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TDN-ee, Foreign Affairs Section 2, August 15, 1998

15 August, 1998, Copyright � Turkish Daily News

Foreign News Page Contents
  • More conservative infighting over links to French far right
  • Habibie honors wife, brother, ministers and Muslim leaders
  • Pakistani PM Sharif vows to help Indian Kashmiris
  • Mourners make pilgrimage to bombing site
  • US officials mum on bombing suspects; Kenyan Muslims claim the investigators and media unfairly are targeting them
  • Kabila flees Kinshasa, Congo rebels on the march
  • Myanmar tries foreign activists as Suu Kyi continues standoff
  • Over 7,000 pardoned in S. Korean amnesty
  • Balloonist's speed doubles

  • More conservative infighting over links to French far right

    Paris- The Associated Press

    France's conservatives were shaken by more infighting Friday when an influential member of the Liberal Democracy party quit for taking in a politician with links to the far-right National Front.

    The party's revolving door spun a day after a conservative regional president, kicked out of the center-right Union for French Democracy for accepted National Front votes, joined Liberal Democracy. Gilles de Robien, a longtime moderate leader in the National Assembly, said he was quitting Liberal Democracy and rejoining the Union for French Democracy (UDF). He urged his colleagues to follow. As for Liberal Democracy, led by the maverick free-marketeer Alain Madelin, de Robien told France 3 TV he had "nothing more to do with that family that has no more republican ideals." Jacques Blanc, one of four UDF leaders who accepted National Front votes to remain regional presidents after March elections, said Thursday that he was joining Liberal Democracy.

    Blanc represents the southern region of Languedoc-Roussillon. Madelin, and ex-finance minister, had supported Blanc and the three other UDF leaders expelled from their party after they accepted votes from National Front regional council members to beat back leftist challenges in the wake of the elections. The Front, led by the charismatic former paratrooper Jean-Marie Le Pen, blames immigration for high urban crime and double-digit unemployment. It has maintained about 15 percent support nationwide, but in some regions garnered a third of the vote in March, becoming a kingmaker in regional governments. The conservative coalition splintered after its leader, President Jacques Chirac, called early legislative elections in June last year that propelled Socialist Lionel Jospin to the prime ministership. Since then, Jospin has maintained generally moderate policies in a "cohabitation" with Chirac, while conservatives cast about for a new platform. The regional elections in March confirmed the leftist hold on French politics.

    Habibie honors wife, brother, ministers and Muslim leaders

    Jakarta- The Associated Press

    President B.J. Habibie on Friday awarded medals of honor to his wife and brother, the top military commander and senior Cabinet ministers to celebrate Indonesia's 53 years of independence.

    Medals were awarded to 38 people, including two prominent Muslim leaders as well as some former and current Habibie aides, officials at the presidential palace said. National independence day falls on Monday. It was the first time that Habibie has bestowed the awards for service to the nation since he replaced former President Suharto after riots and protests in May. Since taking office, Habibie has promised to introduce democratic reform and to end corruption and nepotism that permeated Suharto's 32-year-old regime. Among those honored were Habibie's wife Hasri Ainun Besari Habibie and his younger brother Junus Effendy Habibie, a former ambassador and the ex-head of the Batam Island industrial development project near Singapore. Six serving Cabinet ministers were also honored as the nation grapples with its worst economic crisis in 30 years amid fears of potential civil unrest.

    They included military chief Gen. Wiranto, who is also defense minister, and Economics Minister Ginandjar Kartasasmita. Wiranto has been instrumental in his support for Habibie's presidency in recent months. The military has stepped up security in Jakarta and other cities because of rumors of possible rioting on Monday. Ginandjar has been a principal player in negotiations with the International Monetary Fund for a $43 billion economic rescue package. Abdurrahman Wahid and Amien Rais, who each head the country's two largest Muslim organizations, were named in the honor list, but neither attended the award ceremony at the state palace. Both were critics of Suharto and have also called on Habibie to accelerate political reform. Rais has indicated that he wants to run for president next year. Among others honored Friday was Muhammad Sanusi Sierad, an ex-Cabinet minister and dissident who served nine and a half years in prison during Suharto's reign.

