|Monday, December 11, 2000,
Barak quits PM’s post
EU lauds ceasefire
Kim pledges life
to human rights
NRI’s murder: US
Fresh bid to bring back
Palestinians cry for
odyssey on beach
Barak quits PM’s post
JERUSALEM, Dec 10 (Reuters, AP) — Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, under pressure for failing to quell a Palestinian uprising, handed his resignation to the President today and set the stage for a snap election within 60 days.
The Barak announced his resignation in a statement which was broadcast live on Israeli television. No specific date was set for the election.
“I decided to submit my resignation and, as is required according to the law... I submitted it in writing today to President Moshe Katzav,” he said.
Mr Barak, who gave no warning before his bombshell announcement in a television address last night, will remain in office and plans to run for re-election in a ballot expected in early February.
His decision to quit was widely seen as a tactical move designed to block his leading rival, former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, from running for the post. Opinion polls give Mr Netanyahu a huge lead.
Under the current circumstances — elections for Prime Minister, but not for Parliament — only sitting members of Parliament can run for Prime Minister.
“Israel is in a state of emergency,” Mr Barak said in his address yesterday. “Tomorrow I will apprise the President of my resignation and in 60 days we will go to special elections for Prime Minister.”
As his political support dwindled in recent months, Mr Barak had reluctantly agreed to hold new national elections, which were expected in about four or five months. His decision to resign and hold elections in two months appeared to catch everyone in Israel off guard.
Meanwhile, Israeli politicians and analysts immediately began debating the possibility of amending the election law to allow Netanyahu, or anyone else, to run for Prime Minister.
Mr Barak said he would support such a proposal, but it was not clear whether the chance could be passed in the short time before the planned ballot.
“It will be impossible to change the law in time for `citizen Netanyahu’ to run. So (Barak’s) move will succeed,” said political analyst Hanan Crystal.
The main Opposition party, Likud, blasted Barak, saying his move was a transparent ploy to block Mr Netanyahu’s chances.
“To do all this in order to avoid a direct challenge from someone who is known to have high ratings in the polls is such a dishonourable act by a political leader that it will come back to haunt him,” said Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert. “Barak tonight has finally made the last step toward oblivion.”
Likud has bitterly opposed Mr Barak’s peace moves, accusing him of offering far too much to the Palestinians in peace talks and compromising israel’s security.
The Prime Minister said he believed most members of Parliament did not truly want elections but rather sought his replacement and therefore holding elections for the post of Prime Minister was the right thing to do.
Even if Mr Barak is re-elected, without a change in the makeup of Knesset, he would probably find it just as difficult to govern and gain support for the peace process.
Mr Barak was expected to make a major push to reach some sort of agreement with Palestinians before an election. Polls suggest that without such progress his chances of re-election would be extremely slim.
A poll published last Friday in the daily, Maariv, showed Netanyahu ahead of Barak by 45 to 27 per cent. The poll of 1,300 Israelis which had a 3.5 per cent margin of error, showed current Likud leader Ariel Sharon holding only a slim lead over Barak.
Mr Sharon, reacting to Mr Barak’s decision, said Likud “will take all necessary measures to be prepared at any time or any way for upcoming elections, which Likud will win.”
Mr Netanyahu said only he would “consider and make a decision.” He was to return to Israel later today.
Mr Ahmed Qureia, Speaker of the Palestinian Parliament, suggested it would be difficult to reach an agreement under such a speedy timetable.
“I don’t think there is any possibility of reaching a peace agreement within this period,” he said. The coming 60 days appeared to be a “time out” from the peace process.
GAZA: Palestinian President Yasser Arafat said the resignation of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and a snap election within 60 days would delay the implementation of outstanding peace deals.
“It means peace talks will stop until the elections are over, and this is not the first time the talks and implementation are delayed”, Mr Arafat told reporters on his return here from Saudi Arabia.
“He (Mr Barak) is famous for non-implementation and for wasting time”, Mr Arafat said.
PARIS, Dec 10 — The European Union has welcomed the Indian government’s decision to declare a ceasefire in Jammu and Kashmir during the month of Ramzan.
A statement issued by the French Presidency, on behalf of the EU said, “The EU has also taken note with satisfaction of the declaration made by Pakistan to exercise maximum restraint on the Line of Control (LoC).”
The statement said, “Such encouraging gestures create a climate appropriate for finding a peaceful solution in conformity with the wishes of the people of Kashmir.”
