- The Washington Times - Friday, April 18, 2003

RUSSIA

Amur region bans travel across border with China

MOSCOW Russia's Siberian region of Amur has banned travel across its southern border to China amid reports that the outbreak of deadly pneumonia there is more widespread than first feared, Interfax news agency reported yesterday.

The region's chief sanitary inspector, Vladimir Smirnov, banned flights to Guangdong, Shanghai, Beijing, Szechuan, Guanzhou and Hong Kong. The virus which has killed more than 160 people and infected more than 3,000 worldwide is believed to have originated in China's southern Guangdong province.


TAIWAN

Mainland spy ship kept under close watch

TAIPEI This island's navy and coast guard are closely watching an unarmed Chinese surveillance ship, but have deliberately avoided contact with it for fear of damaging already delicate ties with China, officials say.

A spokesman for the Coast Guard Administration told Agence France-Presse on Wednesday the Hai Yang (Ocean) 4 had been operating off southern Taiwan for a week. “Both the coast guard and the navy have dispatched ships there to keep a close watch on the Chinese vessel. But that's it. After all, it did not intrude in our territorial waters,” he said.


INDONESIA

Megawati eyes aircraft on coming Moscow visit

JAKARTA President Megawati Sukarnoputri was to leave late yesterday for a visit to Romania, Russia and Poland and was scheduled to hold talks on military aircraft purchases during her stay in Moscow, officials here said.

“We are looking into [buying] Sukhois or Mi-35 [attack] helicopters,” armed forces chief Gen. Endriartono Sutarto told reporters. In Moscow, the Vedomosti business daily said Mrs. Megawati was expected to sign a contract for four Sukhoi SU-27 fighter planes.

Indonesia's air force has U.S.-made fighters, including F-16s, F-5s and Skyhawks, but it has been under a U.S. arms embargo since 1999. Washington demands an accounting for the violence before it resumes full military contacts.


Weekly notes …

Malaysian lawyers yesterday criticized a recent ban on the 15-year-old Christian Bible published in the mother tongue of the indigenous Iban tribe, saying it violates freedom of religion and impedes nation-building efforts. The Bar Council of Malaysia backed calls by Iban Christians for the interior ministry of mainly Muslim Malaysia to lift the ban, which Chairman Kuthubul Zaman Bukhari said strikes at the basic human rights of freedom of religion and freedom of expression and association. … New Zealand's population will reach 4 million around 5:30 p.m. (2:30 a.m. EDT) Thursday, Statistics New Zealand estimates. “This is a significant event for New Zealand. It has taken nearly 30 years to reach this milestone, after reaching 3 million in 1973,” said government statistician Brian Pink. The population is projected to peak at 4.81 million in 2046.

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