    Pakistani PM Sharif vows to help Indian Kashmiris

    Islamabad- The Associated Press

    Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif vowed on Friday to continue supporting Kashmiri separatists fighting in neighboring India as Pakistan celebrated its independence day.

    In Karachi, the southern port city that is Pakistan's economic hub, unidentified gunmen attacked a school, wounding seven students attending an independence-day program in a politically volatile eastern Karachi neighborhood. No group claimed responsibility for the shooting, which a police official said was terrorist attack aimed at wrecking independence day celebrations. More than 500 people have been killed in Karachi's political, ethnic and sectarian violence so far this year. Sharif, speaking in the capital in his address to the nation marking 51 years of independence, said violence in Kashmir would "force India to come to the negotiation table." Pakistan and India have fought two wars of their three wars over Kashmir since both gained independence from Britain in 1947.

    India celebrates its independence day today. India accuses Sharif's government of arming Muslim guerrillas fighting for Kashmir's independence or its merger with Islamic Pakistan, while Pakistan accuses India of violating human rights in its crackdown on the militants. Islamabad says it offers only political and moral support to Kashmir's indigenous movement, and Sharif said that support would continue as long as "Kashmiris are victim of Indian atrocities." The Himalayan territory of Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan, with both nations claiming all of it. Their armies regularly fire across the border, with the heaviest exchanges in recent memory late last month and early this month coming as peace talks between Sharif and his Indian counterpart Atal Bihari Vajpayee failed because of the Kashmir issue. The two are to meet again in September. Sharif on Friday also defended his decision to answer Indian nuclear weapons tests in May with his own tests. "On Aug. 14, we won independence. On May 28 we preserved our independence with nuclear tests forever," he said. The winners of this year's national award for excellence, announced every year on independence day, included the architect of Pakistan's nuclear program, Abdul Qadeer Khan.

    Mourners make pilgrimage to bombing site

  • US officials mum on bombing suspects; Kenyan Muslims claim the investigators and media unfairly are targeting them

  • Nairobi- The Associated Press

    In a show of unity and grief, Christian and Muslim members of Parliament laid a huge wreath of red and white roses at the site of the embassy bombing on Friday. The legislators sang "We Shall Overcome" and prayed for unity and tolerance. Nearby, an FBI evidence response team labored over debris with rakes, continuing their search for evidence.

    With rescue operations wrapped up and the death toll apparently fixed at 257, the focus on Friday was on cleanup work and the all-out push to learn who perpetrated the nearly simultaneous bombings in Nairobi and in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on Aug. 7. "It will take at least four more weeks to complete examination of both bomb sites and witness interviews, and from that we will develop leads," Assistant FBI Director Thomas Pickard said in Washington. In another sad pilgrimage to the ruins, a group of Kenyan women, each carrying a red or white rose and many weeping, offered prayers for the dead at an ecumenical service. "Women in Pain," said a banner they carried.

    The head of the Vatican missionary service, Cardinal Jozef Tomko, also showed up on Friday morning. Tomko is in Nairobi to ordain two new bishops. "Who can approve of terrorism?" he said after praying for the dead and wounded. "We must find another way of living together on this earth. Look at it: It is so beautiful. Why this? Why?" Friday's newspapers were filled with grief: Death notices for bomb victims, with pictures of the deceased. One showed a smiling young couple on their wedding day. Both died in the blast. Another showed two sisters, ages 16 and 17. The papers were also full of bitterness and anger at the United States. Columns and letters to the editor complained that the United States tried only to save its own citizens after the blast. "You could show us a little more sympathy, America," said one headline in the East Africa Standard. A travel warning from the U.S. State Department travel advisory warning people against visiting Kenya also created ill will. Tourism is vital to Kenya's economy and there were fears the advisory would deal it a crippling blow. The embassy said on Friday that the warning had been lifted.

