- The Washington Times - Friday, December 15, 2000

Yemen chief says role of bin Laden not clear

SAN'A, Yemen Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh said yesterday it was possible Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden was involved in the apparent suicide bombing of the U.S. Navy destroyer USS Cole in Aden in which 17 U.S. sailors were killed.

But he said investigations with six suspects in the Oct. 12 attack so far had not clearly identified who was behind the explosion that tore a big hole in the side of one of the most advanced U.S. warships.

"So far, we are not blaming a specific party in the Cole bombing. But the group which carried out the attack and those now under interrogation are elements who were in Afghanistan; therefore it is possible to link them with bin Laden," he said at the presidential palace.

Polisario frees 201 long-held Moroccans

TINDOUF, Algeria The Algeria-backed Polisario Front yesterday released 201 Moroccan soldiers captured about 25 years ago at the start of its guerrilla war with Morocco over the Western Sahara territory.

They were handed over to representatives of the Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) at Tindouf, in southwestern Algeria.

The men, mostly in their 50s and the oldest age 75 years, were flown aboard an ICRC-chartered plane to the Inezgane military base near the southern Moroccan city of Agadir and handed over to Moroccan authorities.

Kabila to release political prisoners

NEW YORK Congo President Laurent Kabila has decided to release all political prisoners ahead of a meeting next week in the Gabonese capital of Libreville intended to help restore democracy in the vast Central African nation, his foreign minister announced yesterday.

Mr. Kabila "has taken the decision to release all prisoners of opinion in order to make it possible for all political factions to meet in this gathering in Libreville," Foreign Minister Leonard She Okitundu told the U.N. Security Council.

Rwandese vow to help war crimes probers

ARUSHA, Tanzania The Rwandese government said yesterday it would cooperate with investigations by the U.N. court trying crimes of genocide into reputed atrocities committed by soldiers of the Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF).

"As for cooperating with the tribunal, we are obliged by international law to do so" Rwandan Prosecutor General Gerald Gahima told the independent Hirondelle news agency by telephone.

"The tribunal is an organ set up by the [U.N.] Security Council. Rwanda will definitely cooperate with it," he added.

Ukraine to close Chernobyl nuke plant

KIEV, Ukraine Ukraine lays to rest the world's most powerful symbol of the dangers of nuclear power today when engineers at the Chernobyl power station depress a button marked BAZ "rapid emergency defense" for the final time.

The button will slowly drop control rods into Chernobyl's last functioning reactor and herald the start of a long process of decommissioning the plant that caused the world's worst nuclear accident in 1986.

Fourteen years after the accident, the concrete-entombed, burned-out and highly radioactive remains of Reactor Number Four, which exploded after an experiment, loom over a small monument to 30 firemen who died fighting its flames.

Serbs enforce blockade near Kosovo border

BUJANOVAC, Yugoslavia Thousands of angry Serbs stood vigil at blockaded roads near the Kosovo border yesterday, demanding a meeting with Yugoslavia's president and the ouster of militant ethnic Albanians from the region.

Independence-minded Albanians took control of strategic points in the 3-mile-wide demilitarized zone that separates Kosovo from the rest of Serbia nearly a month ago. Pressure is rising on President Vojislav Kostunica to use force against the rebels.

Several thousand Serbs stayed through the night near parked trucks, garbage containers and burning tires on roads to Bujanovac. The protesters, who put up the blockades Wednesday, also shut down the rail line and main roads linking Serbia with Macedonia and Greece to the south.

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