More troops leave Aceh
Indonesia withdrew another 2,600 soldiers from tsunami-battered Aceh Province yesterday as part of the military's commitment to an accord to end three decades of fighting with separatist rebels, an official said. The troops -- among some 30,000 security forces slated to leave the province by Dec. 31 -- set sail from the northern port town of Lhokseumawe on three warships, with another 3,500 soldiers scheduled to go by the month's end. Indonesia withdrew its first 800 troops on Sunday. The soldiers sang and waved their helmets in the air yesterday as they boarded the vessels, which left for the towns of Palembang on Sumatra island, and Semarang and Surabaya on the main island of Java.
Pollution case to go ahead
An Indonesian court ruled yesterday that the pollution trial of a local unit of US mining giant Newmont and its American president should go ahead. The court rejected defense arguments that the indictment was flawed. "The defendant's legal exception is hereby rejected and the trial shall proceed with the examination of the case," chief judge Ridwan Damanik said. The trial in Manado, the capital of North Sulawesi Province, was adjourned until Oct. 7. Newmont Minahasa Raya, the Denver-based company's Indonesian subsidiary, and its president Richard Ness are accused of polluting Buyat Bay near a now-defunct company mine in North Sulawesi.
Team finds 1,000 old bombs
A Japanese team in northeastern China has dug up another 1,000 bombs, including 281 with chemical weapons, abandoned by retreating imperial troops at the end of World War II, officials said yesterday. The bombs were found in a residential area of Yichun, a city in Heilongjiang Province which was part of Japanese-occupied Manchuria, a government statement said. No one was injured as residents had been evacuated for the excavation, which was completed this month by a 30-strong team from Japan and some 100 people on the Chinese side, a government official said.
Man chained for two years
A low-caste Hindu man in India has been chained to the verandah of his house for more than two years after fellow villagers declared him insane, the Times of India newspaper reported yesterday. Upendra Naik, 32, was declared mentally unsound in July 2003 after villagers said he stole a trident from a temple in their village, near the town of Kendrapara in the eastern state of Orissa. They also said he was violent and often hit residents. "I am an innocent person," Naik, a Dalit -- as Hinduism's lowest "untouchable" caste is now known -- was quoted as saying.
N Korea talks to resume
Japan said yesterday it will resume talks with North Korea which have been stalled for almost a year in a dispute over kidnappings, a day after the North signed a deal to ease concerns about its nuclear program. "Dialogue between the two governments has been suspended since the end of last year but we will resume talks," Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura told a news conference. He did not set a date for renewed talks, which would aim to establish diplomatic relations, saying only, "It's good to hold them as soon as possible."
De facto unions legalized
Common-law status might be applied to offer some legal protection to unmarried heterosexual couples, a top Italian cardinal said Monday -- a rare concession by the Roman Catholic Church, which has long condemned "de facto" unions. Cardinal Camillo Ruini gave no indication that the recognition would be extended to same-sex couples, and said that any protection should stop short of envisioning "something similar to a marriage." He said full legal recognition to unmarried couples would eclipse the nature and value of traditional families.