    James Flannery, head of the Kenya Tourist Board, welcomed the move. "We are very pleased," he said. Ambassador Prudence Bushnell said on Friday that Secretary of State Madeleine Albright would be visiting East Africa soon. Bushnell spoke a ceremony at which the United States donated search-and-rescue equipment to Kenya. On Thursday, Sheila Horan, FBI special agent in charge of the investigation, said investigators had gathered "very critical and important information" on the bombers' identities. The FBI has 215 agents, lab examiners, evidence technicians, computer specialists, photographers and translators in Kenya and Tanzania, he said. A British forensic team was expected to join the 22 FBI lab examiners at the two sites shortly. Pickard said agents on the scene had 700 interviews to conduct in Nairobi and 200 in Dar es Salaam. Some of the Kenyan guards at the embassy who may have seen the bombers survived the blast. Kenyan police say about five people have been detained. In Tanzania, about 14 people have been picked up for questioning. Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa said joint police work with Kenya "has given us important leads in our investigations." Kenya's Muslims feel they have been unfairly targeted because of suspicions that Islamic terrorists are involved in the blast. They say several Muslims were detained without cause. "It seems they've decided that the people who did it are Muslims, now let's go for the evidence," Mohamed Farouk Adam, vice chairman of Nairobi's Jamia Mosque. In Dar es Salaam on Friday, acting U.S. Ambassador John Lange raised the flag at the embassy's temporary headquarters in a house across the road from the Indian Ocean. The house is almost hidden from view by a high security wall that is now topped by barbed wire. "It is a difficult time for all of us," Lange said at the brief ceremony.

    Kabila flees Kinshasa, Congo rebels on the march

    Kinshasa, Congo- The AP

    President Laurent Kabila has fled Congo's embattled capital as rebel forces pushed toward Kinshasa, a senior government official said on Friday. "The president is not in Kinshasa," the high-level government adviser told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. "I can't tell you any more than that." A Western diplomat in Paris, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Kabila was in Lubumbashi, his former rebel base, but had no further information on his plans.

    With rebel forces advancing on Kinshasa from the west, the jittery Congolese capital awoke on Friday without electricity, radio, television or newspapers. The city was bracing for the expected arrival of fighters who launched a rebellion against Kabila earlier this month. Rumors and gossip fueled an uneasy sense of muffled panic. Thousands of people packed sidewalk shops and markets to buy extra provisions, anticipating what many consider the imminent fall of the capital to the rebels. With water cut off by the electricity outage, groups of women trod back and forth to the shores of the Congo River to fill basins with brown, polluted water for their families. The power outage also silenced state-controlled television and radio - though later reports said state radio had returned intermittently.

    No newspapers were published on Friday. "This is the end," said Jean-Pierre Mwenge, standing amid a crowd of people searching for transport out of the city. "Now I'm alone and this will be the end." Asked where he would go, Mwenge just shrugged. Amid a rush of people trying to withdraw money, banks throughout the city closed on Friday to avoid a drain on reserves. The rebellion began earlier this month when Tutsi-led rebels closely tied to Rwanda fought government troops in the capital and opened up fronts in both the east and west of this central African nation. Many of the rebels were the same soldiers who helped bring Kabila to power and oust longtime dictator Mobutu Sese Seko last year. Congo accuses neighboring Rwanda and Uganda of masterminding the uprising. Both countries vehemently deny involvement. Congo's relations with his former allies have been deteriorating throughout Kabila's 14 months of rule, and last month he expelled Rwandan soldiers. Uganda and Rwanda have been angered by the Congolese president's failure to contain attacks on their territory by renegade groups based in eastern Congo. On Thursday, rebels reportedly claimed that they had captured one-third of the country. It was unclear on Friday how much control Kabila continued to wield after fleeing the capital. The United States was preparing for the emergency evacuation of its citizens, while foreign airlines - including Belgian, South African and Ethiopian carriers - stopped service to Kinshasa in the wake of the escalating crisis. A French Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said France sent a plane to Kinshasa to pick up its nationals wishing to leave while Germany also strongly advised its citizens to depart.

