- The Washington Times - Monday, September 30, 2002

UNHCR shelters exiles
ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast About 50 west African refugees mostly women and children, and mainly Liberians have sought shelter at the U.N. refugee agency offices here since the army mutiny in Ivory Coast, an official from the United Nations said yesterday.
"These people, who have known war in their country, are traumatized and panicky," said Moumtzis Panos of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, adding that the UNHCR had registered about 5,000 refugees and west African immigrants whose homes were set on fire during the mutiny.
Mr. Panos said about 400 Liberian refugees fleeing civil war and about 100 Sierra Leoneans, Congolese, Rwandans and Sudanese were given shelter at two UNHCR transit centers in Abidjan.
The Ivorian government raised alarm after the uprising by blaming an unidentified regional "rogue state," which it said had sent in mercenaries equipped with heavy weapons. The ruling party's newspaper later said Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore was the mastermind of the rebellion.

Peacekeepers keep pay
AUCKLAND, New Zealand Soldiers ordered either to repay an allowance received while serving as U.N. peacekeepers in East Timor or face legal action should get an apology, Defense Minister Mark Burton said yesterday.
The soldiers were sent to East Timor in 1999 as part of an Australian-led peacekeeping force of the United Nations before its inhabitants voted for independence from Indonesia.
Letters were sent to 55 officers demanding that they repay the equivalent of $140 to $2,200 or face court action, the Sunday Star-Times said. New Zealand military authorities said they had made a mistake in paying out the allowances, according to the paper.
The army backed down after the issue reached the news media, but not before creating resentment among the 55 officers involved and their colleagues.
"It was unfortunate that a straightforward administrative process appears to have rolled out without perhaps looking at the real implications of it," Mr. Burton said yesterday on national radio. Army spokesman Maj. Kendall Langston told Television 3 that the letters should not have been sent.
One territorial soldier who served in East Timor said the fiasco had shaken his faith in the army. "When you go as a member of the territorial force, you make major sacrifices, leaving your family behind, leaving jobs and taking a major drop in money," said the officer, who asked not to be named. He said his marriage broke up after he returned home.

Double standard hit
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad yesterday condemned the international community's response to the Israeli siege of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's headquarters.
Returning from a trip to Europe, Mr. Mahathir described talk about justice, fair play, human rights and democracy as "sheer nonsense and mere hypocrisy."
He spoke before it was announced that Israeli troops had lifted the siege on Mr. Arafat's complex in Ramallah, which they surrounded Sept. 19 after suicide bombings in Israel. An Israeli military spokesman said last night that the pullout was not official yet.
On Tuesday, the U.N. Security Council passed Resolution 1435, demanding "that Israel immediately cease measures in and around Ramallah including the destruction of Palestinian civilian and security infrastructure" and "also the expeditious withdrawal of the Israeli occupying forces from Palestinian cities."
Israel had said it would lift the siege only when Mr. Arafat handed over about 20 wanted men among the 250 people crammed into his last remaining office building.
"In the case of Arafat, it appears that he is not liked by certain people and, as a result, he will not receive fair treatment because there is no more justice in this world," Bernama news agency quoted Mr. Mahathir saying. The Malaysian prime minister leads a moderate Muslim state whose relations with the United States have improved because of his support for the war on terrorism.
Betsy Pisik is on assignment. Her column will resume when she returns.


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