Thursday, December 29, 2005


Last of troops pull out of Aceh

LHOKSEUMAWE — Indonesian soldiers lugged guns and heavy bags up gangplanks yesterday as they completed the final phase of a troop reduction in tsunami-ravaged Aceh province — a key step in an accord with separatist rebels to end a 29-year war.

The last of 24,000 troops pulled out on five navy ships, just days after Free Aceh Movement rebels completed the surrender of their weapons and disbanded their military wing.

Peace efforts picked up pace after an earthquake struck off Aceh’s coast one year ago, causing a tsunami that swept away 156,000 lives in the province and left a half-million others homeless.


Third human dies from bird flu

BEIJING — China confirmed its third human death from bird flu yesterday, saying a 41-year-old woman from the country’s southeast succumbed to the virulent H5N1 strain.

The woman died Dec. 21, two weeks after falling ill, the official Xinhua news agency said, citing the Health Ministry. China’s mainland has suffered a total of seven human cases of bird flu. The country also had a suspected case in a 12-year-old girl who died.


Dalai Lama rejects praise of China

DHARAMSALA, India — The Dalai Lama said Wednesday the most senior Buddhist in Tibet had wanted to please Chinese authorities by praising China for the political stability and prosperity in Tibet.

In an interview with Reuters, the 71-year-old Nobel laureate painted a very different picture of Tibet saying that torture and human rights abuses were still the norm.

The Beijing-sanctioned 11th Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, now 16 and who along with his parents is under China’s protection, said in a rare interview with China’s Xinhua news agency a few days ago that Tibet was open and happy.


Taiwan airstrips on islet rejected

HANOI — Vietnam demanded yesterday that Taiwan halt plans to build airstrips on one of the biggest islets in the disputed Spratly Island chain.

Taiwan news outlets quoted Vice Minister of National Defense Huo Shou-yeh as saying recently that Taiwan plans to build an airport for humanitarian purposes on an islet Vietnam calls Thai Binh.

Vietnam, China and Taiwan claim the whole of the Spratlys, and Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines claim some of the islets, which are thought to straddle oil and gas fields.

Weekly notes …

The Indonesian military acknowledged for the first time yesterday that its commanders in Papua received “support” from a U.S. gold-mining giant, responding to a New York Times report that Freeport-McMoRan Co. gave the army millions of dollars to protect its facilities in the remote province. … South Korea’s national police chief offered to resign yesterday over a police crackdown that resulted in the deaths of two farmers. Huh Joon-young has been under pressure to step down after President Roh Moo-hyun offered a public apology Tuesday for the deaths of the farmers at an anti-globalization rally last month.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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