Haber Turkce

[Follow Ups] [Post Followup] [Our Discussion Forum]

Posted by Alexander from ( on Sunday, July 20, 2003 at 0:17AM :

Experts warn of more chaos in Iraq
In a speech to US Congress, Blair says history will forgive the United States and Britain for invading Iraq, even if they are proven wrong about the threat from its suspected weapons of mass destruction


A top Pentagon architect of the U.S.-led war on Iraq was in Baghdad on Friday as a panel of experts warned that Washington had three months to create law and order or risk descent into chaos.

U.S. President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair defended the war on Thursday, as an audiotape attributed to ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein called for a jihad, or holy struggle, to oust occupying troops.

In a speech to the U.S. Congress, Blair said history would forgive the United States and Britain for invading Iraq, even if they were proved wrong about the threat from its suspected weapons of mass destruction.

"If we are right, as I believe with every fibre and instinct of conviction I have that we are, and we do not act, then we will have hesitated in the face of this menace when we should have given leadership. That is something history will not forgive," Blair said in what was billed as one of the most important foreign speeches of his premiership.

Bush insisted Iraq had chemical and biological weapons and was trying to reconstitute its nuclear weapons program.

"The regime of Saddam Hussein was a grave and growing threat. Given Saddam's history of violence and aggression, it would have been reckless to place our trust in his sanity or his restraint," he told a joint news conference with Blair.

"As long as I hold this office I will never risk the lives of American citizens by assuming the good will of dangerous enemies about such weapons."

A U.S. military spokeswoman in Baghdad said on Friday Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz had arrived in Iraq but could not say what he would be doing.

Wolfowitz is a powerful deputy to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who visited Iraq in April, and is seen as one of the most hawkish figures in the Bush administration's Iraq policy.

Meanwhile, a U.S. soldier was killed on Friday when his vehicle drove over an explosive device in the restive western town of Falluja, bringing the death toll to 148, surpassing the total American fatalities in the 1991 Gulf War.

A U.S. military spokeswoman said the soldier's Humvee vehicle drove off the road after the explosion in the town 50 km (32 miles) west of Baghdad.

U.S. troops have come under daily attacks in what commanders now call a guerrilla campaign.

Closing window of opportunity
A team of five experts, invited by Rumsfeld to assess postwar reconstruction in Iraq, issued a 15-page report on Thursday asserting that "the next three months are crucial to turning around the security situation, which is volatile in key parts of the country."

The experts recommended "the entire effort be immediately turbo-charged" by swiftly increasing funding and personnel for reconstruction, involving many more Iraqis in rebuilding the country and improving communication with them.

"The window of opportunity that we have here is closing. It's not going to be everlasting," former State Department official and Center for Strategic and International Studies expert Bathsheba Crocker told Reuters.

U.S. officials said on Thursday Saddam was probably alive and hiding in northern Iraq, and that this belief was fuelling attacks on American forces by his loyalists.

An audiotape message claiming to be by the toppled Iraqi leader aired on Arab television on Thursday called for a jihad "to inflict losses and evict the enemy from Iraq."

The CIA was trying to determine whether it was genuine, but U.S. officials said analysts familiar with Saddam's voice believe it sounds like him.

The White House meeting between Bush and Blair was their first since Blair came under intense attack at home for the failure to find Saddam's suspected weapons of mass destruction, which both used to justify the invasion.

The allies have not enjoyed the expected period of triumph after the swift military campaign. Political chaos grips parts of Iraq, troops face guerrilla attacks and public trust in Blair has slumped. Bush's approval ratings have also slipped since he declared an end to major combat in May.

A controversy over British-provided intelligence that Iraq sought to purchase uranium in Africa, which Bush cited in his State of the Union address, has been particularly heated.

Blair said Britain stood by that intelligence.

Washington torn over possible new UN steps on Iraq
In deciding whether new U.N. action is needed to entice other countries to help stabilize Iraq, the Bush administration is balancing domestic political worries against its desire to go it alone there, diplomats said.

With U.S. soldiers dying at an alarming rate at the hands of Iraqi guerrillas and elections at home looming next year, Washington so far is reacting coolly to suggestions that a new U.N. resolution could make it easier for nations to help Washington stabilize Iraq through troops or other means.

John Negroponte, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said existing resolutions already gave U.N. cover to any country wanting to join the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq.

But because some countries thought this was inadequate, talks were being held, he said. "There is no specific language on the table. There is no specific proposal put forward."

However, some governments were considering fresh Security Council action "that expands U.N. activities and perhaps appeals to the member-states to make troops, policemen and other resources available for stabilization in Iraq," U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said.

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov was among those suggesting a new U.N. resolution might make countries more disposed to help out in Iraq, Annan added.

