- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 2, 2007

INDONESIA

Wreckage of plane found in mountains

JAKARTA — Indonesia’s air force today spotted the wreckage of a missing passenger plane with 102 persons on board in a mountainous region of Sulawesi, the second transport disaster within a week in the sprawling archipelago.

Searchers said 12 persons had survived the crash and were being evacuated. Three Americans from one family were listed as passengers on the airplane. It was not knownwhether they were among the survivors.

“The plane is in ruins. We are sending teams to the location. The plane was found around 20 kilometers [12 miles] from Polewali [town] in the mountains. The weather is clear,” First Air Marshal Djoko Suyanto, commander of Hasanuddin air base in the Sulawesi city of Makassar, told Radio Elshinta.

The plane lost contact with the ground yesterday during stormy weather about an hour before it was due to land in Manado in North Sulawesi.

ISRAEL

Officials deny prisoner deal near

JERUSALEM — Israeli officials yesterday denied that they were close to a deal that would secure the release of a captured soldier held by Palestinian militants, citing excessive demands by the Islamic Hamas, which runs the government.

Expectations have been building in the press that an announcement could be made at an Israel-Egypt summit on Thursday, but Israeli officials said no agreement was near.

The fate of Israeli Cpl. Gilad Shalit has emerged as a formidable obstacle to Israel’s goal of boosting the moderate Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met Mr. Abbas on Dec. 23 and pledged a series of gestures, but the important step of freeing Palestinian prisoners has been held up by fruitless attempts by Egypt to broker the Israeli soldier’s release.

TURKMENISTAN

Candidates chosen, democracy limited

ASHGABAT — All six candidates in the election to replace the late President Saparmurat Niyazov pledged yesterday to continue the policies of the dictator who ruled Turkmenistan for two decades.

Interim President Gurbanguli Berdymukhamedov has promised the Feb. 11 presidential election will conform with Mr. Niyazov’s concept of democracy. All the candidates, including Mr. Berdymukhamedov, were chosen by the country’s main legislature.

Mr. Niyazov, who died Dec. 21 at 66, cultivated an all-encompassing personality influence — renaming the month of January after himself, requiring school children to study his writings and ordering citizens to call him “Turkmenbashi,” or the Father of All Turkmen.

THAILAND

Ousted opposition blamed for bombing

BANGKOK — Thailand’s prime minister said yesterday that supporters of the country’s toppled regime rather than Muslim insurgents were likely behind the bombings that killed three persons and halted New Year’s Eve festivities for thousands of revelers.

The nine bombs that exploded across Bangkok on New Year’s Eve and early yesterday also wounded 38 persons, including nine foreigners.

The bombings capped a year of unrest in Thailand, including a military coup three months ago and an increasingly violent Muslim insurgency in the south. Nobody has taken responsibility for the New Year’s Eve attacks.

JAPAN

Birthrate rises, reversing trend

TOKYO — Japanese births rose for the first time in six years in 2006, according to government statistics announced yesterday, offering a glimmer of hope for a rapidly aging society.

Japan’s population of 127 million shrank in 2005 for the first time on record, mostly due to a steadily falling birthrate, raising the prospect of a severe labor shortage and difficulties in paying the health bills and pensions of large numbers of elderly.

But preliminary data for 2006 showed there were 1.086 million births in Japan last year, 23,000 more than the previous year, the Health Ministry said yesterday.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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