|Tuesday, September 19, 2000,
Ashraff’s widow, Dy
Speaker elected Muslim Cong leaders
rebels flee with hostages
Iraq, Kuwait row snowballs
Bush ‘blueprint’ for middle class
in US custody?
Bomb explosion in West Belfast
‘Protect kids from war’
Taliban ready for
talks with Masood
Ashraff’s widow, Dy Speaker elected Muslim Cong leaders
COLOMBO, Sept 18 (PTI) — The Sri Lankan Muslim Congress (SLMC) today elected the widow of Mr M.H.M. Ashraff, founder-leader and Minister of Ports killed in a helicopter crash on September 16, as joint leader of the party along with party’s senior leader Mr Rauff Hakeem, in a bid to avert disintegration of the party.
The Deputy Minister for Post and Telecommunications, Mr M.L.A.M. Hisbullaih, told newsmen here that both were elected following a politburo meeting last night, adding the two leaders would also head the national unity alliance which was recently floated by Mr Ashraff to contest the polls.
The party has also decided to field his widow, Ms Ferial Ashraff, to replace him as a candidate for Ampura parliamentary seat. She would be filing her nomination papers shortly, Mr Hisbullah said.
The decision to elect joint leaders was taken following a power struggle in the party after the death of Mr Ashraff, who was killed in an air crash along with 14 others while travelling to his eastern constituency of Ampara.
With seven MPs in the outgoing Parliament, the SLMC shot into prominence by virtue of holding the balance of power in a hung parliament. The party, a part of the ruling People’s Alliance, has been rewarded with one Cabinet post and two posts of junior ministers.
Though perceived to be a powerful minority party representing a majority of the 7.5 per cent Tamil-speaking Muslims of the country, cracks appeared in the party following the death of Mr Ashraff with divergent groups and factions staking a claim to the leadership.
The transition which was perceived to be a smooth affair, turned out to be a battle of sorts with Ms Ashraff staking a strong claim for leadership, while others were in favour of Mr Hekeem, Deputy Speaker in the outgoing Parliament
Hakeem considered to be highly articulate moderate hailing from Kandy town had to concede ground to ashraff’s wife as the party’s main support base was eastern Ampara, which formed part of the Tamil-dominated east.
In the end the two factions settled for joint leadership till the parliamentary elections were over.
Meanwhile, at least 75 guerrillas and 18 soldiers were killed 108 persons were killed according to UNI and hundreds injured on both sides as heavy battles raged in a northern Sri Lankan town the army had recaptured from the LTTE a day before, a military spokesman said today.
Troops, backed by air force bombers, effectively repulsed a concerted LTTE attack to capture Chavakachcheri, a small yet strategic town in the Jaffna peninsula, army spokesman Brig Sanath Karunaratne said here.
Refuting LTTE claims that army had captured only the outskirts of the town, he said troops were in complete control of the town and had consolidated their defences.
According to army estimates, at least 75 rebels were killed in the fighting.
The army attaches great stralegic value to Chavakachcheri town as it provides a four-way access to the rest of the peninsula.
Abu Sayyaf rebels flee with hostages
JOLO (Philippines), Sept 18 (Reuters) — Four civilians have been killed in fighting in southern Philippines where a military assault on Muslim rebels holding 19 hostages entered the third day today, the government said.
A senior official said troops had overrun hideouts of the Abu Sayyaf rebels on southern Jolo island but there was no sign of either the guerrillas or their hostages, who include six foreigners.
The government has said it believes, that all the hostages, who include 13 Filipinos, three Malaysians, two French television journalists and an American, are alive. Residents said the rebels could have taken their captives into caves in surrounding hills. That could mean the operation to rescue the hostages could be protracted and prove costly for President Joseph Estrada, who ordered the assault after scathing criticism of his policy to negotiate with the guerrillas.
The negotiations lasted for almost five months and many hostages were freed in exchange for ransom amounting to millions of dollars. But commentators said the events humiliated the country, especially since the rebels continued to kidnap new hostages to replace the ones they freed.
Defence Secretary Orlando Mercado told Reuters that four civilians had been killed in the assault. But he gave no details. “Air strikes are continuing,’’ he said.