Some diplomats said they found it ironic the United States would play hard to get when other nations were offering their own troops to help Americans soldiers keep order, on condition the U.N. Security Council adopted a new resolution encouraging international assistance.

Democrat eyes potential grounds for Bush impeachment
In the meantime, U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bob Graham said there were grounds to impeach President George W. Bush if he was found to have led America to war under false pretenses.

While Graham did not call for Bush's impeachment, he said if the president lied about the reasons for going to war with Iraq it would be "more serious" than former President Bill Clinton's lie under oath about his sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky.

"If in fact we went to war under false pretenses that is a very serious charge," Graham, the senior U.S. senator from Florida, told reporters in New Hampshire.

"If the standard of impeachment is the one the House Republicans used against Bill Clinton, this clearly comes within that standard," he said.

Democrats and some Republicans have raised questions about the unsubstantiated claim Bush made in his January State of the Union speech that Iraq was seeking uranium from Africa in its pursuit of weapons of mass destruction.

Baghdad - Reuters


Diplomats: Iran samples show enriched uranium
If Iran has been enriching uranium without telling the IAEA, this would deepen US suspicions that its nuclear ambitions go beyond its stated aim of using nuclear energy only to generate electricity


U.N. inspectors have found enriched uranium in environmental samples taken in Iran, which could mean Tehran has been purifying uranium without informing the U.N. nuclear watchdog, diplomats said.

The diplomats, who asked not to be named, said initial analysis showed enrichment levels possibly consistent with an attempt to make weapons-grade material and high enough to cause concern at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

If Iran, dubbed part of an "axis of evil" by Washington, has been enriching uranium without telling the IAEA, this would deepen U.S. suspicions that its nuclear ambitions go beyond its stated aim of using nuclear energy only to generate electricity.

However, the diplomats said the mere presence of enriched uranium in the samples was not solid proof Iran had done the enrichment itself. Contamination was another possibility, though how it had arisen would have to be explained to the IAEA.

The IAEA declined to confirm or deny the statements of the diplomats, though an agency spokeswoman said IAEA inspectors have been taking samples in Iran.

"The results of environmental sample analyses are being reviewed at the agency and we expect to take more samples over the next few weeks," Melissa Fleming said. "Only the IAEA will be in a position to judge the significance of the analysis results.

"At this point, we are still in the middle of a complex inspection process in Iran, in which we are investigating a number of unresolved issues," she added.

Iran insists it has no interest in building nuclear weapons, as Washington charges, but has resisted international calls for it to accept tougher inspections of its nuclear program.

It was not clear at which of Iran's nuclear facilities the samples had been taken, nor was it clear whether the IAEA had informed the Iranian government of its initial findings.

Centrifuge tests?
At least one senior Western diplomat predicted in June that environmental samples taken by the IAEA would confirm suspicions that Iran continues to hide aspects of its nuclear program -- including live tests of enrichment centrifuges.

Iran has repeatedly denied that it has tested its centrifuges with nuclear material without informing the IAEA, But diplomats say it makes no sense for Iran to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to build big uranium enrichment facilities in Natanz without having tested their centrifuges.

Enrichment is a process which purifies uranium to make it useable in nuclear fuel -- or nuclear weapons.

The nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which Iran has signed, permits uranium enrichment for civilian purposes. However, the United Nations must be informed and the process must be subject to IAEA safeguards inspections.

In June, the IAEA board of governors chided Iran for failing to report many aspects of its nuclear program and asked for more information on research and development in Iran's uranium enrichment program.

The IAEA is expected to report on the results of its most recent inspections in Iran when the board meets on Sept. 8.

Vienna - Reuters


British police find body in hunt for Iraq row official
Body found in central England matches the description of a missing Ministry of Defense adviser Kelly, who had become embroiled in a controversy over the government's intelligence dossiers on Iraqi arms, police say


Police searching for a former U.N. weapons inspector who was dragged into the heart of a row over whether Britain's government warped intelligence to justify war in Iraq said on Friday they had found a body.

The family of David Kelly, a soft-spoken microbiologist at the Defense Ministry who had worked for U.N. inspectors in Iraq reported him missing after he went out for a walk on Thursday with no coat despite a heavy rainstorm.

"The body of a man has been found," Acting Superintendent Dave Purnell told a televised news conference, adding he could not confirm the man's identity.

Kelly had been grilled by parliamentarians on Tuesday after admitting he spoke to a reporter for Britain's BBC radio. The reporter, Andrew Gilligan, said in May a senior intelligence source told him the government "sexed up" intelligence on Iraq.

