. We need an American role to ensure the success of the negotiations.
Meanwhile, Ms Albright is to travel to West Asia within the next two weeks to determine the feasibility of a summit between Israeli, Palestinian and US leaders, the State Department has said.
The purpose of her visit will be to determine whether a summit will be useful at this point or whether we need to continue negotiations, spokesman Richard Boucher said.
Mr Boucher said Ms Albright had spoken to Mr Barak on the telephone yesterday.
He said the talks between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators that began on Tuesday at two air force bases in the Washington area would continue here for a few more days after which the two sides would return home for consultations with their leaders.
PTI adds: Mr Arafat has said he will declare a Palestinian state in three months and accused Mr Barak of lacking the will to achieve a settlement.
We will declare a Palestinian state it is out of my hands, the people want it, Mr Arafat told reporters here after a three-hour meeting with President Clinton yesterday.
He, however, accused Mr
Barak of foot-dragging on the peace talks. At this
difficult time, and in the face of the obstacles we are
facing, we do need the help of President Clinton,
Mr Arafat said, adding that we need an American
role to ensure the success of negotiations.
Return to civilian rule soon: Fiji Army
SUVA, June 16 (AFP) A Commonwealth delegation sent to coup-stricken Fiji said they were assured by the military administration today that civilian rule would return shortly when the political hostages are released.
They told us as soon as the hostages are released they will move to an interim civilian government, Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer told reporters after meeting martial law commander Commodore Vorege Bainimarama.
New Zealand Foreign Minister Phil Goff, without elaborating whether the release of hostages was imminent, said, Our understanding is that they will be establishing an interim civilian government shortly.
Fijis elected government, led by the countrys first ethnic Indian Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry, has been held hostage in Parliament since May 17, when failed businessman George Speight staged a coup in the name of indigenous Fijians.
We are pleased Commander Bainimarama assured us that neither Speight nor any of his henchmen will form any part of the interim civilian government, Mr Downer added before boarding a plane to leave the troubled country.
The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG), headed by Mr Downer and Mr Goff, travelled to Fiji to consider whether to recommended the countrys full suspension from the Commonwealth. They did not meet with Speight.
KARLSKOGA (Sweden), June 16 The Bofors Weapons System (BWS), the core in the venerable Swedish arms multinational Bofors AB, was sold on Thursday to the American arms manufacturer United Defence (UD) in a deal prodded by prospects of a large Indian order.
With the sale, Sweden forfeited its last all-Swedish weapons manufacturer.
Although the UD was but one of nearly a score of companies vying for the BWS, the factor that reportedly turned the scales in favour of the BWS-UD union was the prospect of a new colossal Indian order.
According to the Bofors watchers, despite the alleged kickbacks scandal in connection with the 1986 multi-billion howitzer sale to India as well as the currently ongoing judicial process in Delhi, Bofors is confident of a new Indian order soon.
Within six months at the most I hope that we conclude due negotiations with India and within the year an agreement for a new order, Magnus Ingesson, Managing Director of the BWS, told India Abroad News Service. I do not foresee any problem to obtain an export licence from the Swedish government, especially considering the present status of the company.
Mr Ingesson, however, made clear one significant point: Even after the purchase of the BWS by the American company, Swedish laws will continue to determine the export of the material produced (in Sweden).
With the BWS sale, its Swedish owners, SAAB, are now completing phased disposal of all the weapons producing parts of the old Celsius concern. The sale implies that the American weapons industry gets a foot inside the coveted European market, said Mr Ingesson.
According to him, in the aftermath of the Cold War, the global weapons industry faces big challenges and within a few years highly significant structural changes are bound to take place.
When the leading European powers, Germany, Britain and France, really get into the fray, the risk is great that the relatively small Bofors could get into a jam, explained Mr Ingesson. With this step we avoid such a risk.
The UD, one of the 25 large arms manufacturers in the USA, has over 5,000 employees with head office in Arlington. The company specialises in tanks, naval cannon and the howitzer, Crusader.
(These are) similar products but at the same time not identical with those of Bofors, which means that we together are going to be leading in the world, especially in the field of marine artillery, says Tom Rabaut, Managing Director of the UD. Besides, together we will be in a position to optimise the technological development.
The deal has the full blessings of the labour union. Bofors currently employs not more than 550 workers, most of them in Karlskoga. The union (metal workers) Chairman, Leif Gren, feels the sale was the best that could have happened to the company vis-a-vis the welfare of the employees.
