|Saturday, June 24, 2000,
UN seat: Russia backs India
Special counsel mooted to probe
Murderer executed in Texas
USA suspects spying by
Chinas news agency
Muslims rampage Jakarta suburb
Counter-terrorism experts to visit
15 die in Aussie hostel blaze
CHILDERS (Australia), June 23 (AP, Reuters) A fire destroyed a backpackers hostel in eastern Australia where about 90 young travellers were staying early today, killing 15, injuring at least 10 and leaving three missing and presumed dead, the police said.
Most of the victims were foreign tourists.
The Authorities were searching for a man who was seen outside the building just before the fire began. The cause of the blaze wasnt known, but the police didnt rule out the possibility of arson.
The Palace Backpackers Hostel, a 100-year-old country hotel converted to a domitory-style accommodation for backpackers, was ablaze when firefighters arrived there about 12:30 a.m. today.
Thick smoke and raging flames engulfing the two-storeyed, wooden structure kept firefighters from entering the building in the small town of Childers, 315 km north of Brisbane, the Queensland state capital.
Backpackers from at least seven countries who were staying inside awoke to the sound of glass shattering and other guests shouting that the building was on fire, survivors said.
Some leaped off the verandahs on each storey of the Victorian-style building to stores on both sides of it. Others complained that some of the windows in the rooms had bars on them.
"Police have confirmed 15 of the 18 unaccounted people are dead," said Mr Bill Trevor, Mayor of the town of Childers.
Those killed or unaccounted for were 10 Britons, one Spaniard, one Japanese, one Korean, two Dutch and three Australians.
Mr Trevor said firefighters had so far been unable to account for the missing because the roof of the hostel had collapsed.
He said 62 persons
survived the fire at the hostel, which was full of
foreign travellers who worked as fruitpickers at nearby
farms. Several survivors needed hospital treatment for
smoke inhalation and other minor injuries.
Truck driver charged with manslaughter
FOLKESTONE (England), June 23 (Reuters) The Dutch driver of a truck in which 58 Chinese illegal immigrants suffocated while trying to enter Britain appeared in court today charged with their manslaughter.
Perry Wacker (32) from Rotterdam sat impassively behind a glass screen with his arms folded as the 58 charges of manslaughter unlawful killing were read out in the courtroom in the southern England seaside town of Folkestone.
He was ordered to be held in custody for a week, when he will appear again in court here.
Folkestone is near the port of Dover where the immigrants were found dead in the early hours of Monday. They had suffocated in sweltering temperatures in an airtight tomato truck which was crossing into Britain from Zeebrugge in Belgium.
Two Chinese men survived the ferry journey and are now in safe accommodation under police guard.
Wacker was also charged with facilitating the illegal entry into Britain of the two survivors and with attempting to bring the 58 dead victims into the country.
The police said pathologists had completed their examinations of the 58 victims, whose bodies were found by customs officials when they opened the truck in the early hours of Monday.
"The post-mortems are now all finished, all showing respiratory failure," a spokesman told Reuters.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair yesterday discussed the human smuggling tragedy with Chinese Vice-Premier Wen Jiabao.
Mr Blair expressed "shock and sadness" at the deaths and said "it was important for the UK and China to work together to combat evil traffic in human beings," a Blair spokesman said.
"We must work to stop anything similar happening again," Mr Blair told the Chinese Vice-Premier.
Mr Wen agreed and stressed the importance China attached to curbing illegal immigration, Mr Blairs spokesman said. Mr Wen said "China would cooperate with Britain and other international organisations to stop the traffickers".
BEIJING (PTI): China on Friday blamed snakeheads or traffickers for the death of 58 illegal Chinese immigrants who were trying to sneak into Britain and urged governments providing political asylum to learn a lesson from the tragedy.
"This is a trans-boundary criminal activity masterminded by the snakeheads," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhu Bangzao told reporters here, adding, "Certain countries should learn from this tragedy and not provide them with an opportunity that they can use again."
