Tue, Dec 30, 2003 - Page 6 News List

World News Quick Take

AGENCIES

■ Japan

Iraqi debt relief offered

Japan is willing to forgive the "vast majority" of its Iraqi debt if other Paris Club creditor nations do the same, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement yesterday during a visit by US envoy James Baker. Iraq owes Japan US$4.1 billion, but that number reaches an estimated US$7.76 billion when late penalty fees are included. The US has been encouraging creditors to assist Iraq by relieving part of its crushing debt. Baker, who has already won agreements on Iraqi debt relief from several European nations, met early yesterday with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi amid reports that Tokyo was considering some relief.

■ Indonesia

Bomb suspects face life

Indonesian prosecutors yesterday demanded that two Muslim militants be sentenced to life imprisonment for helping assemble two bombs that blew up in a nightclub district on Bali island last year. Abdul Ghoni and Syawad, alias Sarjio, are accused of violating anti-terror laws that carry a maximum penalty of death. Both remained silent during separate hearings at the Denpasar District Court. Prosecutors told the court that both men took part in planning meetings ahead of the bombs that killed 202 people, mostly foreign tourists, on Oct. 12 last year.

■ The Philippines

Senator joins race

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's most bitter political rival filed his application yesterday to run in next year's presidential election, in a candidacy that has split the opposition and could mar its chances of beating Arroyo. Senator Panfilo Lacson is the first to file a candidate's certificate in a campaign that already includes declared candidates Arroyo and Fernando Poe Jr., an action film star and opposition newcomer who has been garnering strong voter support in opinion polls. Accompanied by hundreds of followers, Lacson filed his certificate at a jam-packed Elections Commission office, vowing to halt crime, fight corruption and revive the country's shaky economy if he is elected.

■ India

Rats safe from ratcatchers

The Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) has a rat department that feeds on an annual budget of 7.8 million rupees (US$173,000) but doesn't catch any rodents, it was reported yesterday. Not many people know about the rat department's existence. Those who are in the department are clueless about the number of rats in the city or what is being done about them, the Times of India newspaper reported. Some civic officials smelt a rat after going through the MCD's annual accounts. They noticed the rat department spent only 50,000 rupees (US$1,100) on anti-rodent drives. The rest of the budget was spent on salaries, the report said.

■ Australia

Asylum seekers join fast

The number of asylum seekers hospitalized due to a protest fast at a Pacific island detention center has risen to 18, an increase of seven over the past three days, officials said yesterday. The hunger strikers are being treated at a hospital near the camp on the island of Nauru, where they began refusing food three weeks ago to protest Australia's refusal to accept them as refugees. A spokeswoman for the Australia's Immigration Department said the patients have been rehydrated and offered food.

■ United States

More bodies found in mud

Authorities on Sunday found the bodies of five more people caught in a mudslide that engulfed a church camp on Christmas, and urged people in mountain areas scorched by fall wildfires to prepare for heavy rains that could trigger more devastation. Two children washed away from the St Sophia Camp were found tangled in debris in a cement catch basin in downtown San Bernardino. Two women and a man were found closer to the camp. The grim discoveries brought the total number of bodies recovered from the Greek Orthodox camp to 12, with a baby boy and a teenage boy still unaccounted for.

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