I see it as winning a big bingo, Mr Gren said. Now we can safely expect funds for development of technology, something that we have not heard of for a very long time indeed. Also job security. We held a meeting on Thursday afternoon and I could feel only glad, positive reactions.
Joy over the deal is running through the entire Swedish defence establishment, even Defence Minister Bjorn Von Sydow, who followed the sale-negotiations minutely through the past 12 months.
Although both the American and the Swedish Governments have yet to endorse the sale in order to make it official, no difficulty is foreseen. It is rather considered a mere formality.
There is great advantage with an internationalisation of the defence industry, maintains the Sydow. It will become possible, and feasible, to carry out longstanding and significant development projects, even though the demand from the Swedish defence may be small.
The only dissenting voice came, predictably, from Lars Angstrom, the former Chairman of the Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society, an environmentalist Member of Parliament as well as a member of the Parliamentary Arms Export Control Group. The most important consideration is not the ownership but who is allowed to buy the weapons in the future, he said. IANS
Statute: Chandrika sets deadline
COLOMBO, June 16 (PTI) Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga has decided to end discussions with the Opposition on the new constitution by June 30 and submit the same to Parliament for ratification next month.
She is currently holding talks with the main Opposition United National Party to forge a consensus on the constitution that could guarantee larger autonomy to Tamil provinces.
The state-run newspaper, Daily News, today reported that Ms Chandrika took the decision on finalising the constitution as she believed that the longer the delay in arriving at a consensus on constitutional reform, the greater the opportunities for the LTTE to perpetrate acts of violence.
Accordingly, the President has decided very firmly that the discussions will not be extended beyond June 30 under any circumstances whatsoever, the paper said, adding that it was still possible to finalise the new draft constitution within a short timeframe as many contentious issues had already been discussed and resolved.
Ms Chandrikas announcement about speeding up the process comes days after External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh, during his two-day visit to Colombo last weekend, pressed for the early finalisation of a new constitution that could guarantee equal rights as well as a fair amount of autonomy to Tamils to solve the ethnic problem in the island nation.
After June 30, Ms Chandrika proposes to submit the draft constitution to Parliament, even if the UNP has reservations on certain aspects of the draft.
Ms Chandrikas coalition government has only a working majority in Parliament and needs to get the UNPs support to obtain the mandatory two-thirds majority to get the proposals passed.
The president and her arch rival and UNP leader Ranil Wickramasinghe decided two months ago to speedily review the 1997 draft constitution prepared by the government to achieve as much consensus as they could.
The LTTE, which has rejected the proposals, meanwhile, stepped up the tempo of the war in the Jaffna peninsula to neutralise any political gains for the government with the finalising of the new constitution.
With mounting pressure from the international community, Ms Chandrika and Wickramasinghe carried on with their talks unmindful of growing bomb attacks and heavy escalation in the war.
The two leaders have covered most part of constitution but just began discussions on contentious issues like powers to be given to the regions on land and the unit of devolution.
Also, the differences on
basic issues like whether Sri Lanka should continue to be
a unitary state or turn federal in order to provide
greater autonomy to the Tamil-dominated north and east
have also to be discussed.
Power devolution plan or...
Despite increasing pressures from various quarters to put democracy back on the rails, Chief Executive General Pervez Musharraf shows no signs of leaving the scene quickly. Rather he is busy devising schemes to stay in power for as long as he can.
The latest product of his mind is the Devolution of Power and Responsibility Plan which, it is claimed, aims at making the government service-oriented. The plan has been unrolled by the National Reconstruction Bureau (NRB) seeking comments from the public. It is argued that the whole idea is to reverse the organisational behaviour and culture at all levels of the government so that state-provided services are not considered as a favour to the ordinary citizen.
The plan structure, it is being claimed, stands on the premise that people-centred development is the basic ingredient of "economic, social, political and administrative reconstruction". But in Pakistan, the plan says, public policy has never been people-centred. People have remained deprived of even basic rights and services owing to "patronage politics and administrative corruption", according to a study in The Nation of June 5. The state has been colluding with politicians and bureaucrats to protect the interests of the elite. This situation must change if people's confidence in the system is to be restored, the plan declares.
