- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 14, 2002

Russia, Belarus move closer to union
MOSCOW Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko signed a series of accords Friday as part of plans to forge a union between the two former-Soviet republics.
During the Moscow talks, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov and his Belarussian counterpart Gennady Novitsky also signed agreements in the areas of transport and energy. The accords would lead to tariff reductions in both countries and would harmonize prices. Cooperation on gas policy was also reached.
Russia and Belarus signed a formal union treaty on Dec. 8, 1999. But significant economic disparity between the two countries has prevented any real union so far.

Unemployment poses threat in Croatia
ZAGREB, Croatia Croatia's ombudsman Ante Klaric warned Friday that human rights in the country were threatened by high unemployment and growing poverty, the HINA news agency reported.
"In less than a year the number of unemployed increased by tens of thousands, poverty has been spreading, companies are closing down, and tax-payers' money is used to cover the consequences of economic crime, notably in banks," Mr. Klaric stressed as he presented his 2001 annual report to parliament.
Unemployment, one of Croatia's most pressing economic problems, stood at 23.8 percent in March, with 415,352 people jobless.

Pilot jailed for copter stunt
LONDON A judge sentenced a helicopter pilot who flew directly at an air-traffic control tower to three years in jail Friday, blaming the defendant for causing panic a month after the September 11 hijacking attacks in the United States.
The defendant, Shaun Lees, repeatedly buzzed the tower at Coventry Airport after an argument with the airport manager. He flew within two rotor-blade lengths of the tower as he ranted over the radio, forcing controllers to evacuate the building.

Weekly notes
A watch recovered from the wreck of the Titanic that had stopped at exactly the time the liner sank sold for nearly $28,000 Friday. The watch, one of 316 objects sold at an auction organized by the British Titanic Society Convention to mark the disaster's 90th anniversary, was recovered from the body of passenger John Gill, a British chauffeur who was migrating to the United States. The Titanic, hailed as unsinkable, went down April 15, 1912, taking with it more than 1,500 lives. The earliest-known draft of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony is expected to fetch up to $287,200 when it comes up for auction on Wednesday. The London auction house Sotheby's described the manuscript, which shows the German composer's first musings for the dramatic opening of the symphony, as one of the most important Beethoven documents ever to go up for auction. It probably dates to 1818, Sotheby's said, not long after Beethoven was commissioned by London's Royal Philharmonic Society to write a symphony. The work was not completed until 1823, when it was first performed in Vienna

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