“The European Union remains convinced that such a peaceful solution, which is the only conceivable solution, cannot be obtained without putting an end to terrorist actions, observing a strict respect of the Line of Control and initiating confidence-building and security measures in order that a dialogue between the parties concerned can be initiated in the Lahore spirit.”
The EU statement included appeal to the parties concerned to “observe the greatest moderation on ground, to respect the engagements and commitments made and also to conceive new confidence-building measures and to engage in good faith on the path of constructive EU dialogue.
The associated countries of Eastern and Central Europe, members of the European Free Trade Area and Turkey, Cyprus and Malta also endorsed the EU statement.
This is one of the strongest statements issued by the EU on developments in the region and clearly the one that takes into account the Indian position and the situation on the ground. Reflecting the Indian government’s stance, the statement clearly outlines that dialogue can begin only after acts of terrorism are stopped, the LoC respected and some confidence-building measures taken. The appeal for a “sincere and constructive” dialogue in good faith also reflects the Indian concerns about the sincerity of the Pakistani government in resuming dialogue with India.
The French currently hold the EU Presidency and hence are the main drafters of the statement. The nature of the statement reflects the success of the Indo-French dialogue over the past two years and it appears that the Indian point of view is being understood and appreciated by the French and is duly reflected in the statement.
Kim pledges life to human rights
OSLO, Dec 10 (Reuters) — South Korean President Kim Dae-jung, receiving the Nobel Peace Prize today, praised Stalinist North Korea for easing cold war tensions and pledged to dedicate the rest of his life to peace and human rights.
Mr Kim, in an acceptance speech to be delivered at the Oslo prize ceremony, also recalled how he had survived assassination bids and “shuddered with fear of death” after he was sentenced to death by South Korea’s former military rulers in 1980.
“I humbly pledge before you that ... I shall give the rest of my life to human rights and peace in my country and in the world, and to the reconciliation and cooperation of my people”, he said in Oslo City Hall.
Mr Kim (75) was awarded the prize for his “sunshine policy” of closer ties between capitalist South and Communist North Korea, divided since the 1950-53 Korean war, and for lifelong efforts to promote democracy and human rights across Asia.
He said the honour of the prize went to “countless people and colleagues” in South Korea. Yellow flowers symbolising sunshine decorated the ornate City Hall, where Norway’s King Harald was among hundreds of guests.
NRI’s murder: US
doctor convicted NEW YORK, Dec 10 — A year after he was charged with strangling a pregnant Indian American colleague, a California-based pediatrician has been convicted of second degree murder. Kevin Paul Anderson had been charged with strangling his colleague Deepti Gupta on November 11 last year. “Dr Kevin Paul Anderson was convicted by a Pasadena jury for the second degree murder of Dr Deepti Gupta,” Sandy Gibbons, a spokesperson at the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office, said here. “The prosecution had pressed the charge of first degree murder, but the defence argued for a manslaughter charge and after five days of deliberations the jury convicted him for second degree murder,” she said. The prosecutors had argued that the murder of Gupta, 33, who worked at the Huntington Memorial Hospital, was premeditated by Anderson as he felt his love affair with her would threaten his marriage. “But the jurors, by deciding that it was a second degree murder, said it was not a deliberate or premeditated murder,” Ms Gibbons said. However, the jurors also rejected the defence argument that what Anderson committed was voluntary manslaughter because he snapped in the heat of passion after Gupta made an implied threat against his daughter, a report in The Los Angeles Times said.
NEW YORK, Dec 10 — A year after he was charged with strangling a pregnant Indian American colleague, a California-based pediatrician has been convicted of second degree murder.
Kevin Paul Anderson had been charged with strangling his colleague Deepti Gupta on November 11 last year.
“Dr Kevin Paul Anderson was convicted by a Pasadena jury for the second degree murder of Dr Deepti Gupta,” Sandy Gibbons, a spokesperson at the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office, said here.
“The prosecution had pressed the charge of first degree murder, but the defence argued for a manslaughter charge and after five days of deliberations the jury convicted him for second degree murder,” she said.
The prosecutors had argued that the murder of Gupta, 33, who worked at the Huntington Memorial Hospital, was premeditated by Anderson as he felt his love affair with her would threaten his marriage. “But the jurors, by deciding that it was a second degree murder, said it was not a deliberate or premeditated murder,” Ms Gibbons said.
However, the jurors also rejected the defence argument that what Anderson committed was voluntary manslaughter because he snapped in the heat of passion after Gupta made an implied threat against his daughter, a report in The Los Angeles Times said.
