- The Washington Times - Friday, July 26, 2002

Indonesia frees militant with bin Laden ties

JAKARTA, Indonesia A Muslim militant leader who has acknowledged meeting Osama bin Laden was released from custody yesterday to await trial on Aug. 1 on charges of inciting religious violence.

Jafar Umar Thalib, head of the paramilitary group Laskar Jihad, was jailed May 4 shortly after returning from the Maluku islands, where up to 9,000 people have been killed in Christian-Muslim fighting.

While in custody, Mr. Thalib was visited by Vice President Hamzah Haz and other top officials, showing the degree of support his group has in Indonesia, world's largest Muslim nation.

Korea probes claim on cloned embryo

SEOUL The South Korean government said yesterday it was investigating a claim that a U.S.-based firm had implanted a cloned embryo in a Korean woman.

Kwak Ji-hwa, a spokesman for the U.S.-based Clonaid's South Korean branch office, said the woman was two months pregnant with the cloned embryo and that he was confident she would give birth to a healthy baby.

Mr. Kwak said he was not concerned about the South Korean investigation, because the implant was done outside South Korea and that South Korea has no laws that ban human cloning. An anti-human cloning law is now before the National Assembly for approval.

It was the latest unsubstantiated claim of a cloned fetus. In April, an Italian fertility physician, Dr. Severino Antinori, claimed three women were pregnant with clones, but he refused to offer any proof.

He told an Italian television program that two of the women two of the pregnancies were achieved in former Soviet states and the third in an Islamic country.

"Nothing has been confirmed about their claim and their companies. If cloning was done, we're checking whether it was done by medical doctors or licensed researchers. The companies can be prosecuted if anyone without medical licenses was found to have been involved in the move," he said.

Most cloning experts are opposed to cloning for reproductive purposes, citing numerous birth defects and other serious problems affecting cloned animals.

New Zealand's ruling Labour Party losing support: opinion poll

AUCKLAND, July 26 (AFP) - Prime Minister Helen Clark's ruling Labour Party has suffered a severe drop in support on the eve of Saturday's general election, according to a New Zealand Herald poll.

The poll, taken over the last week and published Friday, gave Labour 38.8 percent support, an eight percentage point drop from last week's survey.

A month ago Labour was enjoying just over 50 percent support, offering Clark the promise of an absolute majority in parliament.

Under New Zealand's voting system, parties get seats in the 120-seat parliament in direct proportion to their percent of the party vote.

The Herald poll, the last major poll before the election, now suggests Clark will need the support of more than just the Green Party, which in the latest poll rated nine percent, one point down.

The main opposition National party was unchanged on 23.2 percent.

The Herald said its poll suggested the country would face days of horse trading following Saturday's election.

The poll was of 1,000 people with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percent.

Air China to fly direct from Beijing to New York

BEIJING (AP) China's flagship airline will commence its first direct flights from Beijing to New York's John F. Kennedy International airport, the government news agency and New York-New Jersey Port Authority said Thursday.

Air China will begin the thrice-weekly service beginning Sept. 27, the Xinhua News Agency said, quoting Li Jiaxiang, a senior airline official. Pasquale DiFulco, a Port Aurthority spokesman, confirmed the Chinese report. At present, United Airlines has the only direct New York City/Beijing service, he said.

China Airlines, Taiwan's national airline, has weekly roundtrip flights from Taipei to New York.

Xinhua said Air China's Boeing 747-400 aircraft would leave at 2 p.m. every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from Beijing's Capital Airport and land at JFK at 3:30 p.m. the same day. Return flights will leave JFK at 5:30 p.m. and arrive in Beijing at 7 p.m. the next day.

Air China has scheduled a test flight for Aug. 16, Xinhua said.

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