    A primary exit route across the Congo River to Brazzaville, the capital of neighboring Republic of Congo, was closed days ago with all traffic across the water stopped. Before leaving Kinshasa, Kabila sacked his new military commander Celestin Kifwa - the president's brother-in-law - and replaced him with Kalume Numbi. Kabila appointed Kifwa last month after firing James Kabari, a Rwandan commander who had been a close ally of Kabila's during his war against Mobutu. Kabari, also known in Rwanda as Kabarere, has since joined the rebel movement. Numbi was a former general in Mobutu's army. Western diplomats and rebel spokesmen on Thursday said the insurgent forces had captured the town of Inga, about 200 kilometers (135 miles) from the capital, where the primary power transformer for Kinshasa is located. The rebels also said some of their troops had advanced as far as Kasangalu, 30 kilometers (18 miles) southwest of the capital. Rebel leaders in Goma said Kinshasa was now in their sights. "The objective is Kinshasa. It should fall in the next few days, by the end of the week or by the end of the month for sure," rebel commander Jean-Pierre Ondekane said Thursday in the eastern city of Goma. In the United States, Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon said two Marine amphibious warships had been dispatched to the Atlantic waters off Congo in case they are needed to evacuate U.S. citizens. It will take nine or ten days for the ships to reach Congo, Bacon said. In the capital, rage and anger at Rwanda were giving way to fear, as many people speculated over their fate. "It's time to pray now," said Amina Nzuze, a waitress. Her restaurant, like many small businesses shut for fear of looting during the dark of night. Rumors of ethnic attacks by both sides only worsened the fear of what will happen if and when the rebels arrive. On Thursday, Congo and Rwanda exchanged accusations of ethnic-motivated attacks against Hutu and Tutsi civilians.

    Myanmar tries foreign activists as Suu Kyi continues standoff

    Yangon- The Associated Press

    Eighteen foreign activists arrested last week for handing out pro-democracy leaflets in the Myanmar capital of Yangon were put on trial Friday and face possible 20-year jail sentences. At a press conference in Bangkok, Thailand, angry and tearful relatives of the 18 activists, joined by a visiting United States congressman, demanded their release. Meanwhile, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi prepared to spend a third night in her van at a roadblock outside Yangon in her fourth standoff with the military government in two months. She is demanding the right to meet supporters outside the capital. Hopes for mediating a settlement between the military and the democratic opposition were dashed Friday when Myanmar, also known as Burma, rebuffed a request from U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan to allow an envoy to visit the country. "The response stated there was no reason for such a rushed visit," said U.N. spokesman Juan Carlos Brandt. Friday's trial of the 18 foreigners took place in a courthouse outside the walls of Insein Prison, where hundreds of political prisoners are held along with violent criminals. The six Americans, three Malaysians, three Indonesians, three Thais, two Filipinos and one Australian were charged with violating the 1950 Emergency Provision Act.

    The sweeping law allows maximum 20-year jail sentences for attempting to incite unrest or disrupt the peace and stability of the state. Diplomats were denied permission to speak with the accused. A single judge presided. There was no jury. Unlike most trials in Myanmar, the proceedings were open to diplomats and journalists. A diplomat said the defendants and foreign embassies were not informed a trial would take place until Friday morning. "I hope they will be treated leniently," said U.S. Charge d'Affaires Kent Wiedemann as he entered the courtroom. "The trial could be finished today if they don't raise any questions," a Myanmar Foreign Ministry spokesman said on condition of anonymity. After the prosecution finishes its case, the accused can then enter their plea and demand a lawyer. "The longer this goes on, the more the government of Burma will come under international scrutiny," Chris Smith, a Republican from New Jersey, who chairs the House International Operations and Human Rights subcommittee, said in Bangkok.

    The activists were detained Sunday, the day after the 10th anniversary of a failed nationwide democracy uprising, for handing out small cards telling Myanmar citizens the outside world supported their democratic aspirations and to not give up. Myanmar has been ruled by the military since 1962. More than 3,000 demonstrators were gunned down during the 1988 uprising. Suu Kyi rose to prominence at that time. She was placed under house arrest from 1989-95 for leading the movement. Since her release she has traveled outside Yangon only once, in 1995, to visit a Buddhist monk. The 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner was stopped Wednesday at a checkpoint 32 kilometers (19 miles) west of the capital, the same site as the three previous standoffs. She was attempting to travel to Bassein, 160 kilometers (100 miles) west of Yangon. The government said Friday it had an ambulance waiting nearby in case Suu Kyi fell ill, but she and her party have said she will only accept treatment from her physicians. During a six-day standoff earlier this month, the government said it was providing her with food and water. But she later said authorities had prevented her from obtaining food and water. She ended up suffering from a high fever and severe dehydration. Her party and the U.S. government said it would hold the military responsible for her health and safety. The government ended the six-day standoff by seizing her car, forcibly restraining her and driving her back to Yangon against her will.

