- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 11, 2001

NATO to probe use of depleted uranium

BRUSSELS NATO yielded to demands of its European members yesterday, creating a commission to probe the health effects of its use of depleted-uranium munitions in the Balkans as the number of suspicious deaths and illnesses among returned peacekeepers mounted.

But there was reluctance about the investigation from Britain and the United States, which, along with France, are the only NATO members acknowledged to use the ultra-dense, "tank-busting" munition.

The NATO commission is to examine the risks posed by the use by U.S. forces of depleted uranium, or DU, rounds. U.S. aircraft fired some 31,000 such projectiles during NATO's 1999 air war against Yugoslavia, according to the Pentagon.

The number of cases of cancer and other illnesses among Balkans veterans grew yesterday with the Netherlands' junior defense minister, Henk van Hoof, saying four Dutch peacekeepers who had served in Bosnia or Kosovo had died of leukemia. Previously, reports had counted two deaths.

China's vice president denounces Israel

DAMASCUS, Syria Chinese Vice President Hu Jintao denounced Israel yesterday for its "arrogant use of force" and called on the Jewish state to put an end to its conflict with the Palestinians and to renew peace talks with Syria and Lebanon, the official state news agency reported.

Mr. Hu was speaking at a dinner here in his honor hosted by Syrian President Bashar Assad who, for his part repeated Syria's condemnation of Israeli "aggressions" against the Palestinians.

Evoking the example of China's own "long history of foreign aggressions aimed at its potential," Mr. Assad said: "Syria and other countries of the Arab nation have been exposed to aggressions."

Lockerbie defense seeks to sow doubt

CAMP ZEIST, Netherlands Attorneys for two Libyans accused of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing will spell out their defense today in their final arguments for the men. They are charged with murdering 270 persons in the skies over Scotland.

As the eight-month trial draws to a close, the defense will seek to sow in judges' minds "sufficient doubt" over the prosecution case to ensure that Lamen Khalifa Fhimah and Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi go free.

That is all the defense need do. The burden is on the prosecution to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the accused committed murder, which carries a mandatory life sentence in the Scottish law under which the pair are being tried.

Abidjan immigrants flee under threats

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast Some immigrants fled their Abidjan homes yesterday after roaming bands of youths began threatening foreigners, whom they accused of backing a failed coup in this West African nation.

Dozens of university students swept through the run-down apartment buildings Tuesday in the Riviera suburb of Abidjan, the country's main city. Witnesses said they were looking for immigrants after government ministers said evidence suggested the plotters of a coup attempt late Sunday had foreign support.

"They were breaking things, hitting people," said Delphine Dago, a 16-year-old resident who did not want to say where she was from. "They said the foreigners must just leave the country."

Lebanese ayatollah dies at age 67

BEIRUT Ayatollah Mohammed Mehdi Shamseddine, spiritual leader of Lebanon's Shi'ite Muslims and a staunch advocate of Christian-Muslim co-existence, died last night, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri said. He was 67.

The religious leader was hospitalized earlier this week for a cancer relapse.

"This is in fact a loss for Lebanese, Arabs and Muslims," Mr. Berri told reporters at St. George Hospital.

Pinochet checks in for hospital tests

SANTIAGO, Chile Gen. Augusto Pinochet entered a Santiago military hospital yesterday to undergo neurological and mental tests that may be his final hope to avoid trial on human rights charges.

The general arrived at the hospital hours before the 10 a.m. time set by Judge Juan Guzman for the tests, which are to determine whether the aging former strongman is fit to stand trial. Pinochet has diabetes, arthritis, uses a pacemaker and has suffered three mild strokes since late 1998.


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