- The Washington Times - Monday, December 24, 2001

Explosion hits store in China
BEIJING An explosion ripped through the parking lot of a Carrefour retail outlet in China's eastern city of Qingdao last night, but no injuries or fatalities were reported, store officials said.
The blast occurred at about 6:30 p.m., sending some 1,000 shoppers scurrying for the exits, a store manager named Liu said.
"We are not sure what kind of explosion it was, but police are investigating the possibility that there was a man-made bomb," he said.
Three firetrucks were sent to the store after the blast. It took 30 minutes for shoppers to calm down and for order to be restored. The store opened as usual this morning.

Clash over diamonds kills 5 in Sierra Leone
FREETOWN, Sierra Lione Five persons were killed and 40 were wounded in fighting that broke out between Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels and pro-government Kamajor militiamen in the diamond-rich Kono district, a U.N. official said yesterday.
The RUF rebels and the Kamajor Civil Defense Force (CDF) fighters clashed with machetes and knives in the northern Kono district in Koidu over illegal diamond mining, the U.N. Mission in Sierra Leone reported.
Nearly 500 Kamajor militiamen complained to the police that the RUF had not respected an agreement to stop mining activity in the area by Wednesday, said Gen. Martin Luther Agwei, assistant commissioner to the U.N. military force in Sierra Leone.

Plane slides off runway in Sarajevo
SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina A Crossair plane carrying 84 passengers and six crew members slid off a snow-covered runway as it landed in Sarajevo yesterday, coming to rest just a dozen yards from the airport's cement perimeter wall, an official said.
Besim Mehmedic, minister of transport for the Muslim-Croat Federation, said no one on board the aircraft, arriving from Zurich, was hurt.
The airport was closed soon after the accident, Mr. Mehmedic told reporters, explaining that the Crossair plane was blocking a device, called a locator, that helped pilots navigate when landing.
No apparent damage was seen on the aircraft, he said, adding that the airport would open as soon as the plane was removed.

Australia halts processing Afghan asylum claims
SYDNEY Australia has suspended processing claims by asylum seekers from Afghanistan until it becomes clear they still have a genuine fear of persecution, the government said today.
Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock said the many Afghans detained in Australia and on holding camps in Pacific islands no longer could use fear of the Taliban to claim asylum and seek refugee status.
With the Taliban no longer in power in Afghanistan, it was right to delay processing of Afghan asylum seekers while information was being gained about the situation in the country, he told ABC radio.
"One suspects that if people's claims were simply as they have been put fear of the Taliban, a young man concerned about being conscripted if that's the nature of the fear, then that fear is no longer well-founded and the claim for refugee status wouldn't arise," he said.

Blair's 19-month-old son caught in vaccine debate
LONDON Leo Blair doesn't know he is in the middle of a political tussle, but his father the prime minister is seething at opposition lawmakers and media whom he accuses of trying to invade the 19-month-old's privacy.
Tony Blair lashed out over the weekend at critics demanding to know if his youngest son had received a childhood immunization that some feared might be linked to autism. The Blairs always have tried to protect the privacy of their four children.
As the issue rapidly dominated national news headlines, Mr. Blair refused to answer on the grounds that the question infringed on his son's privacy. Several national newspapers sharply criticized Mr. Blair for not responding.
But the prime minister did say he and his wife, Cherie, believed the advice given to the government that "overwhelming" evidence suggested the combined measles, mumps and rubella vaccine was safe. Britain's national health system recommends all children get the shot.
The vaccine generally is given to children at around age 2. At least one study on the vaccine has linked it with an increase in the incidence of autism, a severe neurological disorder.

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