    Over 7,000 pardoned in S. Korean amnesty

    Seoul- The Associated Press

    President Kim Dae-jung approved a sweeping amnesty Friday that freed, among others, 103 political prisoners who signed a controversial oath to obey South Korea's laws, including one that makes it a crime to espouse communism. The amnesty affecting 7,007 people in and out of prison will take effect Saturday, the 53rd anniversary of Korea's independence from Japanese colonial rule in 1945. South Korea has marked past anniversaries with similar pardons. Missing from the list of those granted amnesty were an estimated 400 political prisoners, including 17 who have served 30 years or more behind bars, often in solitary confinement. They refused to sign the oath.

    The 103 political prisoners who did vow to obey the law were among 2,174 inmates to be freed. Thirteen inmates will have their prison terms reduced and 4,820 people will have their civil rights restored. "The amnesty is aimed at achieving a grand national conciliation in the midst of a national economic crisis," Justice Minister Park Sang-chun told a nationally televised news conference. But human rights groups expressed disappointment, saying that many political prisoners chose to remain in jail rather than swear to obey draconian security laws as a prerequisite for release. "The oath requires prisoners to respect the national security law - a law which is used frequently to jail people for exercising their freedom of expression," London-based Amnesty International said in a statement. "Maintaining state security does not mean locking people up for having left-wing views or keeping them locked up because they refuse to accept a law which violates fundamental human rights," it said. South Korea's largest human rights group Minkahyup also denounced the oath, saying that many political prisoners regard it as humiliating. "How can they swear an oath to obey the very law against which they have fought? " Nam Kyu-sun, a Minkahyup spokeswoman, said. South Korea's national security law bans any activity that may benefit its enemy, communist North Korea. The law has often been used by past military governments to suppress political dissent. The law is so broadly interpreted that even possession of Marxist literature is a crime.

    Among those to be freed are several labor activists convicted of communist activities. They include Park No-hae, 41, a noted poet who allegedly eulogized late North Korean leader Kim Il Sung. Several former army generals will have their civil rights restored. They were convicted of being involved in the bloody military suppression of a 1980 pro-democracy uprising in the southern city of Kwangju. The 17 long-serving political prisoners were convicted of being North Korean spies in the 1950s and 60s. They include Woo Yang-gak, a former North Korean soldier who has been jailed for 40 years and is considered the world's longest-serving political prisoner. They have repeatedly rejected past government offers to free them if they signed a statement swearing to abandon their ideological beliefs. Amnesty International and other civil rights groups contend the new condition imposed by Kim's government is little different than the old one. Kim himself was once the target of repression by former military governments. As a pro-democracy campaigner, he spent years in prison and under house arrest, and human rights groups fault him for not seeking repeal of the laws under which he was persecuted.

    Balloonist's speed doubles

    St. Louis- The Associated Press

    Steve Fossett's solo attempt to circle the globe in a balloon has enjoyed a renewed boost, thanks to a vein of fast-moving easterly wind. Fossett's speed has "just about doubled" as his balloon, the Solo Spirit, soars toward Australia, said George Dunnavan, a meteorologist for the project's mission control at Washington University in St. Louis. The balloon is traveling on schedule and is "still in the proper window to make it" around the world, Dunnavan said Friday. The Chicago millionaire, making his fourth attempt to fly around the globe, is approaching the halfway point of his journey. He had been in danger of being drawn into a high-pressure system over the Indian Ocean that "would make him loop and go nowhere," said Alan Blount, control center director. Fossett's spirits have improved since making the easterly turn and "his messages seem upbeat now," Dunnavan said. Fossett, 54, is not in voice contact with his ground crew. They communicate via electronic-mail. Earlier messages had indicated that Fossett's spirits were down after spending hours making the navigational adjustments. His mission staff said the adventurer was finally able to get some much-needed sleep after wrestling the Solo Spirit back on course. By late evening Thursday, Fossett was at 23,000 feet (7,010 meters) and about 2,700 miles (4,345 kilometers) northwest of Perth, Australia. He had traveled more than 9,600 miles (15,449 kilometers) from the starting point on Aug. 7 in Mendoza, Argentina.

    ( $=272.610 TL Official Rate)

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