However, the plan, drafted in textbook language, has so far failed to elicit encouraging reaction. Some thinkers are doubting the very intentions of those behind the scheme. Some say that it cannot be translated into action. A very scathing yet convincing comment was carried by Dawn on June 11. Mohammad Waseem, a commentator, has tried to prove that the much-publicised plan is far-removed from the reality. "The NRB plan considers the problem of delivery of services to be the real issue. But it is at its weakest when it deals with the arrangements at the service-giving end. There is no outline of the service-delivery system in the plan, no refined map of local distributary outlets and no revamped provision for the payment of user charges through an expanded banking system. In the absence of a clear mechanism, the whole concept of service delivery loses its relevance, says Waseem.
The plan talks of village councils. It wants to have the village as the basic electoral unit instead of population-based constituencies. On the surface, it seems to be a grand idea but not feasible under the circumstances. Experts feel that the village elite will not allow this to happen. The elite draw their strength from the village, but their interests extend to the state and national levels.
The plan limits the role of the proposed district assembly to making tax laws. But the district government that will implement such local laws will earn the reputation of being punitive. The laws for socio-economic welfare of the people will be formulated at the federal and provincial levels. There may also be serious clash of interests among the tehsil, district and state authorities leading to a chaotic situation in the country.
The plan argues in favour of "a fiscal transfer mechanism... to ensure district financial autonomy. Experts see a serious contradiction in this arrangement. Mohammad Waseem's viewpoint is: "The higher authorities at the federal and provincial levels act as donors and thus as fiscal transfer managers. The one who controls the purse controls the policy."
If implemented, the plan will necessitate the continuance of the present military regime for a much longer period, beyond the limit fixed by the Pakistan Supreme Court. Thus the NRB plan may be part of a grand design of General Musharraf to perpetuate his rule till he succeeds in totalling discrediting the political class. But there is a flip side too. The plan may turn out to be Ayub Khan's "basic democracy" experiment which led to his inglorious exit from power.
Hijack plot for asylum unearthed
LONDON, June 16 (PTI) A plot to hijack an Afghan airliner to Britain by asylum seekers, on the lines of the February hijacking incident, has been unearthed with the arrest of a flight engineer of the state airline, Ariana, The Times reported today.
The flight engineer, who has sought asylum in Britain, said a gang planned to take over a jet on an internal flight this month and order it to fly to London, it reported.
He said the gang had taken his wife and daughter hostage to force him to smuggle weapons and explosives on board.
They examined the bag he always carries on to the plane and worked out how many guns and explosives they could fit into it, The Times quoted a British official who spoke to the engineer as saying.
The official said, He told how security at Kabul airport was still abysmal, particularly for female passengers, and how no checks are made on flight crew and what they carry onto the plane.
The gang knew the engineers schedule for this month and planned to take over an internal flight and follow the same route through Moscow to London.
An Ariana Airlines Boeing 727 plane with at least 170 persons on board was hijacked in early February in a case of Britains longest hijack during an internal flight in Afghanistan.
It flew via Moscow to Stansted airport, about 40 km from here, where it remained on the tarmac for four days before the police brought the hijacking to a peaceful conclusion.
Many on board the plane requested asylum after arriving in Britain. Just 79 Afghans returned home voluntarily, while 14 persons were charged with hijacking and 32 are being held at a hotel near Heathrow. Immigration officials are considering their appeals against the Home Secretarys refusal to grant them asylum.
The flight engineer was last night in the custody of immigration officials while the investigation into the hijack plot was on.
In the February hijack, the hijackers bribed Kabul airport security staff to allow up to 40 of their relatives on board and let them pass X-ray checks with handguns in the luggage.
Gunfire near Queens carriage
LONDON, June 16 (DPA) The British authorities said today they were investigating an incident in which a bodyguard on the royal train fired two gunshots as Queen Elizabeth slept two carriages away while the train was stationary in the Welsh countryside.
The incident happened at 5.30 a.m. yesterday, while the Queen and her husband, Prince Philip, were asleep in their separate carriages.
According to reports, the second shot was accidentally fired moments after the first as the officer tried to make the weapon safe. One bullet went through a table and the other was embedded in the floor.
The protection officer has not been suspended but has returned here pending an inquiry into the incident, and the weapon, an Austrian-made 9 mm semi-automatic glock, has been sent for tests at a specialist gun laboratory at Scotland Yard.
It was the second royal shooting drama in seven months. In November, a policeman accidentally fired his glock automatic pistol while emptying it inside St Jamess Palace, Prince Charles London home.
