- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 28, 2000

Russia approves zero-deficit budget

MOSCOW President Vladimir Putin signed Russia's 2001 federal budget yesterday the first zero-deficit budget passed in Russia since the 1991 Soviet collapse and one of the first passed before the beginning of a new fiscal year.

The budget is the first for Mr. Putin, who became president nearly a year ago. It envisions $40 billion in revenues and spending, well above last year's budget, which forecast revenues of about $28 billion.

Speedy trial sought for Estrada

MANILA Prosecutors said yesterday they may drop two of four charges against President Joseph Estrada to speed up his impeachment trial, which has battered the Philippines' economy and gripped the nation.

Prosecutors would sacrifice charges of violating the constitution and betrayal of public trust if they feel they can prove their case on corruption and bribery charges, said Prosecuting Congressman Eduardo Antonio Nachura.

A conviction on just one count on any of the four charges by two-thirds of the 22-member Senate would force Mr. Estrada from office.

Russia says arms sales to Iran are legal

TEHRAN Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev said yesterday that Moscow would not break international agreements by selling arms to Iran and insisted any deal would not "prejudice a third country."

His statement echoed an assurance he gave the United States earlier this month when he said Moscow would sell only defensive weapons to Iran.

U.S. concern over military ties between Moscow and Tehran rose recently when Russia decided to pull out of a secret 1995 pact in which it agreed not to sell conventional arms to Iran. Russia dropped the pact after details were reported in The Washington Times.

Weapons charges keep Mitterrand in jail

PARIS A son of the late French President Francois Mitterrand, jailed nearly a week on charges of illegal weapons sales to Africa, will spend at least another six days behind bars, his lawyers said yesterday.

A Paris appeals court that was expected to rule yesterday on a request for Jean-Christophe Mitterrand's release from La Sante Prison in Paris has delayed its decision until Tuesday.

"This measure is based on a judge's wish to keep the son of the former president of the Republic in prison," said Remy Wilner, one of Mr. Mitterrand's lawyers. Prosecutors have asked the court to keep Mr. Mitterrand in jail.

Mr. Mitterrand, 54, was placed under investigation last week for suspected complicity in arms trafficking and misuse of political power in a scheme that involved illicit deals to Angola.

Pope's assailant to remain imprisoned

ANKARA, Turkey A Turkish court has denied early release for the man who shot Pope John Paul II, a newspaper reported yesterday.

Mehmet Ali Agca, serving 10 years for the 1979 murder of a newspaper editor, does not qualify for early release under a new amnesty for prisoners, the court ruled, because his sentence had already been reduced under a previous amnesty, Hurriyet newspaper said.

The gunman's lawyer, Sevket Can Ozbay, could not immediately confirm the report but said he would appeal any decision not to grant Agca amnesty.

Movie star remarks trigger Nepal riots

KATMANDU, Nepal Protesters angry about purported anti-Nepal comments by South Asia's latest movie heartthrob rushed the streets of Nepal's capital yesterday, setting tires and trees ablaze and virtually shutting down the city.

A day after earlier rioting left four persons dead, public transportation was halted in Katmandu, and only police, firefighters and ambulances were allowed out on the smoke-filled streets to put out the tire and tree fires.

The rioting began when a rumor swept through southern Nepalese towns that Indian film star Hrithik Roshan had told an interviewer that he hated Nepal and its people. Mr. Roshan vehemently denied making such comments, and the only television network that has carried an extensive interview with the hugely popular star backed him up.

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