Fresh bid to bring back Kohinoor
LONDON, Dec 10 (PTI) — A fresh effort is being made here to demand the return of fabled Kohinoor diamond, a national treasure from Britain to India.
The 108-carat diamond, unearthed from a mine in South India, is currently resting as part of Queen mother’s crown jewels in the Tower of London.
While 25 MPs led by Kuldip Nayar, a former Indian High Commissioner to Britain, have sought to raise the Kohinoor issue in the Rajya Sabha, the Association for the Restitution of the Cultural Heritage of India (ARCHINDIA) here plans to move the House of Commons committee to consider the return of the jewel, on the lines of the demand by Greece for returning Elgin Marbles.
The ARCHINDIA president, Mr Bhaskar Ghorpade, said today that the association would demand the return of all major works of art and treasures, particularly the Kohinoor, which were either stolen or dubiously acquired by Britain.
Mr Ghorpade, a barrister who successfully fought the case for the return to India of a famous 8th century Pathur Nataraja statue, has represented the Indian Government in all cases involving its cultural heritage.
One of the most famous and ill-fated gems in the world, the Kohinoor has a long and chequered history before being taken from the 11-year old Sikh ruler Maharaja Duleep Singh in 1849 by the Governor-General, Lord Dalhousie, as a gesture of submission to imperial rule.
The earliest authentic reference to the Kohinoor is found in the Baburnama, the memoirs of Babur.
Babur had declared that it was worth two and a half days’ food for the whole world.
Shortly before his death in June 1839, an attempt was made to induce Ranjit Singh to seek the favour of gods by presenting the diamond to the temple of Jagannath in Puri but his treasurer Bali Ram dissuaded him from doing so, maintaining that it was state property.
On May 30, 1839, Lord Dalhousie wrote from Ferozepore “yesterday, the Council of the Regency and Maharaja, Duleep Singh surrendered the Kohinoor to the Queen of England.”
Queen Victoria had it recut, reducing it from about 190 to 108 carat. It later became the centre stone of Queen Mary’s crown before being transferred to the coronation crown of Queen Elizabeth.
JENIN (West Bank), Dec 10 (Reuters) — Cries for revenge reverberated across the northern West Bank town of Jenin yesterday as thousands of angry mourners marched at the funerals of five Palestinians killed by Israeli heavy-weapons fire.
A crowd estimated by witnesses at more than 50,000 jammed two main streets as coffins wrapped in Palestinian flags were carried from a hospital to local government offices.
“Revenge, revenge”, chanted mourners in the 1.5 km long procession, directing their calls to the Palestinian police and the Izz el-Deen Brigades, the armed wing of the Islamic militant Hamas group.
The five were killed on Friday and the death toll in a 10-week-old Palestinian uprising now stands at 308, most of them Palestinians, according to an unofficial source. Among the dead are 38 Israeli soldiers and civilians and 13 Israeli Arabs.
Israel said one of its tanks fired its cannon at a group of armed Palestinians in an area under the Jewish state’s security control who were acting suspiciously.
Asked to explain the use of the tank, an army spokeswoman said the armed men were about 700 metres away and the troops decided only a heavy weapon would ensure an accurate hit.
The killings enraged Palestinians, who described it as evidence of what the UN Security Council has called Israel’s use of excessive force in tackling the Palestinian uprising.
“This was a premeditated attack by the occupation forces. Palestinian nationalist and Islamist forces must now respond in the same manner used by the enemy,” said Jamal Abu al-Haija, an official of the Islamic militant Hamas group.
Palestinian Legislative Council member Jamal Shati Hindi called the killings a cold-blooded crime.
Similar funerals started at the same time in the West Bank’s Dheisheh refugee camp, near Bethlehem, and the city of Ramallah.
Prince William’s odyssey on beach
LONDON, Dec 10 (Reuters) — Britain’s Prince William recently spent five days on a remote Chilean beach where he was battered by freezing rain and relentless gales.
In far-flung Patagonia, he tackled a fire when a freak gust of wind ignited a camp shelter. He tracked rare deer through the wilderness, taught village children English, slept rough — and loved every minute of it.
The heir to the throne was one of 110 volunteers enjoying a character-building expedition to one of the world’s loveliest and most remote corners.
William won top marks from his fellow volunteers. They included a homeless teenager trying to kick drugs who teased the 18-year-old William and called him ‘‘little princess.’’
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