- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 13, 2001

U.S. military plans drug war buildup

The United States will expand its military presence in South America this fall when a major anti-drug airborne surveillance facility begins operating at the coastal airport of Manta, Ecuador, U.S. officials said.

The buildup will be the first in Latin America since U.S. military bases closed in Panama in 1999 and will intensify American operations in the war against the drug trade centered in Colombia, the world´s largest cocaine producer.

Arms-control advocates said yesterday that Ecuador would become a new Honduras, the hub of U.S. military operations during the Central American wars of the 1980s.

When the runway is lengthened by the end of September at the Ecuadoran air force base, two large Airborne Warning and Control System planes and two KC-135 refueling aircraft will be able to land there simultaneously if need be.

36 motorists killed in Ecuador avalanche

QUITO, Ecuador An avalanche of rock and mud slammed down on a group of stranded motorists in the Andes east of the capital yesterday, killing at least 36 persons, authorities said.

Torrential rains set off the deadly landslide, which caught the victims as they hovered around a campfire, trying to get warm after their vehicles were blocked by an earlier avalanche, Ecuador´s civil defense office said.

The tragedy occurred early yesterday about 30 miles east of Quito.

Sudan rebels claim 244 enemy slain

NAIROBI, Kenya — Sudanese rebels said yesterday they killed 244 government soldiers and captured three tanks after ambushing a convoy escorting oil company equipment near the country´s oil fields.

The Sudan People´s Liberation Army (SPLA) said it ambushed and destroyed a large convoy between the villages of Wankai and Mayom in Unity state in the south of Sudan.

"Two hundred and forty-four enemy soldiers were killed and the remainder scattered in the bushes," the SPLA said in a statement. There was no independent confirmation.

Suharto hospitalized after collapsing

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Former dictator Suharto collapsed at home yesterday and was rushed to the hospital with dangerously low blood pressure and a weak heart.

Doctors initially described his condition as critical and life-threatening. But hours after being hospitalized, the 80-year-old ex-president was permitted to see family members, friends, former politicians and army generals.

"He is watching television. His face looks healthy, but his medical condition is known only by the doctors," said Hartono, who formerly served as Suharto´s information minister. "He can´t speak clearly."

Mandela is granted honors in Canada

OTTAWA — Canada´s Parliament yesterday agreed at the second attempt to grant Nelson Mandela honorary citizenship, a week after an opposition legislator wrecked the first bid by branding the former South African president "a Communist and a terrorist."

There was no hint of dissent as members of the ruling Liberals and the four opposition parties voted unanimously to pay tribute to 82-year-old Mr. Mandela, who spent decades in jail before becoming South Africa´s first black leader.

Blair draws fire for rewarding himself

LONDON — Opponents criticized British Prime Minister Tony Blair yesterday for awarding himself a $69,000 pay raise just days after his re-election.

Mr. Blair abandoned the pay freeze he imposed on senior ministers throughout his first term and raised his salary by 40 percent, from $160,000 to $225,000. Members of his Cabinet got smaller raises, going from salaries of $138,000 to $163,000.

The raises, which became public on Monday after Mr. Blair completed sweeping changes to his ministerial team, drew heavy criticism from opposition politicians and unions, who questioned the timing.

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