It must be pointed out
that criminal groups often used the loopholes in
legislation of other countries, organised illegal
immigration and instigated illegal immigrants to apply
for political asylum often with success, Mr Zhu pointed
out while stating that the Chinese Government was
resolutely opposed to all forms of illegal immigration.
UN seat: Russia backs India
MOSCOW, June 23 (PTI) Russia today strongly backed indias candidature for a permanent seat in the expanded un Security Council and said it would give a fresh impetus to its relations with New Delhi when President Vladmir Putin visit India in October this year.
India is a
strong and worthy contender for the permanent membership
of the UN Council, when it undergoes
reformation, Russian Foreign Minister Igor
Ivanov said in Moscow addressing a joint news conference
here after talks with the visiting External Affairs
Minister Jaswant Singh. Mr Ivanov said "Mr
Putins visit to India will give a fresh impetus to
our relations." Mr Jaswant Singh and Mr Ivanov
expressed satisfaction at their parleys during which the
foreign policy chiefs of the two countries discussed a
wide range of bilateral and international issues with the
focus on the upcoming Indo-Russian summit in New Delhi in
Window on Pakistan
OUSTED and jailed, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is in for another trouble. This time it is from his own party, the once all-powerful Pakistan Muslim League (PML). It was clear from the day Mr Sharif was arrested in a bloodless military coup in October last that the monolith party which Mr Sharif had built like his familys business empire would not be able to withstand the pressure from the men with guns the military brass. But some did make efforts, through his wife Kulsum, to keep the flag flying. She took over command of the party as one takes over the business management and tried to organise some protest, however, feeble that was.
The disenchantment of the people with the ousted leadership was writ large on the face of that hapless nation, often victim of military takeovers.
But now a new controversy has propped up, courtesy a statement by Mr Sharif in which he said that the Kargil operation was planned by the army without his knowledge. He was nowhere in the picture and all happened without his having even the slightest information. Earlier, he had claimed that he had to intervene to save the honour of Pakistan. Now the latest statement has enraged some of his partymen.
To challenge him is Mr Ejaz-ul-Haq, a prominent politician and son of the late Pakistani director , Gen Zia-ul-Haq. "It is all lie to say that Mr Sharif was not informed about the Kargil operation. He was well informed and knew everything", Ejaz-ul-Haq told newsmen in Dubai. This statement was carried prominently by the entire media, including Pakistan Television. Since Ejaz is a Senior Vice-President of the Muslim League, the party that was ruling Pakistan with an iron hand till its ouster last year, it makes lot of sense.
The facts as stated by the gentleman tell their own tale. Mr Ejaz-ul-Haq said: "The deposed Prime Minister visited the troops in that area and not only lent them moral support, but he presented the troops with medals. He also gave the highest gallantry award to those who had laid down their lives for the country. I was with him during this visit. How could he deny all this", he said. Mr Ejaz-ul-Haq also felt that this kind of statement by Mr Sharif meant to malign the army would not help him or the Pakistan Muslim League. Everybody in the Pakistan Muslim League was taken aback, Ejaz-ul-Haq said.
The former dictators son, who has taken the democratic route to power, also said that if the former Prime Minister was not informed, he was duty bound to react the moment he learnt about it. "Mr Sharif was fully involved in the operation and supported it totally until Washington intervened and he went there to agree to the withdrawal of troops", he said. Now Ejaz and others in the PML are planning to meet the former Prime Minister in jail and convince him that such statements would not help the PML and its return to power could not be achieved by these half truths.
In fact, one reason for the strong reaction from leaders like Ejaz-ul-Haq is that they do not wish to have any confrontation with the army at this stage. They understand that the masses are still not roused against the military dictators and unless the mood in the country goes against Gen Parvez Musharraf and his generals, there is no point raking up such issues. But Mr Sharif apparently does not agree with this and he intends to fight the military dictators and is sure of domestic and international support for the return of democracy.