In Paris, French officials said they had no word on the fate of the two French hostages, Mr Jean-Jacques IE Garrec and Mr Roland Madura from the France-2 television channel. France-2 TV said the rebels had spirited them and the other hostages to the mountain in the centre of
Iraq, Kuwait row snowballs
DUBAI, Sept 18 (UNI) — Iraq’s accusation that Kuwait was stealing its oil is snowballing into a major row between the two hostile neighbours,leading to tension in the region.
The Kuwaiti Cabinet held a meeting yesterday and rejected the “baseless accusations” of Baghdad that Kuwait was stealing oil from fields close to the border between the two countries and urged the international community to take “serious measures” against Iraq.
“The Iraqi campaign is part of a policy that has always been adopted by the Iraqi regime and embodies its aggressive schemes and its permanent attempts to create tension and instability in the region”, KUNA quoted a statement by the Cabinet as saying.
The statement said “Kuwait urges the international community to take serious steps against the threats of the Iraqi regime and to adopt the needed measures to ensure non-recurrence of Iraqi threats against Kuwait and other states in the region and to guarantee security and stability in this vital region of the world”.
Kuwait’s strong reaction came in the wake of Iraq’s accusations for the third time in four days yesterday that Kuwait was stealing its oil, with one report alleging that it involved 3,00,000 barrels of crude a day taken from oil fields in the border area.
“The theft of Iraqi oil by kuwait is not new”,a senior member of the Iraqi ruling Baath Party Saad Qassem hammudi was quoted as saying in the media.
Meanwhile, Iraq also denied as “baseless” what it called U.S. Allegations that it was threatening Kuwait, adding that Baghdad would, however, defend itself against any aggression.
Bush ‘blueprint’ for middle class
AUSTIN (Texas), Sept 18 (Reuters) — Republican George W. Bush tinkering with his message to revive momentum in the presidential race, issued a “blueprint for the middle-class” yesterday aimed at the working Americans courted by Democratic rival Al Gore.
Lagging in the poll and looking to get his campaign back on track after a series of distractions and detours Bush planned to take his own version of Mr Gore’s “the people, not the powerful” populism to nine states and 12 cities this week.
A condensed edition of the Texas Governor’s agenda on taxes, education, health care, social security, family and community previously laid out in a 457-page document called “Renewing America’s Purpose,” the blueprint contained no new policy but offered a summary of Bush’s positions and spelled out their benefits.
“This race is about policy and voters want to know what each of these candidates is offering on issues important to the middle-class,” spokesman Ari Fleischer told reporters.
Gore from Bush’s speeches and television advertisements, but not entirely forgotten, will be efforts to base the campaign on character issues, on Gore’s credibility and leadership during his eight years as Vice-President.
Instead Bush will focus on laying out his own policy positions and sharpening the distinctions between himself and Gore, a process he launched on Saturday in an address to California Republicans by satellite from his ranch near Waco.
Painting the November 7 election as a kind of “us versus them” battle between the people and the federal government Bush said: “I don’t believe government is the enemy, but I do not believe it is always the answer.”
The Gore camp dismissed Bush’s “blueprint” as a response to the Vice-President’s 190-page dissertation on his own vision for the country’s future.
“The Bush campaign is clearly struggling to figure out a way to connect with voters,” said spokeswoman Kym Spell.
Despite the shift to issue-based campaigning, Bush and his surrogates have not totally abandoned efforts to portray the Vice-President as less-than-credible and lacking integrity especially on fund-raising.
Laden’s manual in US custody?
WASHINGTON, Sept 18 (Reuters) — Jordanian intelligence officials recently gave the US intelligence agencies computer-disk copies of a six-volume manual that was used by Saudi dissident Osama Bin Laden to train recruits at his terrorist camps in Afghanistan, the USA today said.
The 1,000-page manual, called the “encyclopedia” and written in Arabic, contains information on how to recruit followers and conduct terrorist operations, USA today reported, quoting senior US intelligence officials.
The manual also instructs recruits on how to assemble bombs similar to those that destroyed the US embassies in East Africa in 1998, killing more than 200 persons, the paper said.
A U.S federal court has indicted Bin Laden, who lives in Afghanistan, in connection with the embassy attacks. He denies any involvement.
Bomb explosion in West Belfast
LONDON, Sept 18 (Reuters) — A bomb exploded in West Belfast today, causing substantial damage but no injuries, the Northern Ireland police said.
