- The Washington Times - Friday, February 18, 2005

IRELAND

Money laundering by IRA exposed

DUBLIN ” Police have blown open an Irish Republican Army money-laundering operation but cannot confirm yet whether cash worth nearly $5 million seized in nationwide raids came from a massive Belfast bank robbery, the government said yesterday.

As their investigation expanded by the hour, detectives brought criminal charges against one suspected IRA member and interrogated three others ” including a man purportedly caught burning a pile of British currency in his back yard.

Experts at Irish police headquarters in Dublin inspected more than $4.75 million in British pounds seized Wednesday night and Thursday in four locations. Police Commissioner Noel Conroy said it could take days to determine whether the money could be linked to the Dec. 20 robbery of the Northern Bank, when the IRA purportedly stole a world-record $50 million.



INDONESIA

Strong quake hits Sulawesi island

JAKARTA ” A powerful earthquake rocked parts of Sulawesi in eastern Indonesia today, causing panic among residents, officials and media reports said. There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage.

The earthquake registered a preliminary magnitude of 6.9 and was centered beneath the Flores Sea, about 40 miles west of the town of Bau Bau in southeast Sulawesi, the local meteorological agency said. It struck at 8:04 a.m.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake measured magnitude 6.5 and was not related to the massive magnitude-9.0 quake that hit western Indonesia on Dec. 26, triggering a tsunami that killed tens of thousands across southern Asian and eastern Africa.

CONGO

WHO warns of African plague

GENEVA ” An outbreak of plague in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo has killed 61 diamond miners and infected hundreds more, the World Health Organization (WHO) said yesterday.

Many of the 7,000 miners working in Zobia, north of the city of Kisangani, have fled since the outbreak began two months ago, and could have spread the highly contagious disease, the United Nations agency said.

“The epidemiological data are still incomplete but we are sure there are at least 61 deaths. The main problem is that due to panic, maybe two-thirds of the population ran away from the mine,” possibly taking the disease to remote areas where no medical help is available, Eric Bertherat, head of the WHO team, told reporters.

JAPAN

Security alliance to be revised

TOKYO ” Japan’s foreign minister and defense chief reportedly flew to Washington yesterday to discuss a major revision to the U.S.-Japan security alliance that would for the first time identify tension between China and Taiwan as a flashpoint in Asia.

The United States’ security alliance with Japan has formed the backbone of American foreign policy in Asia since the 1960s. But the two allies have long disagreed about how to deal with China’s territorial claim over self-ruled Taiwan, which split with Beijing amid civil war in 1949.

Washington has indicated it would intervene if China were to try to take Taiwan by force, while a cautious Japan has traditionally sought to avoid involvement.

ISRAEL

Palestinian deportees to return home

JERUSALEM ” Israel will let 16 of more than 50 Palestinians expelled from the West Bank return home and it has concluded that demolishing the homes of Palestinian suicide bombers and gunmen does not deter attackers and should be stopped.

Both decisions were in keeping with concessions Israel made to the Palestinians at a summit earlier this month where both sides declared an end to four years of hostilities.

Tomorrow, the Israeli Cabinet is to vote on a withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and four West Bank settlements this summer.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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