- The Washington Times - Friday, October 19, 2001

Japan lower house OKs noncombat support

TOKYO The lower house of the Japanese Diet passed legislation yesterday paving the way for sending Japanese troops to provide noncombat support for the U.S.-led anti-terrorism campaign in Afghanistan.

The three-party ruling coalition pushed through the package of bills without a formal ballot count, despite attempts by the opposition Democratic Party of Japan to block it. "The majority of the lower house members stood up in approval of the bills," said a parliamentary spokeswoman.

Today "the bills are being sent to the upper house for their deliberation," she added. It was not clear when the House of Councilors would vote, but reports said the bills are expected to become law by the end of the month.

Manila lifts moratorium on death penalty

MANILA President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo lifted a moratorium on the death penalty yesterday, and said kidnappers will be executed first.

In a nationally televised news conference, Mrs. Macapagal-Arroyo said criminals have been emboldened by her suspension of the death penalty after she took office in January. "Let us now listen to the voice of their victims," she said.

A crime watchdog group counted 93 kidnappings with 202 persons being abducted between January and September, including three Americans and 17 Filipinos seized by the Muslim rebel group Abu Sayyaf in May.

More than half the kidnappings occurred in metropolitan Manila, and most of the victims were wealthy Chinese-Filipinos.

Hun Sen initiates troop demobilization

KOMPONG CHHNANG, Cambodia The government began yesterday an effort to scale back its bloated military amid grumbling from the first 408 troops laid off that their $240 severance pay was too little.

Prime Minister Hun Sen, who presided over a demobilization ceremony in Kompong Chhnang province, about 50 miles north of Phnom Penh, said money saved by reducing troop numbers would be put into health and education.

Under pressure from foreign aid donors, the government plans to demobilize 30,000 troops by the end of 2002. The first 15,000 are to be disbanded by December.

Weekly notes

Bill Gates and Mayor Xu Kuangdi of Shanghai announced the creation yesterday of a joint venture, and to mark the occasion, Mr. Xu said the government would stop using pirated software. Mr. Gates, founder of Microsoft, returned the favor by saying he plans to invest more money in the Chinese metropolis. Indonesia's ruling coalition is struggling to stay together amid differences over the U.S. military action in Afghanistan, and has shelved key economic reforms as a result, a veteran economic consultant said yesterday. James Castle, chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in Jakarta, told at a seminar on Indonesia investment prospects that the government is distracted by the terror attacks in the United States and the loud opposition on the streets to the U.S.-led retaliation.

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