- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 24, 2000

Colombians fear aid will worsen conflict

BOGOTA, Colombia Opposition leaders in Colombia warned yesterday that a $1.3 billion U.S. aid package to counter drug trafficking will unleash an intensified campaign of rebel violence here.

Opposition leader Jaime Dussan, a fierce critic of U.S. financial assistance to Colombia's program to bring peace to the nation, warned the package could accelerate the 36-year civil war.

"When an empire decides to pour more fuel on the fire, knowing how delicate the human rights situation is, it's because it wants to take us to the point of no return," he said. "Who will be able to stop this war?"

His comments came after President Clinton, who is to make an official visit to Colombia on Aug. 30, yesterday signed a waiver that authorized the aid package even though Colombia has failed to meet the human rights conditions set by Congress.

Slovenian posts record in Danube swim

AGIGEA, Romania Martin Strel of Slovenia claimed a world distance swimming record yesterday as he became the first person to swim the length of the Danube River.

"In all, I swam 3,004 km (1,878 miles), which is a new world record, a new Guinness record," Mr. Strel, 45, said at a ceremony in the Romanian Black Sea port of Agigea where he ended his swim, dedicated to "friendship, clean water and a free Danube."

"For me, 58 days of swimming is enough this year," he added, saying he had lost 24 pounds since he plunged into the river in Germany's Black Forest on June 25.

Yugoslav roadblocks to Bosnia reported

PODGORICA, Yugoslavia The Yugoslav army has thrown up roadblocks on routes leading into Bosnia, stopping all vehicles and letting only pedestrians pass, Montenegrin state radio reported late yesterday.

The barricades have been erected on roads leading from northwest Montenegro, the junior state in the Yugoslav federation with Serbia, and southeast Bosnia, otherwise known as Republika Srpska the Bosnian Serb-run half of Bosnia.

It was not immediately possible to confirm the information.

Liberian official denies journalists tortured

MONROVIA, Liberia Justice Minister Eddington Varmah denied yesterday claims by the defense lawyer acting for the four foreign journalists charged with espionage that his clients were tortured.

Addressing a press conference in Monrovia yesterday evening, Mr. Varmah said he was taken aback by defense lawyer Varney Sherman's claims.

"Throughout the weekend no one reported any incident of harassment; counselor Sherman wrote us a letter commending and thanking us for the cooperation up to this time."

Missile-shield verdict still weeks away

The State Department says a decision on a controversial national missile shield is still a "few weeks" away, extending a possible seven-day time-frame for the move described earlier by a senior American official.

Spokesman Richard Boucher said he had not seen the comments made Monday by Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs, John Holum, but reiterated that President Clinton intended to decide on the system in the fall.

"The president has said he expects to make the decision in the next few weeks," Mr. Boucher said, adding that Mr. Clinton would first receive recommendations from the Pentagon and other sources.

Social-protest vote has Brazil worried

BRASILIA, Brazil Worries by Brazil's government over plans by a grass-roots movement to hold a plebiscite on the country's huge debt costs gathered steam this week as the vote aiming to force attention on deep social inequalities approached.

The plebiscite, planned for five days starting Sept. 2, has raised concern in the government as it aims to draw attention to what organizers of the vote say are deep spending shortfalls on the welfare of Brazil's millions of poor.

The head of the politically active National Bishops' Council one of the organizations spearheading the vote discussed the issue with President Fernando Henrique Cardoso Tuesday. The council has scheduled a press conference on the vote today.

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