Mon, Oct 20, 2003 - Page 6 News List

World News Quick Take

AGENCIES

■ Japan
Peacekeepers on alert

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's top policy planner said yesterday that Japan is preparing to send peacekeepers to Iraq, but didn't elaborate on the timing or size of the deployment. "There is a substantial need for rebuilding infrastructure in southeastern Iraq, and we want to send troops one way or another to get involved in the operation," Fukushiro Nukaga told a news program on public broadcaster NHK. Nukaga said a small team will be sent initially to establish an operations base, with more troops to follow. He didn't elaborate on exactly when the troops would go, or how many, but said it is expected by the end of the year.

■ Hong Kong

March protests harbor plan

About 800 people marched to government headquarters yesterday to protest a land reclamation project that critics say will further shrink Hong Kong's famed Victoria Harbor. "Protect our harbor! Stop reclamation!" chanted the demonstrators, who held a massive blue banner signed by thousands of people against the project. Demonstrators want the government to halt the reclamation of a planned 18-hectare strip in downtown Central district where it intends to build new roads to improve traffic. They also condemned those who allegedly issued threats against a leading conservationist, who successfully challenged in July a government reclamation project in Wanchai district.

■ Indonesia

Troops kill four rebels

Indonesian troops said yesterday they had killed four more separatist rebels in Aceh province, where a major campaign against the guerrilla movement is entering its sixth month. The four rebels were killed in separate clashes in three districts on Saturday, said military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Ahmad Yani Basuki. Soldiers seized a Kalashnikov rifle and a handgun from the rebels, Basuki said.

■ Afghanistan

Loot gives nation a boost

It lay hidden for 2,000 years in Afghanistan, eluded the Taliban and escaped dozens of adventurers and bounty hunters. Now the Bactrian hoard, one of the world's greatest archaeological collections, has been found. Afghan President Hamid Karzai discovered the 20,000 gold coins and artefacts, worth tens of millions of dollars, in a sealed vault under the main palace in the capital, Kabul, after ordering it to be opened earlier this year. No one expected it to contain the treasure, dating from Alexander the Great's conquest of Afghanistan in 327BC.

■ Australia

Doctors deliver slug warning

Australian doctors have issued a bizarre warning about eating slugs after a student contracted a potentially fatal brain disease when he swallowed some of the slimy gastropods for a dare. The medicos said there had been numerous cases of meningitis since 1971 caused by people eating garden snails or slugs. One child died after eating snails and one patient contracted meningitis after eating lettuce covered with snail slime, a report in the Medical Journal of Australia due to be published today said. Sydney University parasitologist John Walker said the most recent case was a Sydney student who ate two slugs as a dare for 20 Australian dollars (US$13.80). Walker reported the man's friend also swallowed some slugs as part of the dare but promptly vomited them up, foregoing his A$20.

■ United States
Iraq contracts draw flak

Hoping to speed up reconstruction work in Iraq, US officials in Baghdad are offering contracts totaling hundreds of millions of dollars, but giving companies as little as three days to submit competing bids. Procurement experts said the extremely short deadlines were legal, but some warned that they could stifle open competition, favor well-connected contractors at the expense of outsiders and lead to higher costs. "Three days is absurd," said Steven Schooner, a professor of procurement policy at George Washington University's law school. "You can objectively conclude that in the United States we don't do this. It's highly unusual." Two weeks ago, the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq gave companies three days to bid on a contract to supply the Iraqi government as many as 850 personal computers as well as telephones, fax machines and other office equipment.

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