As an Indian delegation arrives in Afghanistan to try to negotiate an end to a hijacking standoff, Afghan officials say they are losing patience. An official with the ruling Taliban militia says that if Indian negotiators can’t reach an agreement with the hijackers, his government will use force to make the plane leave. Some 160 people on the plane have been held since Friday. India agreed to send the negotiation team earlier today after the hijackers threatened to begin killing passengers. The Taliban officials say they were prepared to storm the plane had the hijackers made good on their threat.
Ehud Barak no longer has a majority of Israel’s parliament backing his coalition government. The ultra-Orthodox Shas party has decided to bolt Barak’s government. The party spokesperson says the move is because of the differences over education and welfare issues. It comes as Barak prepares for peace negotiations with both Syria and the Palestinians. It means he’ll go into the negotiations with a minority in parliament, making prospects of gaining lawmakers’ support for any deal more problematic.
At least 38 people have died in fresh bloodshed in the ravaged eastern Indonesian island of Ambon, ignoring government efforts to bring peace to a region once admired for its religious tolerance. The official Antara news agency said today the victims were from two days of clashes, which broke out after a 14-year-old Muslim boy was hit by a vehicle driven by a Christian in Ambon city.
A federal judge in New Mexico will consider today whether it’s proper to keep Wen Ho Lee in jail. The fired Los Alamos scientist is charged with 59 counts under the Atomic Energy and Espionage Acts. The charges allege he transferred classified material from secure to unsecure computers and to computer tapes. The bond hearing is scheduled today and tomorrow before U.S. District Judge James Parker in Albuquerque. Parker will review a ruling that orders Lee to be held without bond until his trial. That could be up to a year away. Earlier this month, the federal magistrate ruled that releasing Lee on bail would pose a clear and present danger to the national security of the United States. Lee faces life in prison, if convicted.
A Cambodian lawyer representing the former Khmer Rouge military leader Ta Mok says if his client is charged with genocide, he’ll demand that a series of former world leaders give evidence about their support for the guerrilla movement. The lawyer, Benson Samay, said he would subpoena Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, Henry Kissinger and three former United Nations secretary-generals to testify on their role in allowing the Khmer Rouge to come to power in 1975 and in supporting it throughout its bloody rule, during which between one and two million Cambodians were killed or starved to death.
This news from Havana: In the United States, the images of Elián González being showered with Christmas toys are proof of generosity and plenty; in Cuba, those same images are offered as proof of his cynical exploitation and the crass materialism of Fidel Castro’s enemies in America. The six-year-old Cuban boy, found clinging to an inner tube off Florida last month after a harrowing voyage in which he lost his mother, has become Castro’s political poster child. Cuba’s aging leader has launched a campaign of well-attended rallies, televised appearances and advertisements that have rallied his countrymen and galvanized many younger Cubans throughout the country.
This news from the Ivory Coast: Life appears to be returning to normal in Ivory Coast following last week’s largely bloodless coup. French officials say Ivory Coast’s ousted president left the country yesterday. He went to Togo, but officials say he’ll likely leave in a few days for a destination that has yet to be announced. Meantime, people in the commercial capital of Abidjan are busily putting their lives back together after three days of rioting. There’s been no mass opposition to the military junta ruling the West African nation. The junta’s leader, General Robert Guéï, promises to restore democracy, he says, after a transition period. And the junta says it will draft a new constitution.
And Angola said today that its troops had captured 200 soldiers of the rebel UNITA movement after gaining control of the key town of Jamba, a UNITA base in the country’s southeast. The state newspaper, Jornal de Angola, said the 200 soldiers surrendered their weapons to government troops after the capture of Jamba.
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