Gilligan's report sparked parliamentary hearings into how the government made the case for war, forced Prime Minister Tony Blair onto the defensive and pitted government officials against the broadcaster in a heated war of words.

Clearly uncomfortable in the spotlight, Kelly, 59, had told the foreign affairs committee he had met Gilligan, but denied telling him that Blair's communications chief Alastair Campbell had ordered intelligence to be hyped.

The government said it thought Kelly might be Gilligan's only source, suggesting that differences between his account and Gilligan's proved the BBC story was wrong.

Gilligan has not said whether he had a source for his report other than Kelly.

Under questioning from the parliamentary committee, Kelly said he did not believe he was the main source of the story. Committee members appeared to agree, labelling him a government "fall guy."

"Dr. Kelly is a scientist. He's not used to the media glare, he is not used to the intense spotlight he was put under, and frankly, even hardened professionals can find that type of pressure hard to cope with," committee member Richard Ottoway, an opposition Conservative politician told Sky television.

"At the end we concluded he had been given rather bad treatment by the government. So let us hope nothing sinister has happened here. But it does bring into question exactly what the government thought it was doing by putting him up as a witness on its behalf."

Gilligan quoted his source as saying Campbell had pressed intelligence chiefs to insert into a dossier on Iraq a dubious assertion that Baghdad could use weapons of mass destruction at 45 minutes' notice. Campbell has denied the allegation.

Parliamentarians grilled Gilligan behind closed doors on Thursday and said the reporter had backed away from his allegations against Campbell. The reporter himself called the questioning an "ambush."

Three months after Saddam's overthrow, no weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq.

In a sign of the pressure Kelly faced this week, he told the committee he was unable to answer questions about just which journalists he had met in recent months because he was unable to get home to consult his diaries.

"At the moment I am pursued by the press and I do not have access to my home," he said.

London - Reuters


Police search meeting place of group believed linked to Kaplan


Police seized documents and computers during a raid on a building they believe was being used as a meeting point for members of a banned radical Islamic group linked to a Turkish militant, state authorities said Thursday.

Prosecutors in the western city of Cologne ordered 32 police officers to search a building on the city's outskirts on suspicion it was being used by individuals seeking to revive the Caliphate State group, run by Muhammed Metin Kaplan, that was banned last December.

"There is a suspicion this site was being used as a new headquarters of the banned Caliphate State," said Fritz Behrens, the top security official for North Rhine-Westphalia state. He added if the group were reorganizing, prosecutors could bring charges against those involved.

"The raid should make it crystal clear to the enemies of the state that security officials still have an eye on them," Behrens added.

Kaplan was released from a Duesseldorf prison in May, after a Duesseldorf court ruled against extraditing him to Turkey, where he is suspected of masterminding a failed plot in October 1998 to crash a plane laden with explosives into the mausoleum of the modern republic's founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. On the same day, Turkish officials say, Kaplan planned a violent occupation of Istanbul's Fatih mosque

The cleric he had been serving a four-year sentence for incitement in the killing of a rival cleric in Berlin in 1997. His sentence ended in March, but he remained in custody pending the extradition ruling.

Frankfurt - The Associated Press


Diana's former lover angers UK with new boasts
'Desert Rat' Hewitt makes crude comments about Diana and his success with other women in the documentary, to be broadcast in Britain on July 24


Jane Wardell
Princess Diana's former lover, despised in Britain for revealing intimate details of their affair, has stirred up more revulsion -- and fascination -- by boasting the princess was good in bed and allowing excerpts from her private letters to be read on a television documentary.

Tabloid newspapers mingled denunciations of James Hewitt with generous excerpts of his boasting.

Hewitt, long nicknamed the "Desert Rat," was followed by a Channel 4 television crew on a trip to the United States this year as he tried to sell the letters Diana wrote to him when he served as a tank commander in the 1991 Gulf War.

He is reportedly seeking US$16 million for the missives.

In the documentary, "James Hewitt: Confessions of a Cad," the paunchy, 45-year-old ex-army major listens as his lawyer, Michael Coleman, reads extracts of the letters. Coleman previously said Hewitt would only sell the 64 letters on condition they were not made public.

In one, Diana writes: "Boy, oh boy, does the Earth shake when I get a letter from my desert friend, screams of delight, tears, you name it. Demented female on the loose, that's for sure."

In another, she tells Hewitt: "So, there are 30,000 ladies in the gulf. That should keep you busy, my friend. Variety is the essence, I'm told."

Hewitt also makes crude comments about Diana and his success with other women in the documentary, to be broadcast in Britain on July 24.

He suggests Prince Charles should have been grateful for his five-year affair with Diana as Charles conducted his own with Camilla Parker Bowles. Hewitt also boasts that his father and grandfather both had an eye for women, "so I reckon it runs in the blood."