A spokeswoman for the Royal Ulster Constabulary said the device exploded about 2 a.m. local time (06:30 a.m. Ist), damaging severely the offices of the Loyalist Prisoners’ Aid in the Shankill road, a protestant Enclave.
The office provides aid to members of the pro-British ulster freedom fighters and the Ulster Defence Association.
The spokeswoman said the scene had been declared safe but would be kept cordoned off until daylight when a full search of the area would commence. No further details were available.
Witnesses told the BBC that the explosion appeared to had been very large and would almost certainly had caused loss of life if people had been in the building.
The Shankill road has been at the centre of fighting between pro-British loyalist factions.
Although the 30-year-long guerilla war between pro-British and Irish Republican militias has subsided following ceasefires, Protestant guerrilla groups have been waging a vicious internal feud that has killed three men in the past month.
‘Protect kids from war’
WINNIPEG, (Canada), Sept 18 (Reuters) — Government representatives from more than 120 countries vowed greater protection for children from the horrors of war but their declaration in Canada yesterday stopped short of what some human rights groups had wanted.
The declaration at the International Conference on War-Affected Children here, called on countries to comply with a variety of vaguely-worded principles, including a need to “end targeting of children”.
The results of the conference, co-sponsored by Canada and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), will be presented at a special session on children at the United Nations in September 2001.
Canadian Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy compared the effort in drafting the report to the performance of triathlon athletes at the Olympics in Sydney.
Human rights advocates at the conference released their own report for next year’s UN meeting which called for tougher and more specific steps to punish warlords and groups that use children as soldiers or sex slaves.
UNICEF estimates that there are about 300,000 children under 18 taking part in conflicts around the world and that two million children have been killed in wars in the past decade with at least four million more disabled.
Among the proposals called for in an experts’ report released on Saturday but not included in Sunday’s ministerial report, was an international criminal court that could punish war crimes against children.
Doubts in Peru over fresh poll
LIMA, Sept 18 (Reuters) — Peruvian Vice-President Francisco Tudela said a new general election announced by President Alberto Fujimori should be preceded by a referendum on constitutional and electoral reforms to ensure fair polls.
Mr Tudela told local television a referendum could take up to 90 days to organise, and that elections would follow, but he gave no date.
Health Minister Alejandro Aguinaga has suggested yesterday a vote could be held in six to seven months but some experts have said it would be impossible inside a year.
“Fujimori has not stepped down. He is still in office and he will continue in office. He is still chief of the armed forces, head of the government,” Mr Tudela said. Mr Fujimori said in his bombshell announcement on Saturday night that he would not stand for re-election.
Prime Minister Federico Salas, interviewed on the same programme directly afterwards, said Mr Fujimori was “calm” and that the Cabinet was “continuing and will continue to work” during the transition period that lay ahead.
Taliban ready for talks with Masood
MOSCOW, Sept 18 (Reuters) — Afghanistan’s Foreign Minister said in an interview released yesterday that his Taliban movement had offered to hold peace talks with opposition commander Ahmad Shah Masood at any time.
“We are ready at any moment to sit down at the negotiating table and just a few days ago sent a message to our adversary containing such a proposal,” Maulawi Wakil Ahmad Muttawakil was quoted as saying in today’s edition of the Russian daily Vremya Novostei. He added: “we have received no reply.”
Muttawakil’s remarks follow a United Nations meeting last week in which eight states seeking to end the conflict commissioned a further report on the Afghan situation.
Tipnis to visit
Russia MOSCOW, Sept 18 (PTI) — The Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal A.Y. Tipnis, is arriving here on a seven-day goodwill visit on September 20 at the invitation of his Russian counterpart Gen Anatoly Kornukov. Air Chief Marshal Tipnis, to be accompanied by a high-level delegation, would review the ongoing bilateral cooperation with the Russian Air Force and other issues of mutual interest, the Indian Embassy here said.
MOSCOW, Sept 18 (PTI) — The Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal A.Y. Tipnis, is arriving here on a seven-day goodwill visit on September 20 at the invitation of his Russian counterpart Gen Anatoly Kornukov.
Air Chief Marshal Tipnis, to be accompanied by a high-level delegation, would review the ongoing bilateral cooperation with the Russian Air Force and other issues of mutual interest, the Indian Embassy here said.
Work on re-linking Koreas begins
after 55 years
virus kill 16
Lanka ex-army chief
named envoy to Pak
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