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Some news you may have missed yesterday

US will construct new missile interceptor silos in June

(East Day) A Pentagon official informed the media yesterday that the US will begin construction of new anti-missile silos in Alaska on June 14, the first day the government will be freed from the bonds of the 1972 ABM treaty. Lt. General Ronald Kadish said in an interview that the US will also explore setting up additional radar systems which would have been in violation of the 1972 treaty. Kadish said he has no doubt that the United States one day will be threatened with a missile attack. "It's only a matter of time," he said.

US-Russia arms reduction deal will have control mechanism based on START- I Treaty
(Interfax) - The future Russian-American agreement on reducing strategic offensive weapons envisions a control mechanism based on the principles of the START-1 treaty, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov stated at a NATO meeting Reykjavik. The agreement will emphasize that "the START-1 treaty, which provides for a whole complex of measures, including control over cuts, remains in force," Ivanov said. In a related story, the START II treaty expires on June 14, 2002. Though START II has never been ratified by the US, the rejection of the ABM treaty of 1972 by the Americans late last year will result in Russia denouncing all principles of START II after June 14. START II was designed to further limit ballistic missiles between the US and Russia.

Taiwan air force practices retaliatory strike against China

(AFP) Following an earlier missile test last week, Taiwan held a mock exercise on Tuesday that simulated an attack by Chinese forces. Held in eastern Taiwan, the simulation was based on the premise that military airports and installations were destroyed by intensive Chinese missile strikes and that surviving units would would regroup in the east at Chiashan airbase, a huge underground complex designed to shelter dozens of aircraft. Continued military exercises are seen by many as a signal to China that Taiwan is prepared in the event of an attack.

Russia claims Middle East neighbors spying for Chechens

(World Tribune) Russian intelligence officials have suggested that Chechen allies including Jordan, Iran and Saudi Arabia have sent agents to spy on Moscow, the World Tribune reported Tuesday. "Cases have been discovered where Chechen extremists were supported by people working for the intelligence services of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iran and Pakistan", Col. Gen. Oleg Syromolotov, deputy Federal Security Service, said. According to reports, Russian counter-intelligence has revealed hundreds of foreign agents employed by foreign secret service offices.

Saudi Crown Prince tells Bush, "world's people resent you"

(UPI) UPI reported Tuesday that during the recent meeting between President George Bush and Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah, Bush acknowledged the Saudi people resentment towards him, as the Saudi Crown Prince told him so did the rest of the world's peoples. According to an Arab daily, Bush had told Abdullah that he knew the Sudai people had "grudges" against him, whereby the Crown Prince corrected him by saying that, "all the peoples of the world resent you.", at which point Bush laughingly replied, "You might be right." The crown prince, who is the de-facto ruler of the oil-rich Saudi Kingdom, quoted Bush as saying the 60-year-old Saudi-U.S. relationship cannot be changed by any administration because it is a solid and strategic one.

US official notes high "risk of war" between India, Pakistan

(PTI) As reported by NewsCap last week and confirmed today, a senior US administration official spoke of a high "risk of war" between India and Pakistan and that all efforts should be made by Washington to alleviate the current tensions between the governments of India and Pakistan. Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, Douglas Feith stated yesterday that, "We are focused intensely on this issue of India and Pakistan and the Kashmir problem and the dangers from the mobilisations that have taken place there, as there is a risk of war. You are talking about two countries with nuclear weapons, so the risks are very large. "We are focused on defusing these tensions. I think that the Governments of India and Pakistan have enormous interest in bringing the tensions down and the risks of war down. I think that President Musharraf knows that reining in the groups that are doing these cross-border attacks is something that is not in the interests of India alone".

No room for colonialism in 21st Century says UNs Kofi Annan

(People's Daily) UN Secretary General Kofi Annan stated on Tuesday "there should be no room for colonialism in the twenty-first century," and urged the administering powers to make appropriate arrangements for the sixteen remaining "non-self governing" territories in the world. At a seminar in the Pacific region, Annan stated that world powers must do their utmost, "to close this chapter of history once and for all". Since the adoption in 1960 of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, more than 80 million people have achieved self- government through independence, integration or free association.

