- The Washington Times - Friday, June 30, 2000

Colombia rebels hint introduction of SAMs

LOS POZOS, Colombia Rebels threatened Thursday to introduce surface-to-air missiles into Colombia's civil war and vowed to battle a planned U.S.-backed offensive against the country's drug crops a source of wealth for the insurgents.

Critics of Washington's $1.3 billion aid package, expected to be passed by Congress by week's end, have said it will intensify the war and pull the United States into a quagmire. Analysts expect the rebels to fiercely resist attempts by U.S.-trained Colombian troops, backed by U.S.-supplied helicopters, to seize coca-growing areas. Coca is the raw material for cocaine.

Ivan Rios, a commander of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, said his group would arm coca farmers if needed to resist "U.S. aggression." Mr. Rios said rebels also may purchase surface-to-air missiles to shoot down combat helicopters, which form the most expensive component of the U.S. aid package.

China repeats demand that Taiwan submit

BEIJING Beijing demanded anew Thursday that rival Taiwan accept that it is part of China, dampening hopes raised after the Taiwanese president said he could accept a 1992 deal that once led to talks between the estranged sides.

Repeating demands that Taiwan accept the "one-China principle," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhu Bangzao also accused Taiwan of trying to split from China by distorting the 1992 agreement.

Under that agreement, according to the Taiwanese, both sides adhered to the one-China principle, but agreed to interpret its meaning differently.

Kohl defiant in probe on corruption charges

BERLIN Helmut Kohl was stubborn, sarcastic and in no mood to tell all.

Testifying before a parliamentary committee Thursday, the disgraced former chancellor rejected charges that his administration was corrupt.

But he maintained his silence on the names of donors who illegally financed the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party he once led, prompting comparisons to Watergate by some politicians.

After months of buildup, members of a parliamentary investigating committee quizzed Mr. Kohl on allegations that his government traded favors for cash, charges that have soiled his reputation as the statesman who united Germany in 1990.

British rower embarks on Pacific journey

LIMA, Peru A flotilla of local fishermen from the southern coastal town of Ilo paddled alongside British rower Jim Shekhdar Thursday as he embarked on a solo voyage across the Pacific to Australia.

Mr. Shekhdar, 53, plans to cross 8,500 miles of ocean in an odyssey that he hopes will take less than six months.

"I feel apprehensive and anxious to go," he said before climbing into his technology-packed, 23-foot boat, the Le Shark.

21 U.N. peacekeepers freed in Sierra Leone

MONROVIA, Liberia Smiling broadly, 21 U.N. peacekeepers arrived Thursday in the Liberian capital after being held for weeks at a rebel base in neighboring Sierra Leone.

The country's feared Revolutionary United Front rebels handed over the Indian captives late Wednesday to Liberian authorities in the remote border town of Foya, officials said. They were transported to Monrovia yesterday by a government-chartered helicopter and expected to arrive back in Sierra Leone today.

More than 200 U.N. troops from India remained surrounded, however, in a U.N. compound in the rebel stronghold of Kailahun, about 200 miles east of the Sierra Leonean capital, Freetown.

Switzerland considers joining the U.N.

BERNE, Switzerland The Swiss government said Thursday it would start formal domestic discussions on whether the country should seek full membership in the United Nations.

Switzerland at present has observer status at the world body, a distinction it shares with the Vatican. Even the tiny Pacific state of Tuvalu, once an observer, is in the process of becoming the 189th full U.N. member.

"Membership would show that Switzerland wants to play an active role in the world," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Based on wire dispatches and staff reports.

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