The army too has not liked this statement and described it as "ill-founded, incorrect and wild accusation against Pakistans armed forces". In fact, this is another long stick in the hands of Gen Musharraf to beat Mr Sharif with. Already, some inspired and some not so inspired demands to try Mr Sharif for treason in this context has been raised by many small time politicians. Some to please the military rulers and others to mark their presence have joined the chorus.
This would certainly increase the trouble for the deposed Prime Minister, but then there is little relief which the military rulers can draw. Right now there is more support for the demand to end military rule much before the three-year term stipulated by the Supreme Court. What is being suggested now to the military rulers and the armed forces is to revert to democracy and whatever Gen Parvez Musharraf had announced elections to the local self governance institutions should be implemented immediately. A caretaker government should be appointed to oversee the return to democracy. The army should go back to the barracks.
The army rulers right now busy battling the traders countrywide to force them pay sales tax, would not like to listen to those kinds of "ugly noises." "Our agenda is to set right the countrys political, economic and administrative system. Whether it takes three years or five years is immaterial," the generals are telling these critics of the army rule and votaries of democracy that has failed to take roots in Pakistan where every fourth house has something to do with the military.
Special counsel mooted to probe Gore
WASHINGTON, June 23 (AP) A top Justice Department prosecutor has recommended that a special counsel be appointed to investigate US Vice-President Al Gore in the 1996 campaign fund-raising controversy, government officials have said.
The recommendation came yesterday from Robert Conrad, supervising attorney for the Justice Department task force investigating 1996 fund-raising abuses, said officials, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Mr Conrad interviewed Mr Gore and President Bill Clinton in April. Mr Conrad referred to the investigation on Wednesday when he declined to answer a Senators questions about the Vice-President and the President.
Officials said Senator Arlen Specter, a Republican from Pennsylvania, recently learned about Mr Conrads recommendation.
"I have reason to believe that Mr Conrad has made a recommendation that an independent counsel be appointed as to matters related to Vice-President Gore," Mr Specter said in a telephonic interview.
Mr Gore, while campaigning for President in Minnesota, said he did not know anything about a recommendation regarding a special counsel.
"You are privy to news I dont have," Mr Gore told reporters. Justice Department spokesman Myron Marlin had no comment on the substance of the report about Mr Gore.
finance task force has been investigating irregularities
in the 1996 election," Mr Marlin said. "That
investigation is still ongoing and has prosecuted 25
persons till date. It is inappropriate to comment on
ongoing matters or internal deliberations," Mr
Murderer executed in Texas
HUNTSVILLE (USA), June 23 (Reuters) Convicted murderer Gary Graham, whose case sparked a national debate on the death penalty and put presidential hopeful and Texas Governor George W. Bush on the spot, was executed after spending 19 years on death row.
The 36-year-old Grahams last-minute flurry of appeals ended yesterday when two courts, including the US Supreme Court, refused his final bids for a stay of execution. He was put to death by lethal injection at the State Prison in Huntsville with some of his key supporters, including the Rev Jesse Jackson acting as witnesses, Texas prison officials said.
Grahams case drew national attention because he was convicted largely on the testimony of one eyewitness. He became the 135th person executed in Texas since Mr Bush became Governor five years ago and the 23rd person to be executed in the state this year.
The US Supreme Court, by a 5-4 vote, turned down Grahams request for a stay of execution and a Federal Judge in Austin, Texas, later rejected his defence lawyers attempts to file a case on the grounds that his civil rights had been violated by the Texas system of seeking reprieves. At that point, Grahams lawyers gave up their legal fight.
The justices acted after
the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles refused to give
Graham a reprieve. Texas Governor Bush, whose Republican
presidential campaign has been dogged by questions about
the Graham case, has said Texas law did not allow him to
intervene unless the Parole Board recommended a stay or
Muslims rampage Jakarta suburb
JAKARTA, June 23 (Reuters) Hundreds of Muslim fundamentalists rampaged through the streets of an upper class Jakarta suburb today, trashing bars, restaurants and discos.
