British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said yesterday there was potential for a "humanitarian disaster" around the besieged northern Afghan town of Kunduz where Taliban forces are making a last stand. \nStraw said that concerns about bloody reprisals against the Taliban in the embattled enclave had been raised during talks here with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar. \nHe said Taliban troops who were willing to surrender should be accepted by the opposing Northern Alliance forces, but they could not be allowed to go free. \n"We discussed what is a very difficult and potentially very serious situation ... We all understand the potential humanitarian disaster that could be possible in Kunduz," he told a joint press conference with Sattar. \nHundreds of Taliban troops have surrendered in the past 24 hours as alliance forces and US warplanes pound their positions with air strikes, artillery and rocket fire. \nBut thousands more Afghan Taliban and foreign militants believed to be linked to Osama bin Laden's alleged terrorist network are entrenched in the area, preferring to fight to the last. \nConcerns about reprisal killings if the alliance forces crack the Taliban's defenses have grown since the UN reported at least 100 young Taliban recruits were killed after the fall of the nearby city of Mazar-i-Sharif earlier this month. \nThe International Committee of the Red Cross said Thursday it had found 600 bodies in Mazar-i-Sharif in the wake of the battle, but could not say whether the victims had been executed or were killed in combat. \nStraw said the situation in Kunduz was "sketchy" and the British government had "no troops on the ground" in the area to verify conflicting reports about Taliban defections. \n"It's an area where information is limited but our position is very straightforward," he said. \n"If people are ready to surrender, they are serious in their intentions, they have given up their arms and it is possible to accept their surrender, then their surrender should be accepted," he said. \n"We also understand that if people have been fighting for the Taliban, as is the case in any other similar conflict, then they stand to be detained if they do surrender. They can't expect to go free." \nExcept for Kunduz, the Taliban have been driven from the north and the capital Kabul since US-led air strikes began on Oct. 7 in retaliation for the Islamic militia's refusal to hand over terror suspect bin Laden. \nWith the Taliban confined mainly to the southern desert provinces, the focus of the international campaign in Afghanistan has shifted to tracking down bin Laden and creating a new government to end years of ethnic strife. \nStraw said the ethnic minority groups in the Northern Alliance, which now controls Kabul, were committed to participating in an inter-Afghan meeting in Germany next week to discuss a broad-based provisional administration. \n"We hope, given what they have already said, and we expect the Northern Alliance to continue to show a high degree of responsibility for securing a peaceful future in Afghanistan," he said, a day after meeting alliance foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah in Iran. \n"That can only come about if there is give and take, if there is an acceptance that no one party, no one ethnic group, should have control of any government."
SECRET OUT: Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung yesterday accidentally revealed that the infections occurred at the ministry’s Taoyuan General Hospital The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) yesterday reported the fifth COVID-19 case in a cluster infection at a Taoyuan hospital, where four other medical workers were confirmed to have been infected over the past week. The latest case is a nurse who had tested negative on Tuesday last week, Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the CECC, told a news conference. However, on Thursday, she developed symptoms, such as nasal congestion and a cough, and a second test yesterday found that she was infected, Chen said. She is the head nurse of a ward where two
VIGILANCE: While two of the cases are family members of a nurse, there is no sign of community spread and the source of infection is identifiable, the CECC said The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) yesterday reported four new domestic COVID-19 cases associated with a cluster infection at a Taoyuan hospital. Since the first case was identified on Tuesday last week, five healthcare workers — two doctors and three nurses — at the Ministry of Health and Welfare’s Taoyuan General Hospital have tested positive for the virus. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, said that two of the four new cases are the husband and daughter of a nurse (case No. 863) who had earlier been confirmed to have COVID-19. The husband (case No. 864)
Don Quijote, the biggest discount store in Japan, is opening its first store in Taiwan today. The three-story Don Don Donki store in Taipei’s Ximending (西門町) area, which operates 24 hours a day, has already created 400 jobs, the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) said in a press release. Many Taiwanese, including Taipei Deputy Mayor Vivian Huang (黃珊珊), consider a trip to Don Quijote an essential stop in Japan. “I have been to Don Quijote at least 10 times myself,” Huang said yesterday at a news conference announcing the store’s opening. “They are rendering an important service, because we cannot travel
CHANGE OF GUARD: Hsiao Bi-khim’s attendance at Joe Biden’s inauguration will come as a boost to those in Taiwan who feared that the new US administration would be less friendly than that of Donald Trump to the nation Representative to the US Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴) is to attend US President Joe Biden’s swearing-in ceremony at the US Capitol after she was invited by the US Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, a news release issued by the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO) in the US said last night. The news came as a surprise as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had been reticent about the matter, while Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) members had accused the Democratic Progressive Party administration of hedging its bets on the Republican Party. Asked about when Hsiao received the invitation, the ministry did not