Koreas in new era of reconciliation
SEOUL, June 16 (Reuters) North and South Korea today embarked on a new era of reconciliation with small but significant gestures following this weeks summit in Pyongyang.
North Korea allowed a South Korean fishing boat that had strayed across the disputed Yellow Sea border to sail back to its home port at Paengnyongdo Island with its two crew members.
A year ago on Thursday North and South Korean naval vessels clashed on the Yellow sea border in their worst naval fight since the 1950-53 Korean War.
Another Cold War fixture that was the highlight of any trip to Koreas demilitarised zone (DMZ) passed into history today when Seoul turned off its propaganda speakers.
For decades, public address systems on both sides of 4 km-wide no-mans land that cuts a 242 km swath across the Korean peninsula have blasted insults and pleas for soldiers to defect. South Koreas joint chiefs of staff announced the broadcasts would be halted after the giant loudspeakers mounted on hills on the northern side of the DMZ went silent just before the historic first summit this week between leaders of the North and South Korea.
9 Tamil Tigers killed in clashes
COLOMBO, June 16 (UNI) Nine terrorists and a civilian were killed in overnight clashes between the security forces and the LTTE while the intensity of fighting had reportedly subdued in the northern Jaffna peninsula.
The security forces attacked an enemy bunker in the general area of Poonar and killed two. In two separate incidents in Colobuthurai and Chiviyateru, one terrorist each were killed in isolated clashes.
In eastern Batticaloa, the security forces ambushed a group of terrorists at Thrikonamdu and at least one terrorist was killed.
6 more held in sexual assault rampage in NY
NEW YORK, June 16 (Reuters) The police has arrested six more suspects in the alleged sexual assaults on more than two dozen women in a daylight rampage by a large gang of men in the Central Park here that also plunged the police department into a new high-profile controversy, officials said.
A total of eight arrests now have been made in connection with Sundays attacks on 33 women who claim they were sprayed with water, stripped of their clothes and groped by as many as 50 assailants. Two tourists from France and Britain were among the victims.Some of the victims accused police of standing by or ignoring their pleas for help. Mayor Rudolph Giuliani has pledged a thorough investigation and promised to dismiss any officers found to have done nothing to stop the assaults. The authorities also vowed to find those suspects still at large.We are expecting more women to come forward, a police spokesman said late yesterday. He also said the police plans to release new photographs today of other suspects.The attacks alarmed many locals who felt safer in recent years with declining city crime statistics. The assaults recalled disturbing memories of the 1989 rape of an investment banker by a group of teenagers as she jogged in the Central Park.
Father guns down daughter
ISLAMABAD, June 16 (DPA) A father gunned down his daughter, and five of her relatives, in a village in central Pakistan in retribution for her marrying for love, a news report said today.
The Jang newspaper quoted a senior police officer of Sheikhupura town, Mr Saud Aziz, as saying that the father, Hashmat, a farm labourer, was assisted by his son and brother in carrying out the massacre in the name of honour.
They killed the girl,
her infant daughter, her husband, his first wife and his
parents and fled.
14 killed in China floods
BEIJING, June 16 (AFP) Fourteen persons were killed and 20 others are still missing after severe floods struck the town of Duyun in southwest China, the official press reported today.
The latest casualties bring to 120 the number of people reported dead or missing since the annual summer flooding period in China began at the end of May.
TOKYO, June 16 (AFP) Japans Dowager Empress Dowager Nagako, 97-year old widow of Emperor Hirohito, died today, according to an official of the Imperial Household Agency.
