|Wednesday, July 26, 2000,
at odds on ASEAN move on
Leone army clashes with rebels
rebels demand key ministries
Indians share Magsaysay Award
progress’ in peace talks
outbreak threatens NY
fastest gun tested
Members at odds on ASEAN move on troika
BANGKOK, July 25 (AP) — The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) appeared set today to approve a diplomatic fire squad to help it react faster to regional crises, but the 10 states were at odds over how much power it should have.
Thailand is keen to expand ASEAN’s role and has proposed authorising the rotating chair of the grouping to call a taskforce of three ministers — or troika — in case of events that threaten peace and stability in the region.
But Myanmar said today the troika would still not have any right to interfere in the internal affairs of member states — tenet of ASEAN cooperation — casting a major doubt on what kind of authority it could wield.
"The troika is not a mechanism to deal within, it’s to deal with outside," Myanmar Foreign Minister Win Aung said.
He said the troika could deal with "emergencies" and help set the stance of ASEAN on international issues, but not take independent decisions.
ASEAN has set up a troika once before to bring warring parties together, after a coup in Cambodia in 1997 led by the current Prime Minister Hun Sen.
But when East Timor was racked by violence after it voted for independence from ASEAN member Indonesia last year, ASEAN lacked consent from the disputing parties and took no action.
Commenting on how the troika would work, Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman Don Pramudwinai said if the issue in question impinged on the sovereignty of a state, the Chair would call a meeting of all 10 ministers.
"In principle, the ASEAN troika will deal with every kind of problem, both internal and external," Don said.
Meanwhile, India will strongly back the ASEAN stand against inclusion of Pakistan as a full dialogue partner in the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), a key security dialogue platform, during the five-day visit of External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh to Bangkok to attend the annual ASEAN conference beginning tomorrow.
The ARF has been lately advocating that its membership be limited to 10 ASEAN states and 10 dialogue partners and feels that there should be a freeze on further expansion, a senior External Affairs Ministry official said in reply to a question.
Pakistan has written to Thailand, the present ASEAN Chairman, that it should include as a full dialogue partner in the ARF. Islamabad now is only a sectoral dialogue partner.
Besides, the ASEAN members, the 10 dialogue partners in the ARF include India, the USA, Russia, China, Japan, the European Union and Australia.
Mr Jaswant Singh, who would represent India at the ASEAN, would attend the ASEAN conference, the ARF meeting and hold bilateral talks with foreign ministers of leading countries.
New Delhi would raise the issue of cross-border terrorism and join the concern of ASEAN members on the menace besides seeking concrete measure to combat trafficking in drugs, small arms and women and children, the official said.
In keeping with the past practice, the ARF discussions would cover broad strategic issues — political and security situation in Asia Pacific region, review of ARF inter-session activities and future direction of ARF, of which India became a member in 1996.
The official said the first item would provide for an overview of regional political and security situation and the "security implication of globalisation".
Issues like developments in the Korean peninsula, transnational organised crime, disarmament and non-proliferation, missile defence and maritime security would also figure in the discussions.
participation in the ARF demonstrates India’s increasing engagement
in Asia Pacific region, both in the politico-security and economic
spheres and underlines our commitment to the objective of sustaining
regional peace and stability," he said.
Polls put Bush ahead of Gore
WASHINGTON, July 25 (Reuters) — Two separate polls published today show Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush with a narrow lead over his Democratic rival, Vice-President Al Gore.
A new ABC News/Washington Post poll of 1,228 adults conducted between July 20 and 23 showed Bush with a 48 to 45 per cent lead over Gore, compared to his four point advantage in June.
The lead was statistically insignificant since the poll had a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.
Among likely voters, Bush claimed 51 per cent, compared to Gore’s 45 per cent, the ABC News/Washington Post poll showed.
A separate New York Times/CBS News poll found that Bush continued to lead Gore by 46-40 per cent among all registered voters, given a two-way race.
In a four-way race, with Ralph Nader, the Green Party nominee, and Pat Buchanan, the expected Reform Party nominee, Bush would draw 44 per cent, Gore, 38 per cent, Nader, 5 per cent and Buchanan, 3 per cent.
The New York Times/CBS poll was taken between July 20 and 23 with 953 adults, including 743 registered voters. The survey has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.
The poll also showed that over 70 per cent of Americans believed there were genuine differences between the two candidates.
TORONTO, July 25 — Once an unassuming kitchen supervisor working for the Fire Department Ms Rosalie Stoddard has become a darling of the Sikh community in Canada for coming to the aid of a large group of hungry and cold immigrants from Punjab 13 years ago.
Ms Stoddard helped 174 Sikhs who came ashore at tiny Charlesville, near Halifax, in Nova Scotia province in July 1987. The Sikhs were ferried there by "Amelie", a freighter they had boarded in Germany.
