Russia on Wednesday widened a rift on the UN Security Council over Iraq when it openly disputed Washington's claim of having proof that Baghdad is hiding weapons of mass destruction from UN inspectors and is in "material breach" of UN resolutions. \n"No one can provide the slightest evidence" that Iraq represented a terrorist threat, Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Yury Fedotov was quoted by ITAR-TASS news agency as saying. \nThe US and its closest ally, Britain, claim proof exists Iraqi attempts to foil weapons inspections, a claim Baghdad vehemently denies. \nRussia, the US and Britain, along with France and China, are the five permanent Security Council members, each with veto power over actions and resolutions by the 15-member council. \nWashington has threatened unilateral military action against Iraq if Baghdad should prove to be in material breach of UN Security Council Resolution 1441 mandating its complete renunciation of weapons of mass destruction. \nWashington and London have already said such a material breach exists, based on a 12,000-page accounting of Iraq's arsenals, mandated and received by the Security Council. \nMeanwhile Syria, the only Arab member of the council, dismissed as "ridiculous" and "unfounded" accusations by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon that Iraq had transferred weapons of mass destruction to Syrian soil. \nSharon said UN inspectors in Iraq were less likely to find anything than they might have previously because the weapons were being hidden in Syria. \n"There is information we are verifying," Sharon said. "But we are certain that Iraq has recently moved chemical or biological weapons into Syria." \n"Saddam Hussein wanted to hide his weapons, and I think that the Americans know that," he said. Sharon strongly backs US threats to topple the Iraqi leader's regime over its alleged weapons off mass destruction programs. \n"Sharon's allegations are unfounded and aim to divert attention from the chemical, nuclear and biological arsenal that Israel possesses," a foreign ministry spokesman said in Damascus. \n"The accusations are ridiculous, especially since Syria has signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and called along with the other Arab countries for the Middle East to be freed from all weapons of mass destruction," he was quoted by the official news agency SANA as saying. \n"The only party that has opposed this call and continues to do so is Israel," he said. \nIsrael agreed with the US in 1969 not to declare its nuclear weapons programs nor to test the weapons. \nIn return, Washington pledged not to pressure Israel to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. \nExperts say Israel possesses at least 200 nuclear warheads and the means to use them in an attack. \nIn Iraq on Christmas Day it was business as usual for UN inspectors, with five teams from the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), scouring Iraqi territory. \nIn Baghdad, President Saddam Hussein told his people in a broadcast he was confident Iraq would be cleared by the inspectors. \nThe outcome of the UN operations "will be a big shock to the US and will expose all American lies, if things remain on a technical and professional course with no hidden agendas. \nSaddam repeated the allegation that Washington was really after Iraq's oil. \n"It is in this context the American-Zionist campaign against Iraq is being launched, while the tone of a threatened, large-scale military aggression against our peace-loving people is growing louder," he said. \nThe mouthpiece of the ruling Baath party, Ath-Thawra, denied claims by US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld that Baghdad's downing of a US an unmanned US Predator spy drone violated Resolution 1441. \n"The destruction of this aircraft is the legitimate right of Iraq within the framework of legitimate defense and of resistance against violation of our airspace by American and British warplanes," Ath-Thawra said. \nThe Turkish parliament meanwhile decided Wednesday to extend the mandate of a joint US-British force tasked with supervising a no-fly zone in northern Iraq, the Anatolia news agency reported. \nThe decision came as NATO-member Turkey debated whether to back its key ally the US in possible military strikes against Iraq and the extent of its support. \nWith Wednesday's parliamentary approval, the mandate of the force, called Operation Northern Watch, has been extended for six months, effective as of Dec. 31. \nNorthern Watch is charged with enforcing a no-fly zone north of the 36th parallel in order to protect the region's Kurdish population. \nBaghdad does not recognize the northern no-fly zone nor a twin zone in the south of Iraq aimed at protecting the Shiite Muslim population there. \nNeither zone is authorized by any specific UN resolution.
HONG KONG SECURITY: The president blasted regulations requiring Taiwanese agents or political organizations to provide information on their Hong Kong-related activities President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday warned of countermeasures should controversial Chinese national security legislation imposed on Hong Kong undermine or harm Taiwanese interests. Article 43 of the legislation empowers the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to serve written notices to Taiwanese political organizations or individual agents to furnish information on their Hong Kong-related activities, including their personal particulars, finances, assets, expenditure and capital in the territory. Failure to comply or providing false or incomplete information can result in a fine of HK$100,000 (US$12,903) or imprisonment of six months or two years respectively. Tsai said that Taiwan would keep a close watch on how
PROBE LAUNCHED: An officer who served as a supervisor in the drill died in an apparent suicide after the accident, which was caused by unexpected waves Two marines who were on Friday injured in a military exercise in the waters off Kaohsiung passed away yesterday, Navy Command said. The marines — surnamed Tsai (蔡), 26, and a sergeant surnamed Chen (陳), 36 — were in a seven-member Marine Corps team that encountered rough seas during a simulated response to enemy forces landing on Taiwan. Their rubber craft overturned in waters off Taoziyuan (桃子園) beach in Zuoying District (左營), injuring four of the marines. They were rushed to hospital, where three of them — Tsai, Chen and a 34-year-old sergeant — were taken to an intensive care unit
MORAL COURAGE: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs urged the global community to face China’s intention to subdue Taiwan and reject such irrational requests The Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday strongly condemned the Chinese government for meddling with US officials’ interactions with Taiwan after FBI Director Christopher Wray revealed China’s efforts to discourage US officials from visiting Taiwan. The greatest long-term threat to the US’ information security and intellectual property, as well as its economic vitality, is China’s counterintelligence and economic espionage operations, Wray told a video event at the Hudson Institute in Washington. Beijing is engaged in a highly sophisticated and maligning foreign influence campaign, with methods that include bribery, blackmail and covert deals, he said. Giving an example, Wray said that when a US official
CAUTION: Taiwan had zero cases of death from food poisoning for six years until last year, when two people died after eating wildlife, an FDA official said The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) yesterday urged the public not to eat wildlife or unidentified wild plants, as they could be fatal, with nearly 7,000 people affected by food poisoning last year, including two deaths due to wildlife consumption. The number of food poisoning incidents increased by nearly 50 percent last year, from 398 cases involving 4,616 people in the previous year to 503 cases involving 6,944 people, FDA data showed. That figure was the second-highest in history, the FDA said, adding that the highest number was recorded in 1997, with 7,235 people. Among the 503 cases, 87 were food poisoning clusters