- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 22, 2008


U.N. panel urges Tiananmen apology

GENEVA | A U.N. panel urged the Chinese government Friday to apologize to the victims of its crackdown on pro-democracy activists in Tiananmen Square 19 years ago.

The Geneva-based Committee against Torture said China should carry out a “full and impartial” investigation into what happened in June 1989, when the military attacked student demonstrators. Hundreds were thought to be killed, but most of the deaths did not happen in the square.

China also should “provide information on persons who are still detained from that period, inform the family members of their findings, offer apologies and reparation as appropriate, and prosecute those found responsible for excessive use of force, torture and other ill-treatment,” the 10-member panel said.

Last year, the U.S. State Department said that between 10 and 200 Tiananmen activists were estimated to still be in prison.

In a 15-page report released Friday, the U.N. committee appeared to deliver its strongest criticism yet of past and present incidents of torture in China. It was the fourth time that the country has appeared before the Geneva-based panel.


Duma votes on presidential term

MOSCOW | The lower house of Russia’s parliament gave its final approval Friday to a bill extending the presidential term from four to six years, a move widely seen as paving the way for Vladimir Putin’s return to the presidency.

The State Duma, dominated by the pro-Kremlin United Russia party, voted 392-57 Friday to approve the bill at its third and final reading. The bill, proposed by President Dmitry Medvedev, now goes to the equally controlled upper house, where swift approval is expected.

The only opposition to the constitutional changes came from the communists, whose proposal to limit presidents to just one term was ignored.


Proposal to ban Scientology dropped

POTSDAM | Germany is dropping its pursuit of a ban on Scientology after finding insufficient evidence of illegal activity, security officials said Friday.

Domestic intelligence services will continue to monitor the group, officials said.

The German branch of the Los Angeles-based Church of Scientology has been under observation by domestic intelligence services for more than a decade. Germany has said that it considers Scientology to be in conflict with the principles of the nation’s constitution, calling it less a church than a business that uses coercion to take advantage of vulnerable people.

Scientology, founded in 1954 by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, first set up in Germany in 1970, and officials estimate that it counts some 5,000 to 6,000 members here.


More IAEA visits for probe rejected

VIENNA, Austria | Syria said Friday that a U.N. watchdog report failed to show anything suggesting that a Syrian complex bombed by Israel was a covert nuclear reactor, and it said no further inspector visits would be permitted.

Syrian nuclear energy chief Ibrahim Othman challenged the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report that said that the site’s layout bore similarities to a reactor and that U.N. inspectors had found striking amounts of uranium particles in the area.

The findings, based on satellite pictures and soil and water samples, were not enough to conclude a reactor was once there, the IAEA said, but the findings warranted further IAEA checks at the site, as well as full Syrian transparency.


Hezbollah’s TV station banned

BERLIN | Germany’s Interior Ministry has banned Hezbollah’s television station on grounds that it violates the country’s constitution, a spokesman said Friday.

He said Al-Manar television programming was forbidden under Article 9 of Germany’s constitution, which says that organizations cannot operate with the purpose of violating “international understanding.” The U.S. has also banned the station.

Al-Manar is known to be staunchly anti-Israel and frequently broadcasts footage of Hezbollah fighters. The Arabic-language channel is based in Beirut and broadcasts locally and by satellite. The station has no physical presence in Germany.

Hezbollah is not banned in Germany but is under observation by the country’s domestic intelligence agency, which tracks extremists.


Arroyo’s husband ill; flight diverted

TOKYO | Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s plane made an emergency landing in Japan on Friday after her husband fell ill on board, officials said.

Mrs. Arroyo was on her way from Manila to attend the 21-nation Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Lima, Peru.

The plane landed at Kansai International Airport in western Japan. Jose Miguel Arroyo was rushed to a nearby hospital for emergency treatment. He underwent heart surgery in 2007.


Library site crashes hours after launch

BRUSSELS | European culture went digital - but it only lasted a day.

A massive online library and museum project crashed within 24 hours of its launch after millions sought to view treasures collected from museums, national libraries and archives, the European Union said Friday.

“We are doing our utmost to reopen Europeana in a more robust version as soon as possible,” the www.europeana.eu site said. “We will be back by mid-December.”

The European Union blamed overwhelming interest, saying more than 10 million hits per hour late Thursday overburdened the computer system.

The Web site collected some 3 million artifacts - including books, maps, paintings and videos - from some of Europe’s top museums, such as the Louvre in Paris and the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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