Lebanon, Hizbullah fire on Israeli jets

(Lebanon Star) The disputed Shebaa farms region was the scene for alleged airspace incursions by Israeli jets for a second straight day Tuesday, drawing anti-aircraft fire from the Lebanese army and Hizbullah guerrillas. This came as Lebanon prepared to notify the United Nations of what it described as "new aggression" against the country's sovereignty. Israeli helicopter gunships have also been monitoring the Syrian Golan Heights area. Sich incursions have become more frequent in the last month as Hizbullah have launched several missile attacks against Israeli forces in the Shebaa Farms area. Foreign Minister Mahmoud Hammoud said that this amounted to, "provocation compounded with hundreds of others and an aggression on our sovereignty and independence." He added that, "we will notify the UN today of these provocations, violations and aggressions and urge it to shoulder its responsibilities of defending peace and security."

Rumsfeld defends Pakistan's "slowness" in pursuing Al-Qaeda, Taliban

(Hindustan Times) US Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld said on Tuesday that he did not "doubt for a minute" the presence of Taleban and Al Qaeda fighters in the tribal border regions of Pakistan, Islamabad's apparent "slowness" in pursuing them is not going to jeopradize the current American operations in the region. When asked why the Pakistani military was not acting more quickly, Rumsfeld acknowledged that Pakistan is a "sovereign nation" and that the US is "quite pleased" with the support it has received so far. However, Rumsfeld noted that, "progress is continuing. It is not something that is going to end. It will have to go on if we are to be successful."

Britain plans 'refugee villages' for asylum seekers

(Reuters) - In what is being seen as a controversial move, the current British administration has drafted plans for three "refugee villages" in rural England to try and rectify the problem of the thousands of asylum seekers many fear are overwhelming the nation's schools and hospitals. Under the proposal, three former military bases would be converted into facilities that would house 750 refugees each while their claims are being investigated - a process that can take months.
The ambitious scheme drew immediate fire from immigrant groups, with one saying the new centers risked becoming "ghetto camps."

Senior PA official says Fatah plans to limit Arafat's powers

(Ha'aretz) According to a report by Ha'aretz, the Fatah Party in Palestine is laying down the groundwork that would limit the powers of current Palestinian Chairman, Yasser Arafat. Also, according to an Arab daily, Al Hayat, the Fatah movement is completing a document that would set guidelines by which Arafat would remain as leader, but only to the extent that he is a political symbol and he would have to surrender most of his of all his real authority in Palestine. The move comes on the same day that Fatah attempted to harm the Plaestinian Authorities financial advisor.

Urgent funding needed to stop locusts in Tajikistan, Afghanistan

(Times of Central Asia) As reported by NewsCap last week, the Times of Central Asia has warned today that tens of thousands of hectares of farmland in Tajikistan would be destroyed this year by locusts unless international funding was made available immediately. NewsCap reported eariler, that Afghanistan will also suffer from a severe locust infestation this year. Already, the drought in the area, along with current operations in the war against terrorism has left much of the crops destroyed.

EU gives WTO ganctions list over U.S. steel tariffs

(Xinhua) The European Commission said Tuesday it had taken the formal step of notifying the World Trade Organization (WTO) of the sanctions list it would impose on United States goods in the dispute over recent steel duties imposed by the U.S. "The commission today formally notified these lists to the WTO in Geneva, within the May 17 deadline, in order to preserve its rights under the WTO," said the commission. The step of notifying the WTO is part of the procedure the EU executive must go through in order eventually to apply the sanctions. Goods targeted for sanctions in the EU lists include citrus fruits, textiles and some steel products.

International security force to stay in Afghanistan for "as long as it takes"

(AIP) Afghan interim leader Hamid Karzai visited the headquarters of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) on Tuesday morning, stating that, "It shows once again the things are done very very nicely by ISAf and we are happy," Karzai also said ISAF preparations are under way for security
arrangements for the Loya Jirga. When asked about the ISAF mandate, Karzai
stated, "I think ISAF mandate should be extended for as long as there is a need for it in Afghanistan. I cannot tell you right now as tohow long that need will be. It's all dependent on how quickly we can raise our own security forces, our own military forces."He said although he had suggested to the United Nations that the mandate of ISAF should be expanded to other parts of the country, but it seems to be difficult for ISAF to do so.

