Fri, Jul 02, 2004 - Page 7 News List

World News Quick Take

AGENCIES

■ North Korea

US accused of spy flights

North Korea accused the US yesterday of sending 180 aerial spy missions over the country last month in preparation for "a surprise attack," official media said. US spy planes including U-2s, RC-135s, E-3s and EP-3s flew the missions, the Korean Central News Agency said, quoting military sources. The agency said the US reconnaissance flights "indicate that the US is always watching for a chance to make a surprise attack on [North Korea]." The US military authorities in South Korea have customarily declined to comment on North Korean claims of aerial espionage.

■ Indonesia

Quake hits

An earthquake measuring 6.3 on the Richter scale shook eastern Indonesia yesterday, but there were no immediate reports of damage or casualties, officials said. An official at the Meteorology and Geophysics Agency in Manado in North Sulawesi province said the quake struck shortly after dawn with its epicenter in the ocean, 114km north of the coastal city. "We have not yet heard if there were any casualties or damage," the official said from Manado, 2,200km northeast of Jakarta. Officials said the quake was felt in Manado. Earthquakes often occur in Indonesia, where plate boundaries intersect and volcanoes regularly erupt.

■ New Zealand

Law bans mercenaries

New Zealand's parliament passed a law yesterday making it illegal for its citizens to become mercenaries. The law also makes it illegal to recruit, use, finance or train mercenaries, or for mercenary groups to use the country as a safe haven. Justice Minister Phil Goff said the measure, which comes into force in a few weeks, means that New Zealanders could be prosecuted here for any mercenary acts committed overseas. Offenders will face up to 14 years in prison. The law will enable New Zealand to accede to an international convention which has been in force since 2001.

■ China

Party hack freezes loot

Some hide it under their mattresses. But a senior Communist Party official in China used his fridge to freeze cash assets from millions of yuan in alleged bribe-taking before being busted by authorities. Xu Guojian, head of the party's organization department in eastern Jiangsu province, a post that put him in charge of appointments, allegedly took the money from officials seeking jobs and promotions. Investigators found 15 million yuan (US$1.8 million) in cash at his home, including stacks of bills that were hidden in his "enormous imported refrigerator," the South China Morning Post reported yesterday. It said that money was part of 100 million yuan Xu was suspected of taking from lower-ranking officials.

■ Australia

Thief programmed to fail

A novice thief entered his father's address into the global positioning system of a luxury BMW sedan he stole and then dumped after using it as a getaway car in a bank hold-up, a court in Australia was told yesterday. Sydney university student George Youssef, 21, pleaded guilty in a Brisbane court to a range of charges stemming from the incident in February last year. Youssef used a plastic pistol to carjack the BMW and then proceeded to hold up a bank, before dumping the car at a school. He gave himself up a few days later, having spent the A$10,000 (US$7,000) he stole at a casino.

■ Sierra Leone

Hezbollah exploiting traders

Lebanon's Hezbollah guerrilla movement is systematically siphoning profits from West Africa's multimillion-dollar diamond trade, in part by threatening the Lebanese merchants who long have handled much of the region's diamond business, US diplomats in West Africa charge. They claim Hezbollah profiteering from West Africa's diamond trade is more pervasive, organized and coercive than most US officials have previously acknowledged. "There's a lot of social pressure and extortionate pressure brought to bear: `You had better support our cause, or we'll visit your people back home,'" said Larry Andre, deputy chief of mission for the US Embassy in Sierra Leone.

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