Dowager passed away at 4:46 pm (local time) today at her
Fukiage-Omiya Gosho residence, agency chief Sadame
Kamakura told a news conference at the palace. She
slipped into a coma early in the morning after falling
sick with breathing problems on Wednesday night, the
Bishop shows Gore the door
WASHINGTON: A Catholic Bishop barred US Vice-President Al Gore from delivering a speech at a church-affiliated hospital because of Gores support to abortion something that bishop termed an unspeakable crime. But Gore managed to find a secular clinic that would let him give his speech on health care. PTI
Di debarred from sons bday festivities
LONDON: Britains Crown agents instructed an artist designing stamps commemorating Orince Williams 18th birthday not to include images of his late mother, Diana, Britains Press Association reported on Thursday. Andrew Robinson, 39, was commissioned to produce a photo-montage of seven sheets of stamps in time for Williams birthday on June 21. A crucial part of his brief was to avoid pictures of Williams mother. I think they did not want to touch on any sensitive issues, but I just followed that line, he said. A spokesperson for St Jamess Palace, which, along with the Queen, approved the stamps, said on Friday no requests were made by the palace for Diana to be included in the set or not. DPA
Twins celebrate 100th birthday
MANCHESTER, (England): Britains oldest twins, spinsters, who say they have never spent a night apart, celebrated their 100th birthday here. Alice and Nellie Clarke marked the occasion on Thursday with a party at a retirement home near Manchester, Northwest England, where they both now live. According to them, the secret of long life is happiness and togetherness. Neither married, and they say they have never spent a night apart. AFP
UK police cautions Madonnas boyfriend
LONDON: Boyfriend of American pop star Madonna has been cautioned for assaulting a man outside the pregnant singers London home, the police said on Friday. British film director Guy Ritchie, 31, was arrested on May 18 in connection with the assault on a 20-year-old man, whose injuries were minor and did not require hospital treatment. Ritchie, director of the hit British film Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, was then released on bail pending further police investigation. He has been cautioned for common assault and released with no further action, a Scotland Yard spokesman told. Reuters
Last Mir crew back on earth
ARKALYK, (Kazakhstan): Cosmonauts Sergei Zalyotin and Alexander Kaleri returned to earth from Russias Mir station on Friday, ending what could be the last manned mission to the worlds only space outpost. Their black capsule landed on schedule at 7.44 a.m. (0044 GMT) in central Kazakhstan near the town of Arkalyk under an orange and white parachute. The two cosmonauts looked well as they were carried out and put into armchairs to rest. Russia has said that unless new funds are found, the orbiting laboratory will be programmed to crash into the ocean later this year. After 14 years of service, MIR has lasted nearly three times as long as its planned five-year shelf life. Reuters
Amnesty plea to USA on executions
LONDON: Amnesty International on Thursday appealed to U.S. President Bill Clinton to uphold basic standards of decency and justice by stopping the execution of a man who was 17 at the time of the crime. It cited the case of Gary Graham, an African American who faces death by lethal injection in Texas next Thursday. Governor George Bush already faces domestic pressure to stop Grahams execution, with the Centre for Wrongful Convictions warning this week that Texas may kill an innocent man if the sentence is carried out on June 22. The centres Director Lawrence Marshall said on Monday that Graham had been convicted of the 1981 robbery and shooting dead of a man outside a Houston supermarket on the weakest evidence Ive seen in 30 years. Graham, who is now 38, was sentenced to death largely on the strength of testimony from a single eyewitness who picked him out of a police lineup. Reuters
200 held in USA for heroin smuggling
WASHINGTON: US law enforcement officials have arrested nearly 200 persons in 12 cities in connection with a Mexican-based multi-million dollars heroin smuggling and distribution ring, the authorities announced. Operation Tar Pit was conducted within the USA but targeted an organisation based in Nayarit, Mexico that had hubs in cities around the USA. The investigation was sparked in June, 1998, when authorities believed that the group was thought to be the source of much of the high purity black tar heroin being sold around San Diego. AFP
Storm renders 60,000 homeless
SANTIAGO, (Chile): A powerful storm left some 60,000 people homeless in a midweek rampage across central Chile, flooding low-lying parts of the capital with the heaviest rains in year before diminishing. Three days of rain tapered off Wednesday after soaking the capital and a wide swath of the countryside. Heavy snow blocked border crossings with Argentina. The storm, which brought high winds and rains, signalled the approach of winter in the South American hemisphere. Chilean President Ricardo Lagos Colombia surveyed inundated farms, fields and slum neighbourhoods by helicopter, ordering out the armed forces after declaring an emergency. AP
Brazils oldest woman dies at 129
RIO DE JANIERO: Former
slave Maria Do Carmo, believed to have been Brazils
oldest woman, died at the age of 129 years on Wednesday
in the central Brazilian state of Minas Gerais. Do Carmo
was born in 1871 to a slave couple on the plantation
Fazenda, exactly 17 years before the abolition of slavery
in Brazil. And while it is believed that Do Carmo was the
oldest woman alive, she will not enter the Guinness Book
of Records as the Catholic Church baptism records are
regarded as insufficient proof of birth.
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