"I never wanted to be a cad but I guess I am, so if you're handed a bunch of lemons, make some lemon juice," he adds.

Newspapers endorsed his low self-assessment Thursday.

"Cad. Rat. Slimeball. Disgrace. Snake. ... None of these words comes even close to summing up this disgusting creature," Diana's former butler and confidant, Paul Burrell, wrote in his column in the Daily Mirror newspaper.

A Daily Mail headline denounced Hewitt as "overweight, seedy and reduced to playing the gigolo with older women."

The Sun dressed up a newsman in a rat costume to give Hewitt a "taste of his own medicine" as the former cavalry officer left his London home.

The affair between Hewitt and Diana began when he gave her riding lessons, but it had soured by the time he cooperated in a 1994 book about the liaison, "Princess in Love."

In a now-famous 1995 Panorama interview given two years before her death at age 36 in a Paris car crash, Diana said she had "adored him" but he had let her down.

Hewitt left the Life Guards division of the army 10 years ago and since then has made considerable income from "Princess in Love," speaking engagements and other activities. He is suing Fox News for more than US$1 million for allegedly breaking a deal to hire him as a war correspondent in Iraq.

At one point in the Channel 4 documentary, Hewitt talks to his interviewers from a bubble bath and at another appears to be drunk.

Asked how many lovers he has in a year, he boasts -- apparently jokingly -- that there were more than the number of runs the England cricket team scores in a year, which usually is over 1,000.

Another person tired of Hewitt's boasts is former girlfriend Emma Stewardson.

"Everybody wishes that he would just go away - the royal family, the whole population of the country, me, my family," The Sun quoted her as saying. "For heaven's sake, shut up."

London - The Associated Press


Tight clothes out at Indonesia Islamic colleges


Curves are out at several Islamic universities in Indonesia, which have shut the door on female students wearing tight jeans and body-hugging shirts.

The State Institute of Islamic Studies in Indonesia's second-largest city Surabaya said the dress code banning tight attire was introduced this week after complaints.

"We will have staff watching at our entrances and students who don't wear proper clothes can't enter the campus," deputy rector Hamid Syarif told Reuters on Friday.

The rules did not apply to male students, who were instead discouraged from wearing T-shirts and torn jeans, Syarif said.

Jakarta's Islamic State University has introduced the fashion code because it wants to stop students blending traditional and modern styles in the world's most populous Muslim nation.

Indonesians have long followed a moderate version of Islam, although an emphasis on Muslim practices and identity with Islamic traditions has gathered pace in recent years.

"Even if the students wear a jilbab (headscarf) they also wear tight clothes that show off their body shape and this is not how it is supposed to be," said Nurul Jamal, head of the university's student affairs division.

He said male students were allowed to wear jeans but forbidden to grow hair past their shoulders.

Jakarta - Reuters


Philippines, Muslim rebels agree on cease-fire
Manila has been wary of the rebel group's cease-fire declaration, saying it might serve as a window for fresh attacks against the government


The Philippines on Friday said it agreed on a mutual cease-fire of hostilities with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), paving the way for the resumption of peace talks to end a decades-old Muslim rebellion.

Warrants of arrest against the members and leaders of the MILF -- the largest group fighting for an Islamic homeland in the south of the overwhelmingly Catholic country -- have also been suspended by the court, a presidential palace statement said.

Safe conduct passes valid for 90 days will be issued to nine key members of the rebel group, as well as to MILF Chairman Hashim Salamat, to allow them to travel to Malaysia where the talks are to be held possibly in the next few days as previously indicated by government officials.

"Step by step, we are overcoming the obstacles to the resumption of peace talks under conditions of stability on the ground," President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said in a statement.

The government said it had agreed on a mutual cessation of hostilities with the MILF, with the military ordered to downgrade its operations from "punitive operations to active defense."

The MILF had declared a three-week unilateral cease-fire in early June. Even after the period lapsed, the MILF has refrained from actively attacking troops in hopes that Manila would reciprocate.

But the Philippines has been wary of the rebel group's cease-fire declaration, saying it might serve as a window for fresh attacks against the government.

An attempt to hold Malaysian-brokered peace talks in May was called off after the suspected members of the rebel group carried out attacks in two remote towns in the southern Mindanao region that left over 50 people dead.

Four key leaders as well as other members of the MILF are wanted in connection with bomb attacks that killed 38 people at an airport and a ferry terminal in southern Davao City in March and April this year.

The military has also accused the MILF of having ties with Jemaah Islamiah, a militant group seeking a pan-Islamic state across parts of Southeast Asia.

But the MILF has denied having links to Jemaah Islamiah or being involved in a string of bombings in the south in recent months.

