Monday, August 21, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Rescuers to tear off hatch

MOSCOW, Aug 20 (Reuters) — A senior Russian official said today that Norwegian divers had tried for several hours to open a damaged outside hatch on the stricken submarine Kursk and that a decision had been taken to tear it off.

Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov, heading a commission of inquiry into the disaster, told Russian RTR Television the divers had powerful tools to open the hatch but that it was too badly damaged.

“Unfortunately, for a long time already, several hours, they have not succeeded in opening it...A decision has been made to pull it off using a crane set up on the Norwegian rescue ship,” Klebanov said.

He said the attempt would be made soon but that the Norwegian team wanted to rehearse the manoeuvre on land. They had been flown to a nearby base where a training exercise would be held, he said.

But a Reuters report from Oslo said: Norway’s armed forces, contradicting Russian reports, said today that a hatch on the stricken submarine Kursk was intact and that it might be possible to open it.

“We have not drawn the conclusion that the hatch is so damaged that it cannot be opened,” John Espen Lien, spokesman for the Norwegian armed forces, told Reuters after Norwegian divers had inspected the crippled Kursk.

“The hatch is not destroyed and is in a fair condition...We think it should be possible to open it with a British or a Russian rescue capsule,” he said.

Meanwhile, Norwegian divers believe there is air behind an outer emergency hatch on the stricken submarine Kursk, conflicting with Russian reports that it seemed flooded, Norway’s armed forces said today.

“Divers have found that the outer hatch of the rear emergency exit from the submarine is not damaged,” armed forces spokesman Kjell Grandhagen told NRK Public Radio. “They have also found that there is air inside it.”

Russia’s government has been preparing the nation for the worst, warning that Kursk’s 118 crew members were, in all probability, dead.

Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov cautioned that the chances of anyone surviving last Saturday’s accident which left the Kursk stranded on the sea-bed were only “theoretical”.

Even where they find air, the divers will still have to test oxygen pressure to determine if anyone could have survived in the submarine since the accident. If the air pressure is too high, the Russian sailors will be presumed to have all perished.


Mori arrives in Pak for talks

ISLAMABAD, Aug 20 (Reuters) — Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori arrived in Islamabad today for a two-day visit. He is likely to focus on demands that Pakistan freeze nuclear tests as a precondition for resumption of economic aid.

Mr Mori, the first Japanese Premier to visit the South Asian region in a decade, flew in from Bangladesh.

Officials from both sides said the talks would focus on nuclear non-proliferation, tensions between India and Pakistan over the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir, economic cooperation and the civil war in neighbouring Afghanistan.

Mr Mori’s trip to the region, due to last until August 26, will also take him to India and Nepal.

The most difficult issue in Mr Mori’s talks with Pakistani and Indian leaders is likely to be the economic sanctions Japan has slapped on both countries after they conducted nuclear tests two years ago.

Japan froze fresh yen loans to both countries after the tests, which raised fears of a nuclear arms race in the region.

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