- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 22, 2001

Mir's destruction set for tomorrow

Russia's Mir space station crossed the final frontier yesterday, falling to the point at which its planned destruction no longer could be called off, a duty officer at Russia's mission control said.

Mir's orbit fell to within a few hundred yards of the 137-mile altitude from which mission control will turn on its steering controls, so that it can fire the craft's engines to slow it down and send it crashing to Earth tomorrow.

"This is it, this is the frontier," the duty officer said.

The 15-year-old station has outlived its life span five times over, giving Russia by far the world's most extensive experience in long-term manned space flight. It will be the largest man-made object ever to strike the Earth.

Brazil declares risk from spill contained

RIO DE JANEIRO Brazil's environmental chief, Hamilton Casara, said yesterday that oil seeping from a sunken platform in the south Atlantic posed no environmental risk and had been contained.

The world's largest offshore platform owned by state oil company Petrobras keeled over in 4,500 feet of water on Tuesday in a disaster that claimed 10 lives.

The P-36 platform contained 66,000 gallons of crude oil and 264,000 gallons of diesel.

Georgia reconciliation effort hailed by U.N.

NEW YORK The U.N. Security Council yesterday welcomed measures to reconcile Georgia and its breakaway province of Abkhazia and told the separatists their recent local elections were illegal.

Visiting Ukraine Foreign Minister Anatoly Zlenko presided over the meeting as his country holds the rotating council presidency this month. The latest agreement between Georgia and Abkhazia was signed in Ukrainian Black Sea city of Yalta.

Zapatistas spurn Fox on immediate talks

MEXICO CITY Mexico's Zapatista rebels snubbed President Vicente Fox's call for immediate talks, saying yesterday that the government had not yet met its conditions.

"There are only declarations and promises. Nothing has changed," rebel leader Subcomandante Marcos told a crowd at a major university in Mexico City.

Mr. Fox said Tuesday that he was sending the Zapatistas a letter inviting them to talks and announced he was trying to meet their conditions for negotiations aimed at expanding Indian rights.

He said he would shut the last of seven army bases the Zapatistas had demanded be closed, free all Zapatista prisoners held on federal charges and press Congress to pass an Indian rights bill he submitted in December.

Ex-general convicted of sexual assault

JERUSALEM Yitzhak Mordechai, a gruff, barrel-chested ex-general and former defense minister who was once a rising star in Israeli politics, was convicted yesterday of sexually assaulting two female subordinates.

Women's rights activists hailed the ruling in the high-profile case as a breakthrough in a society where a swaggering brand of local machismo is still widely accepted.

Zehava Galon, an Israeli legislator who had encouraged one woman to come forward and testify against Mordechai, said, "The court is sending a very clear message to men that the rules of the game have changed. Men can no longer say, 'We didn't know.' "

Founder of Hyundai is dead at 86

SEOUL Hyundai founder Chung Ju-yung, who helped forge South Korea's economic miracle but personified the cronyism that accompanied it, died yesterday. He was 86.

Mr. Chung has been in and out of the hospital since August, suffering from fatigue and loss of weight. Hyundai spokesman Oh Dong-soo said Mr. Chung died of "old age." Hyundai was preparing a statement, he said.

Despite his once-mythical status in South Korea's corporate world, Mr. Chung's reputation was tarnished by the failure of his troubled Hyundai conglomerate to aggressively pursue reforms.

He was also a key player in Seoul's efforts to engage communist North Korea, initiating a $942 million tourism project at a scenic mountain in the North in late 1998. However, that project is now in financial trouble.

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