More than 120,000 people, mostly civilians, have died in the Muslim separatist war which erupted in 1972.

Manila - Reuters


Report: Israel may free jailed Islamic militants
PM Abbas and Sharon to meet on Sunday, with Abbas stressing the need for more prisoner releases and for lifting of travel restrictions on Arafat
Despite the relative lull in fighting, progress on the road map, being pushed strongly by the United States, has stalled over what the next step should be.


Jason Keyser
Israel may release a few dozen jailed Islamic militants along with several hundred other Palestinian prisoners, a move that could give a critical boost to lagging peace efforts, an Israeli newspaper reported on Friday.

Palestinian officials said Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas would stress the importance of prisoner releases when he meets on Sunday with Israeli premier Ariel Sharon.

The release of prisoners is not directly called for in the internationally backed "road map" for Mideast peace, but it has become the first big sticking point for the plan, which aims to end nearly three years of fighting, settle the generations-old conflict and create a Palestinian state by 2005.

The Palestinians want Israel to release thousands of prisoners, but Israel has so far agreed to free only a few hundred, and previously has said it will not consider Hamas or Islamic Jihad militants for release.

A change in that position could ease militants' demands and bolster street support for Abbas, who has been criticized by his own people for not being tough enough in renewed talks with the Israelis.

Among a list of 400 prisoners Israel is considering releasing are as many as 60 from Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which have dispatched scores of suicide bombers and gunmen to attack Israelis, the Haaretz newspaper reported.

An adviser to Sharon said the government seemed to be moving in that direction, but he stopped short of confirming the report.

"What you see in the press may give an indication of the direction things are taking, but there's nothing definite," said the adviser, Zalman Shoval. He added that a decision on the prisoner release would likely be made before Sharon visits Washington on July 29.

If Israel does decide to release members of the two main Islamic militant groups, Shoval said, they would be from among those Palestinians held in detention without charge or trial, not those who've been convicted of involvement in terrorist attacks. Those convicted of less direct roles in violence could also be freed, Shoval said.

Hamas -- which declared a temporary cease-fire last month along with Islamic Jihad and Yasser Arafat's Fatah faction -- wants all prisoners freed. The militants have warned their truce will collapse unless Israel complies.

Hamas official Ismail Abu Shanab said priority for release should go to those serving out longer prison sentences, not to those held in detention, and he said he hoped all prisoners would be released before the three-month cease-fire expires.

"I'm afraid that the Israelis will lose the chance which is now in hand," Abu Shanab said.

Israel is holding more than 7,700 Palestinians in custody, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross. Of those, nearly 1,000 are held without charges or trial, on the grounds they pose a security risk.

A newspaper poll published on Friday showed half of Israelis approved of freeing Palestinian prisoners who hadn't been directly involved in attacks. But only 40 percent said they supported releasing members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

The New Wave survey in the Maariv newspaper questioned 600 adults this week and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Meanwhile, in the West Bank on Friday, Israeli soldiers used explosives to blow up two homes belonging to the families of two Palestinians arrested this week for allegedly kidnapping an Israeli taxi driver.

The driver was snatched from his cab at knifepoint last Friday and held for four days, mostly in a 10 meter (30 foot) deep cellar pit. Israeli commandos rescued him before dawn on Wednesday and arrested five captors.

Just outside the West Bank town of Ramallah, troops destroyed the family homes of the two Palestinians thought to have led the kidnapping, the military said.

A relative of one of the men stood among broken concrete and mangled furniture, screaming: "They made us suffer too much. Oh my God. Where shall we stay, on the streets?

"This oppression is too much," she said.

Israel's army routinely destroys homes belonging to the families of suicide bombers and others involved in attacks, a policy intended to deter other would-be attackers.

Violence has markedly decreased since militant groups declared their cease-fire on June 29 and Israeli troops pulled back from parts of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank town of Bethlehem.

None of the cab driver's kidnappers was linked to the main militant groups.

Despite the relative lull in fighting, progress on the road map, being pushed strongly by the United States, has stalled over what the next step should be.

In talks with U.S. President George W. Bush set for July 25 in Washington, Palestinian premier Abbas will push for Israel to dismantle more Jewish settlement outposts built in Palestinian areas without Israeli government authorization. The Palestinians also want further Israeli troop withdrawals.

The Israelis want the Palestinians to disarm militants, something Abbas has said he prefers to do through negotiations rather than confrontation.

Palestinian Information Minister Nabil Amr said Friday that Abbas and Sharon would meet Sunday, with Abbas stressing the need for more prisoner releases and for lifting of travel restrictions on Arafat. Israeli officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

Sharon is to travel to Washington on June 29, shortly after Abbas' visit. Amr said the two men would not meet in Washington or hold joint talks with President Bush.