The mob, chanting "Allahu Akbar" (God is great) and wearing white shirts and white Islamic caps, smashed shopfronts, beer signs and beer bottles with bamboo sticks and iron bars in the residential suburb of Kemang. The plush southern suburb is home to many foreign families.
USA suspects spying by Chinas news agency
WASHINGTON, June 23 (Reuters) Chinese spy fever has struck again in Washington with the revelation that the Chinese news agency Xinhua bought an office building within sight of The Pentagon without US Government approval.
The state Department said yesterday that it had told the Chinese embassy it must now seek approval, as required by a law covering all diplomatic purchases of US real estate, even though the sale has already gone through.
One member of Congress, Republican Dana Rohrabacher of California, said he was worried that Xinhua, which has close connections with the Chinese government, had bought a building so close to the heart of the US military establishment.
"Im very concerned to hear that what well could be an arm of Communist Chinese intelligence is now overlooking the Pentagon and has a birds eye view electronically of everything were doing," he said after a congressional hearing.
"This is something I will look into and others in the government should look into," he added.
A US Intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said he couldnt rule out the possibility that China used some Xinhua people for gathering intelligence.
Over the past few years, Washington has had a series of flaps over alleged espionage by China or over Chinese government influence in business and politics.
But Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon said a rejection of the sale would not be automatic. The Pentagon would evaluate the "pros and cons" of having the agency in the neighbourhood and make a recommendation to the State Department.
"We are mature enough to realise, and realistic enough to realise, that this building is subject to surveillance from a number of different directions and has been for more than 50 years and we obviously have a number of countermeasures we have installed over time to defeat or foil surveillance," Bacon said.
"Its not new to us the idea that people might want to watch or listen to what goes on in the building, and weve been living in that environment, for over 50 years," Bacon added.
The State Department and the Chinese embassy gave very different accounts of how Xinhua came to buy the building and what US law really requires.
State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said: "the Xinhua news agency should have requested prior authorisation from the Department of State to purchase an apartment building.
"We have informed them that they must make such a request, and the State Department will have 60 days in which to authorise or deny such a request when its made."
But an embassy spokesman said Xinhua was a private company "duly registered" in Virginia, where the Pentagon is, and did not require State Department approval to buy property.
Besides, he added, Xinhua did write to the State Department in late May to say it planned to go ahead with the purchase unless it heard objections by June 15.
"They received nothing in return. So they decided to go ahead. It was only after this story hit the press that the State Department began to ask questions," he added.
When Xinhua bought its current premises in 1985, there was clear understanding that Xinhua was not subject to the foreign Missions Act, which covers diplomatic property, he said.
"The Xinhua news agency is considered tied to the
government of the Peoples Republic of China and
therefore is under the relevant provisions of this act in
terms of the restriction. Theyre very aware of
that. The embassy is aware of that," he said.
Counter-terrorism experts to visit London
LONDON, June 23 (PTI) Counter-terrorism experts from India will visit London shortly to discuss concrete measures of cooperation with their British counterparts to deal with acts of terrorism, particularly Pak-sponsored terrorism in Kashmir.
Stating this at a news conference here last evening, Home Minister L.K. Advani said both Britain and India had agreed to strengthen and intensify cooperation in their efforts to combat terrorism.
"The British Government shares our concern with regard to the menace of international terrorism and the importance of dealing with it in a coordinated and concerted manner," he said.
Mr Advani, who had
meetings with British Home Secretary Jack Straw and
Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, also had a detailed
briefing at Scotland Yard on the British approach to
handling of terrorist operations.
Russia puts off
Call to probe
Congos ceasefire pact
not ancestors of birds"
arms check next week
Pak faces major
US order on sale
of uranium in Russia
womens clothes sizes
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