Thirteen years ago, Ms Stoddard and others in the sleepy, seaside hamlet awoke to find the new arrivals wandering around. When confronted by the locals, the Sikhs claimed they were fleeing persecution in India. They were hungry and not properly clad for the cold weather of Charlesville.
Still grateful for the help she extended to those 174 immigrants, the Sikhs in Halifax have honoured Ms Stoddard. After ensuring that they ate well and were warm enough, she had helped the immigrants cope with journalists covering what had become a sensational national news story.
She "is a friend of every human being who’s hungry, who’s thirsty and who needs help," said Ms Jagpal Tiwana, vice-president of the Maritime Sikh Society. He told IANS the tribute to Ms Stoddard was part of an event marking the launch of a new book about the history of the local Sikh community.
Ms Stoddard "did a tremendous
job," said Mr Tiwana, and would serve as a model of tolerance.
"She didn’t care whether they were poor or Africans or Asians
— it didn’t matter. She said they were human beings first,"
he added. — IANS
Fiji rebels demand key ministries
SUVA, July 25 (AFP) — Fiji’s military was today involved in yet more talks to set up a new government as coup rebels demanded their candidate for prime minister and five of their followers have places in the new Cabinet, media reports said.
State-owned Fiji Broadcasting Commission (FBC) said former martial law commander Commodore Voreqe Banimarama was to meet with interim Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase in a bid to come up with a new government.
Qarase named a government last week but President Josefa Iloilo backed out of swearing-in ceremony after coup leader George Speight threatened civil war.
Speight wants diplomat Samanunu Cakobau named premier.
As one of the heads of the Cakobaua clan, she is as close as it comes to royalty in Fiji.
However, opponents of Speight want Qarase to remain in place and speculation is increasing that former Prime Minister and two-time coup leader Sitiveni Rabuka might be a compromise candidate.
The FBC said the Qarase-Banimarama meeting, which would also be attended by members of the aborted Cabinet, would finalise a new Cabinet.
Iloilo would not be attending but would name the government tomorrow, the radio said.
The Fiji Sun newspaper reported today that an unnamed rebel source said Speight’s group wanted five specific portfolios in the Cabinet, as well as the premiership.
Sierra Leone army clashes with rebels
FREETOWN, July 25 (Reuters) — Sierra Leone’s fledgling army clashed with rebels over the weekend, retaking one town near the border with Guinea and discovering human skulls in a second recaptured a few days earlier, an army spokesman has said.
Major John Milton told mediapersons yesterday that 11 Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels and one government soldier had been killed in Sunday’s battle for the northern town of Bafodia, which had been in rebel hands for almost a year.
He said that an army patrol had found hundreds of human skulls the same day in the western town of Gbinti, which was recaptured at the end of last week. ‘‘We believe that these skulls were civilians killed by the RUF,’’ he added.
The RUF, whose leader Foday Sankoh is in detention here signed a peace deal in 1999 but took up arms again in May after a dispute over disarmament.
Its fighters have been accused of atrocities against civilians, particularly hacking off limbs.
Major Milton reported
that in another incident on Sunday RUF rebels attacked government
troops and Nigerian UN peacekeepers at the Rogbere junction on the
road to the north. The rebels were repulsed. Two of their fighters
were killed, he added.
2 Indians share Magsaysay Award
MANILA, July 25 (AFP) — Indian activists Aruna Roy and Jockin Arputham have won this year’s Ramon Magsaysay Award along with a former Philippine town Mayor, a Chinese environmentalist and a former Indonesian journalist, the award body said.
Roy and Arputham won the award for community leadership and international understanding, respectively. Roy heads a peasant workers’ group while Arputham founded a slum dwellers’ association.
The award for government service went to Jesse Robredo, a former Mayor of Naga city in the Philippines for his effective city management while "yielding power to the people."
Liang Congjie, who founded China’s first environmental group "Friends of Nature," won the prize for public service for pioneering his country’s environmental movement.
Atmakusumah Astraatmadja, a former journalist and now a member of the Doctor Soetomo Press Institute, was awarded the prize for journalism, literature and creative communication arts for spearheading press freedom movement in Indonesia.
This year’s awardees will each receive a certificate, a medallion bearing the likeness of the late Filipino President whom the award is named after, as well as a cash prize of $ 50,000.
Award ceremonies will be held on August 31, the Ramon Magsaysay Foundation said in a statement yesterday.
‘Some progress’ in peace talks
THURMONT (Maryland), July 25 (AP) — Offering a glimmer of hope after two gruelling weeks of Middle East peace talks at Camp David, the White House indicated that Israel and the Palestinians could be making "some" progress toward resolving their bitter disputes.
The assessment came as Mr Clinton plunged into intensive, hands-on mediation following a four-day trip to Japan, keeping long, late-night hours in an effort to shepherd the two sides toward a historic accord.