Zimbabwe vows crackdown on "subversive groups" and NGOs

(South Africa Mercury) Zimbabwe said it would begin cracking down on all non-government organizations (NGOs) involved in "subversive" actions, reports the Mercury (South Africa).Home Affairs Minister John Nkomo said the government was aware of"churches, NGOs and human rights groups that are actively involved in undermining the nation's internal security." Several human-rights groups in Zimbabwe have angered the government with allegations of abuses in the run-up to bitterly fought presidential polls in March. Some church leaders have also
criticized the government.

US army center drafts plans for new biolab in Hawaii

(Honolulu Advertiser) The U.S. Army's Tripler Medical Center in Honolulu is moving ahead with plans for a biomedical research center to update its labs, attract research grants and provide the state with greater capabilities to test for and safely contain biological agents, reports the Honolulu Advertiser. The $41 million, 59,000-square-foot lab would have a "biosafety level 3" rating, allowing work on some of the most hazardous agents in the world. Construction is anticipated in 2004 or 2005, while site preparation for a smaller, $1.7 million modular lab attached to the hospital is expected to begin in June.

U.S. steps up secret meetings with Iraqi opposition

(China Post) Senior U.S. officials have been stepping up discussions with Iraqi opposition groups, including several newly prominent in U.S. thinking, as the Bush administration proceeds with plans for toppling Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, the China Post has reported. Most of these meetings have been happening with no public knowledge. For example, a US team including senior CIA officials met in a clandestine location in Germany last month with the leaders of two Kurdish political parties to discuss what role the exiled Kurds can play in any attempt to oust Saddam Hussein. However, critics are wary of the ability of dissedent groups to assist in any action Washington might take.

China launches US$12b tree-planting programme

(Straits Times) As reported by NewsCap late last week, China announced plans on Tuesday for a US$12-billion, 10-year effort to plant thousands of square kilometres of trees, in the hopes of halting years of environmental degradation and to stop the desertification of areas around Beijing. The Chinese government says that only 16 per cent of the country has trees, though foreign estimates say only a few per cent of China's land has its original forests, much of it in the far west. In the past, such projects initiated by the government have failed to halt the formation of a new desert which sits only 70km away from Beijing.

Russia developing new generation of anti-aircraft missiles

(ITAR-TASS) Russia is developing a new generation of light missiles designed to intercept enemy cruise missiles and aircraft, a Russian military newspaper reported on Tuesday. The Igla-S will carry more explosives than current similar weapons and will also have a new guidance system, the Voyenny Parad said, quoting the head of the KBM company that is developing it, Nikolay Gushchin. Designed for use against cruise missiles, planes amd helicopters, the Igla-S will also be cheaper and lighter than current interceptor missiles, Gushchin said.

China refuses to hand over North Korean asylum seekers

(Japan Today) In what is turning out to be quite a heated diplomatic exchange, China on Tuesday refused to hand over five North Korean asylum seekers seized last week by Chinese police from a Japanese Consulate in Shenyang and rejected Japan's demand for an apology, Japanese Embassy officials said. The results of a hasty Japanese investigation revealed that Tokyo did not give Chinese authorities permission to seize the five defectors, and Japan has reiterated its demands that the North Koreans be handed over to Japan. The 1961 Vienna convention on diplomatic relations stipulates the premises of diplomatic missions "shall be inviolable" and "the agents of the receiving state may not enter them, except with the consent of the head of the mission."

Argentina government gives up on bond plan

(Buenos Aires Herald) Argentinian President Eduardo Duhalde, after failing to reach an agreement with bankers to exchange billions of dollars in frozen deposits for bonds, said last night that, "the government has thousands and thousands of properties which it does not use. We have to study how we can compensate those savings with government assets.". This all but puts an end to plan that would have seen bankers receiving 10-12 billion dollars in government bonds to make up for losses. Angry depositors have protested almost daily against the proposed conversion of their frozen life savings into bonds.

Russia, Kazakhstan divide northern part of oil-rich Caspian

(The Mexico News) Since the collapse of the former Soviet Union in 1991, the legal status of the Caspian has been in limbo. However, yesterday Russia and Kazakhstan signed an agreement dividing the northern part of the resource-rich Caspian Sea, an accord both nations said was a big step toward defining ownership rights to the sea's plentiful oil and gas fields. The new agreement, which expands on a 1998 deal, comes weeks after a long-awaited summit failed to produce any breakthroughs on dividing the sea among the five countries that surround it.

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