- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 16, 2002

Fire in Internet cafe kills 24 in Beijing

BEIJING A fire at an Internet cafe in the university district of Beijing killed 24 persons, a fire official and state media said today.
The fire broke out at about 2:45 a.m. at the cafe in the Haidian district in Beijing and was put out 45 minutes later, said the Xinhua News Agency and an official reached by telephone at the Beijing fire department headquarters.
The cause of the fire is under investigation, said the fire official, who wouldn't give his name.
Haidian is the site of Beijing University and Tsinghua University, two of China's most prestigious schools. The area has a large student population and is the center of China's growing computer and high-technology industries.
Such fatal fires are frequent in China, where operators of bars, cinemas, Internet cafes and other businesses often ignore fire safety rules or fail to provide emergency exits. But such an accident is unusual in the Chinese capital, where safety rules are more rigorously enforced.
Internet cafes, many open 24 hours, are immensely popular in China, which says it has 33.7 million Internet users but where many families can't afford to buy a computer. The biggest cafes, especially near universities, have hundreds of terminals.

Venezuelan marchers demand Chavez quit
CARACAS, Venezuela Tens of thousands of Venezuelans opposed to President Hugo Chavez marched yesterday to demand his resignation and punishment for those responsible for 17 deaths during an aborted coup in April.
More than 100,000 people joined the fourth march against Mr. Chavez since the failed coup, but thousands of Chavez supporters staged a countermarch in the central city of Maracay, the nerve center of Venezuela's military.
The protests stoked fears of another military coup in this sharply divided nation and retaliation by civilian militias defending Mr. Chavez's leftist administration.

Castro leads Cubans to lock in socialism
HAVANA Cuban leader Fidel Castro was the first person to sign a petition yesterday to declare the island's four-decade-old socialist system as "untouchable," rejecting reform demands by Cuban opposition figures and President Bush.
A live television broadcast showed Mr. Castro and other top members of the Cuban leadership signing the document just minutes before more than 120,000 petition stations across the island opened yesterday morning.
Mr. Castro later told reporters he estimated at least 7 million of Cuba's 11 million citizens roughly all the Cubans eligible to vote would sign the petition for a constitutional amendment declaring the nation's economic, political and social system cannot be changed.

Grenades target Kashmir official
NEW DELHI Suspected Islamic guerrillas fired two grenades in an apparent attack on the top elected official in Indian-controlled Kashmir yesterday, but no one was hurt.
The grenades were fired at a board of education office building as Farooq Abdullah, the chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir state, was inaugurating it in Bemina, a suburb of the state's summer capital, Srinagar.
One grenade exploded in midair, and the other landed in a nearby pond, a senior police official said. Mr. Abdullah's attendance at the event had been kept secret out of security fears. He is one of the most well-guarded politicians in India.

Basques protest ban on party
BILBAO, Spain Tens of thousands of people marched through this Basque city yesterday, protesting Spain's intention to outlaw a political party that refuses to condemn terrorism in the name of independence.
Waving red, green and yellow Basque flags, protesters were largely peaceful as they marched in the largest demonstration the port city has seen in years.
On June 4, parliament's lower house approved a government bill that would allow the dismantling of political parties viewed as encouraging or supporting terrorism.
The Spanish government charges that the Batasuna party, which has seven seats in the 75-member Basque regional legislature, is merely the political wing of the terrorist group ETA.

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