"They are trying to find areas of agreement," White House spokesman Joe Lockhart told reporters yesterday, the 14th day of talks at the secluded presidential retreat in the mountains of Maryland. "They have probably found some."
For the most part, the summit’s American hosts have avoided any characterisation of the substance of the talks, other than to note how difficult and divisive the issues are.
A main point of dispute is Jerusalem, which both sides claim as their capital. Also on the table is the fate of several million Palestinian refugees and the boundaries of a future Palestinian state.
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was stepping in as lead mediator again today, with Mr Clinton planning a daylong absence to attend a memorial service in Arkansas for Diane Blair, a University of Arkansas political science professor and a close friend who died of cancer. Mr Clinton was leaving at lunchtime and returning after midnight, Mr Lockhart said.
After meeting until yesterday morning with delegates from both sides, Mr Clinton headed into a fresh round of talks in the evening.
Asked if the negotiators might pull another all-nighter, Mr Lockhart said: "it’s certainly possible."
Mr Clinton has met with both Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat since his return, but most of his time has been devoted to joint sessions with negotiators from both sides.
Mr Lockhart told reporters that as long as Mr Clinton thinks "discussions are substantive and have the potential of leading to an agreement, he will remain here...."
The parties, themselves, though, were reluctant to commit to open-ended talks. An Israeli cabinet minister who is serving as one of his country’s negotiators said it should be clear soon whether it was worthwhile to keep talking.
"I think within 24 hours we will know if we have gone forward or sideways," Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, Israel’s Transportation Minister, told Channel Two from Camp David.
The Palestinians’ frequent spokeswoman, Hanan Ashrawi, predicted the two sides could achieve only an interim accord, "either some kind of vague framework or damage control to prevent a total breakdown."
Mr Barak, who has been under constant pressure from right-wing political opponents at home, got a new reminder today of the battle that could await him if he makes sweeping concessions to the Palestinians.
Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in a rare news conference broadcast live in prime time on both Israeli TV channels, said he wanted to prevent a "ripping apart" of Israeli society "that could happen in the next few days."
Virus outbreak threatens NY
INSECTICIDE-spraying helicopters will return to New York this week for the first time since the West Nile virus killed seven persons last year.
The city’s Mayor, Mr Rudi Giuliani, decided to use aerial spraying after the discovery of four dead birds infected with the virus. The helicopters were expected to spray large areas of Queens, Staten Island and Brooklyn, the three boroughs next to Manhattan.
Seven infected birds, crows and a merlin, have been found in New York so far this year. There have also been reports of the disease in Connecticut and New Jersey.
The disease spreads from birds to humans through mosquitoes. A particularly virulent outbreak killed seven persons in New York state last year and seriously affected 55 others.
So far this year the intensive surveillance system set up by the city has prevented the disease from spreading to humans. A helpline to inform people about the disease said yesterday that the spraying was designed "to prevent the spread of West Nile virus to humans".
Mr Giuliani, seeking to reduce concern about another outbreak, said the spraying was a precautionary measure. "People should not be alarmed, they should not be concerned," he said. "These are all things that we assumed we would have to do." He added that the outbreak was not as bad as last year’s.
In the spring the city authorities used larvicide in storm drains and other waterways to kill as many larval mosquitoes as possible. Public Health officials advised residents to clean roof drains, unchlorinated pools and piles of old tyres which might serve as a mosquito breeding ground.
Most mosquitoes do not fly very far from where they are born. The helicopters are expected to cover a 2-mile radius from the site of the dead birds’ discovery. Concern about the impact of the insecticide on wildlife in Staten Island, where there are large areas of marshland, caused some friction between the Mayor and the federal and state environmental officials.
Nevertheless, Dr Neal Cohen, city Health Commissioner, said the state had allowed the use of the pesticide "in the face of a public health threat". Several public helplines advised people to stay indoors during the spraying, which usually takes place after 10 p.m.
Bush selects Cheney as mate
WASHINGTON, July 25 (AFP) — Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush has decided to name former US Defence Secretary Richard Cheney as his vice-presidential running mate, according to US media reports citing senior Republican sources.
citing several leading Republican sources — who were not named —
reported that Mr Bush could make a formal offer to Mr Cheney by
telephone on Tuesday before making his choice public, CNN said.
World’s fastest gun tested
SYDNEY, July 25 (AFP) — An electronic gun claimed to be the world’s fastest, with a firing rate of 240,000 rounds a minute, has undergone successful trials by US defence officials, its Australian inventor said today.
inventor Mike O’Dwyer, whose company, Metal Storm, was launched on
the Australian Stock Exchange a year ago, has also won a lucrative US
contract to develop a high-powered sniper rifle based on his
Freed crew men
of Taiwan resigns
for assault on women
clashes with protesters
sought for scribes’ release
soldiers killed in ambush
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