Jerusalem - The Associated Press


EU: Tattooing inks may be poisonous


Fans of tattooing are putting poisonous chemicals into their skin because of widespread ignorance about the substances used in tattooing dyes, the European Commission warned.

"Would you inject car paint into your skin?", the Commission asked in a statement accompanying its report on the health risks of tattooing and body-piercing.

It said most chemicals used in tattoos were industrial pigments originally used for other purposes, such as automobile paints or writing inks, and there was little or no safety data to support their use in tattoos.

In addition, laws demanding tattoo artists use gloves and sterile needles did not include rules about the dyes, meaning they could be impure and dirty without breaking the law.

The report said that as well as the risk of catching diseases such as HIV, hepatitis, or bacterial infections from dirty needles, tattooing could cause skin cancer, psoriasis, toxic shock syndrome or even behavioural changes.

It said two deaths caused by tattooing or body-piercing had been reported in Europe since the end of 2002.

The research published on Thursday was the first part of a drive to make the practices safer, a spokesman said.

Having identified the potential health risks, the Commission plans to find out more about the tattooing and body-piercing industries before recommending stronger safety laws.

"If people want to tattoo or pierce their bodies, we would like them to do so with proper health and safety guarantees," European Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin said.

Brussels - Reuters


Court rejects appeal by Fortuyn's killer


Appeals judges upheld an 18-year jail sentence on Friday for an animal rights activist who murdered Dutch populist politician Pim Fortuyn last year, saying his mental disorder had no bearing on his crime.

Volkert van der Graaf, 34, was sentenced in April for shooting the controversial Fortuyn just days before a May 2002 general election that swept the politician's untried party into a short-lived government.

The appeals judges said that Van der Graaf suffered from a "compulsive obsessive disorder" but that this did not diminish his responsibility.

"He shot the victim without being affected by any disorder that could be proven pathologically," presiding judge Jeroen Chorus said.

The 54-year-old Fortuyn's point-blank shooting outside a radio station near Amsterdam was the Netherlands' first political assassination in more than three centuries.

Supporters of the slain politician, waiting outside the special high-security court in an Amsterdam suburb, whistled and shouted obscenities at a smiling Van der Graaf as police took him out after the verdict.

Both prosecution and defense had appealed the original sentence. The public prosecutor called for life imprisonment, while Van der Graaf's lawyers argued the sentence took insufficient account of his pre-trial detention conditions and negative comments by politicians before the trial.

Van der Graaf confessed to the crime, telling the court he viewed the outspoken, anti-immigration politician Fortuyn as a danger to democracy.

Before his trial, Van der Graaf was observed at the Pieter Baan psychiatric clinic in the city of Utrecht. Experts there pronounced him an obsessive-compulsive but said this had no bearing on the crime, for which he could be held accountable.

At the appeal, judges called new witnesses after media reports quoted psychiatrists as saying Van der Graaf could be suffering from a form of autism called Asperger syndrome.

Asperger is a disorder that causes deficiencies in social and communication skills and obsessive interests.

Pieter Baan officials told the appeals judges they did not believe Van der Graaf had Asperger. Other psychiatric experts called to testify, who had not met Van der Graaf but based their opinions on reports of his behavior, challenged that view.

But the judges said in the appeals ruling that Van der Graaf did not suffer from autism.

A spokeswoman said the prosecution was considering making a further appeal at the High Court in the Hague, the highest legal body, because it still wants a stiffer sentence.

Amsterdam - Reuters


Besieged HK leader looks to China for support
Reeling from a loss of public confidence in his government, Tung, who visits Beijing today, needs fresh endorsement and support from his political masters, who command far more respect in Hong Kong than he does


Hong Kong leader Tung Chee-hwa, besieged by calls to resign, will be seeking crucial backing when he visits Chinese leaders who have been alarmed by massive protests and calls for greater democracy in the city.

Reeling from a loss of public confidence in his government, Tung, who visits Beijing today, needs fresh endorsement and support from his political masters, who command far more respect in Hong Kong than he does, analysts said.

"Most people in Hong Kong, even the elite, now hold the consensus that he is unfit to govern. So he really needs the open support of Beijing. It holds the trump card," said Li Pang-kwong, a politics lecturer at Lingnan University.

Tung is expected to meet President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao in Beijing to discuss Hong Kong's worst political crisis in years and his plans to revive the sickly economy.

He is also expected to seek China's blessings for the new security and financial secretaries after two of his top ministers resigned, adding to political uncertainty in the city.

Widely seen as stubborn and distant, Tung faces growing calls to quit over the government's plan to enact a controversial anti-subversion law, a string of policy blunders, the recent SARS outbreak and its failure to revive the sickly economy.

Hundreds of thousands of people took part in a series of protests in recent weeks to express their rage, shocking Beijing. It is the biggest political crisis in years in Hong Kong, the former British colony handed back to China in 1997.

Adding to Tung's woes, the government said on Thursday unemployment had surged to a record 8.6 percent and economists expect more people will lose their jobs in coming months.

On Wednesday, Security Secretary Regina Ip and Financial Secretary Antony Leung announced their resignations, raising more questions about the administration's ability to govern one of the world's top financial centers.

China leaders to reaffirm support
China's leaders are expected to reaffirm support for the Hong Kong government, but possibly not Tung himself, as a tacit acknowledgement that he has not done a good enough job, analysts said.

Privately, he could face a dressing down for allowing public unrest to fester to the point where the survival of the government has been threatened.

"I think Beijing was caught off guard. There's certainly going to be a certain amount of asking Tung how he miscalculated," said a western diplomat in mainland China.

Despite widespread anger with Tung's China-backed administration, public opinion of Chinese leaders in Hong Kong remains high. Wen received a rousing welcome when he visited the city for the sixth anniversary of Hong Kong's 1997 return to China.

Though many in Hong Kong worry China could meddle in its affairs and erode basic rights, they are also acutely aware that China and its booming economy offer Hong Kong a chance for economic salvation after years of socially corrosive stagnation.

Tung said on Thursday he would not resign and promised a new era of openness, with a new round of public consultation to be held on the subversion bill.

"If Tung steps down the Communist Party will be yielding to the democrats and a sign they did not manage Hong Kong well," said an analyst in mainland China who follows Hong Kong affairs.

But some political observers in Hong Kong say his days in power may be numbered.

"After the passage of the bill, they may let him go, giving health reasons," said a senior government official here.

Hong Kong newspapers were largely dismissive on Friday of Tung's pledge to be more responsive, with some saying nothing short of universal suffrage would be needed to defuse the crisis.

"Only a directly elected chief executive will understand the principle that the citizens are the real masters, understand that it is the right of the people to make decisions, and really listen to the wishes of the people," the Apple Daily said.

Hong Kong - Reuters


Hopes rise for N. Korea talks despite clash
A day after the two Koreas traded machinegun fire across their heavily armed border, South Korea's focus turns to Chinese efforts to persuade communist North Korea to abandon its nuclear ambitions and end a crisis that erupted nine months ago


Prospects for fresh talks about ending North Korea's suspected nuclear program looked brighter on Friday after the United States and South Korea said it saw encouraging signs in a Chinese diplomatic initiative.

A day after the two Koreas traded machinegun fire across their heavily armed border, South Korea's focus turned to Chinese efforts to persuade communist North Korea to abandon its nuclear ambitions and end a crisis that erupted nine months ago.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Australian Prime Minister John Howard, key allies of U.S. President George W. Bush, are also visiting the region to add urgency to the latest flurry of diplomatic activity.

Howard emerged from talks with South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun on Friday saying China's efforts to coax its old ally North Korea to the negotiating table were "promising." He said Roh "believes that North Koreans in the end will act rationally."

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Dai Bingguo is to brief U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell in Washington on Friday on his meeting last weekend with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.

Dai is believed to be carrying a letter from Chinese President Hu Jintao to President Bush, a senior Bush administration official said.

South Korean diplomats in Beijing briefed by Dai were quoted anonymously in the Seoul media as saying they were told Pyongyang was ready to follow up the three-way talks held in April between U.S., North Korean and Chinese officials in Beijing.

Washington has said it will keep pressing for five-way talks that include South Korea and Japan, the countries most directly threatened by a nuclear-armed North Korea, but it has not excluded three-way discussions.

"There is very active diplomacy that is pointing in the direction of getting multilateral discussions started again, but (I'm) not going to count the chickens before they're hatched," a senior State Department official told reporters.

Nuclear-tipped missiles
Chinese intelligence services have concluded in recent weeks that North Korea is producing enough weapons-grade plutonium and has all the components needed to make nuclear-tipped missiles, the Asian Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.

That finding "is touching off urgent Chinese diplomacy to defuse Pyongyang's standoff with the U.S.," the Journal said in its front-page report from Beijing.

Howard said he was encouraged by China's active role.

"China is a country more than any other that can influence North Korea and that is demonstrated by history," he said. China fought on North Korea's side against the U.S.-backed South in the 1950-53 Korean War and now provides vital food and energy.

Howard said he and Roh agreed that "form should not take precedence over substance" when it comes to who joins the talks.

Howard backs U.S. initiatives to curb North Korean trafficking in drugs, counterfeit currency and missile parts. He said Roh welcomed the proposed interdiction policy.

Blair, who was due in Tokyo on Friday in the latest leg of his tour of the United States and Asia, will meet Roh on Sunday.

South Korea got a fresh reminder of the misery in North Korea on Friday when a 37-year-old man walked across the mine-infested border to the South, saying he wanted to escape a difficult life in the North, the South Korean Defence Ministry said.

Defections across the heavily guarded frontier are rare. Most defectors flee to China before settling in a third country.

North Korea remained silent on Friday on the previous day's shooting incident. The South's army said its troops returned fire after the North fired on an observation post in the Demilitarized Zone, the divided peninsula's fortified frontier.

The North has in the past raised tensions before climbing down for a compromise or concession. The nuclear crisis erupted last October when U.S. officials said Pyongyang admitted it had a covert atomic weapons program.

Seoul - Reuters


NATO chief joins US officials in urging Congress to drop 'buy American' in American defense bill


Paul Geitner
NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson joined senior U.S. officials on Friday in urging Congress to ditch a bill that would force the Pentagon to "buy American" on more defense items, saying it would increase costs and weaken trans-Atlantic ties.

At a conference on defense industry cooperation, Robertson welcomed U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's July 8 warning that he would urge a presidential veto if the provision is not removed from the 2004 defense authorization bill.

"More protectionism is not the answer," Robertson said. "It brings huge associated penalties with it, not only in costs, but in political unity."

The measure, designed to protect the U.S. defense industry, is backed by Rep. Duncan Hunter, a California Republican who chairs the House Armed Services Committee. But the Pentagon argues it would hurt U.S. national security in the long run by limiting international partnerships.

U.S. Deputy Under-Secretary of Defense Lisa Bronson told the conference that the bill, if it became law, would probably force the Pentagon to forgo US$4.5 billion already committed by European and other partners for the next-generation Joint Strike Fighter.

Robertson noted that especially when it comes to defense matters, "national interests tend to dominate over good constructive common sense."

But, he added, "as high-tech becomes more and more expensive, people cannot afford to be nationalistic. We won't be able to harness the technological advancements to deal with the future threats both the U.S. and the European Union have identified."

The House legislation would require that 65 percent of components in items purchased by the Pentagon be made in America, compared to 50 percent under current law. The Senate version of the 2004 defense authorization bill does not contain the same restrictions. A House-Senate conference is expected to convene this summer to work out differences.

Conference participants also complained about other hurdles to increased trans-Atlantic defense cooperation, including "outmoded" technology transfer controls and a slow approvals process for export licenses of sensitive U.S. technology.

But Bronson said lack of investment by European governments, rather than difficulties getting access to U.S. technology, was the main reason for the "capabilities gap" in such key areas as strategic lift, communications, aerial refueling and defense against nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.

Robertson noted that although NATO in principle has around 250 combat brigades committed to it, the number of non-U.S. brigades actually available at any one time is only around 16, or some 80,000 soldiers.

"We need more defense investment, and we need much more defense output," he said.

Brussels - The Associated Press


No sex please, California all tells its professors


The practice may be as old as the Greek philosopher Socrates, but California told its professors to keep their pants on and abstain from sex with their students.

The University of California's Board of Regents voted to ban romantic or sexual relationships between a student and faculty member who might be in a position to grade that student.

"A university-wide policy ensures that there will be a clear and consistent standard of behavior expected on every campus," said Gayle Binion, the University Senate chair who helped draft the rules.

"The very integrity of the university's educational mission is dependent on the accountability of the faculty member as a mentor, educator and evaluator."

The University of California system, whose ten campuses include the famously liberal Berkeley, a hotbed of the 1960s sexual revolution, follows Yale, the University of Michigan, the College of William & Mary and other U.S. universities in banning consensual relationships between students and faculty.

One outspoken critic of Thursday's decision was Professor Barry Dank of California State University at Long Beach, who dated and later married one of his students.

"It's an abuse of power by university administration. It is a form of big brotherism," the sociology professor said in an interview. "Consensual relationships are no one's business but the parties involved in it."

He cited the film "A Beautiful Mind", which told the story of Professor John Nash and a student who became his wife as an an example of public acceptance of such relationships.

Supporters of the new rules say they prevent abuses of the the powers and influence faculty have over students.

The debate over faculty-student relationships intensified last year when the dean of the Berkeley Law [snip - maximum size exceeded]

-- Alexander
-- signature .

Follow Ups:

Post a Followup

E-Mail: ( default )
Optional Link ( default )
Optional Image Link ( default )

This board is powered by the Mr. Fong Device from Cyberarmy.com