World News Quick Take

AGENCIES

Mon, Dec 22, 2003 - Page 6

■ The Philippines

Ople gets hero's burial

The Philippines buried late foreign secretary Blas Ople at the Heroes Cemetery yesterday, a state honor it denied former dictator Ferdinand Marcos whom he had served loyally. President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo dropped a white flower into Ople's grave, soldiers fired a 21-gun salvo and a helicopter showered white orchids during the ceremony at Manila's main army camp. Ople, 76, died of a heart attack in a Taiwan hospital last week after being stricken ill on a plane while on a foreign trip. Ople served Marcos for two decades as labor minister until the dictator was overthrown in a "people power" revolt in 1986.

■ Malaysia

`Terrorist' not deported

Malaysian authorities have postponed the planned deportation yesterday of an alleged senior leader of the Jemaah Islamiyah terrorist group shortly before he was due to board a flight to his home country, Indonesia, where he was expected to walk free. Mohammad Iqbal Rahman, who'd been in Malaysian custody for 30 months on suspicion of militant links, never showed up for the flight despite immigration officials telling his family to prepare to join him at the airport. Iqbal's wife, Fatimah Zahrah Abdul Aziz, said she'd learned that his deportation was delayed after she'd checked in to board yesterday morning's flight from Kuala Lumpur to Jakarta.

■ Bhutan

Troops destroy rebel camps

Bhutan said yesterday its troops had destroyed 28 camps set up by Indian rebels in the tiny Himalayan kingdom and were searching for militants hiding in dense forests. The Buddhist kingdom launched its biggest military offensive early last week against around 3,000 guerrillas who had set up camps in its southern jungles for their battle against New Delhi's rule in India's remote northeast. "Our security forces have taken over all the camps established in the country by the militants," Yeshey Dorji, spokesman for the foreign office, said by telephone from Bhutan.

■ Malaysia

Government blasts US

Mainly-Muslim Malaysia blasted the US government yesterday over a report accusing it of restricting religious freedom. "It is shocking for the US State Department to issue such a misleading, irresponsible and untruthful report," Deputy Information Minister Khalid Yunus said. "The whole world knows the religious freedom that exists in Malaysia, that we have close relationships and understanding among the people as far as freedom of religion is concerned," he said. Khalid urged the US government to ensure that future reports were factually correct in order not to create "unnecessary animosity" in bilateral relations.

■ Thailand

War on drugs kills opium

Thailand's "war on drugs" launched this year has slashed opium production in the north by 80 percent to about 160 hectares, the army said according to a report yesterday. "Opium plantations have sharply decreased in the area," Lieutenant General Picharnmeth Muangmanee, commander of the Third Army which patrols the border with Myanmar, told the Bangkok Post. "This is not only because the military has destroyed more than 640 hectares of opium fields but also because of the tough anti-drug policy which has scared the hilltribespeople from growing opium poppies," he said. The Third Army launched a fresh three-month crackdown against drug crops on Dec. 18.

■ United States

Translator charges dropped

The US military has dropped three charges against a U.S. Air Force translator who worked at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp that holds al-Qaeda and Taliban suspects, but six charges, including espionage, remain in place, a military spokesman said on Saturday. Senior Airman Ahmad al Halabi of Detroit, Michigan, was arrested on July 23 and accused of carrying jail maps, letters and other sensitive documents away from Guantanamo.

■ Guinea

President to win election

Guinea's longtime leader Lansana Conte was easily expected to win another term as president yesterday, after opposition parties boycotted the balloting, leaving a little-known parliamentarian as the only challenger for the post. Opposition leaders pulled out of the race last month, accusing Conte of plotting to rig the poll. Conte's government has denied the allegations. Conte's only opponent was Mamadou Bhoye Barry, the sole representative in parliament of the Union for National Progress, a party loosely allied with Conte's ruling Party for Unity and Progress.

■ Saudi Arabia

US sailors seize drugs

US sailors seized drugs with a minimum street value of US$3 million in the North Arabian Sea on Saturday, with the crew of an Arab sailing boat throwing bags of suspected drugs overboard as the Navy bore down on it, the US Navy 5th Fleet said. US sailors from the guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea boarded two dhows, or Arab sailing boats, at dawn and detained 21 crew, the 5th Fleet said in a statement issued from its headquarters in Bahrain. A US Navy aircraft filmed the crew of one dhow throwing approximately 200 bags of suspected drugs overboard as it "attempted to outrun the interception forces," the statement said.

■ Italy

Leftist group raided

Police raided an alleged hideout of the radical leftist Red Brigades terrorist group on Saturday, finding a huge cache of explosives weeks after major sweeps that picked up nine people linked to the notorious organization. Authorities believe that the basement near Rome's Termini train station in central Rome had been used by Red Brigades members who have since been arrested, the ANSA news agency said. Police made no arrests on Saturday. Some 100kg of explosives were found, as well as detonators, floppy disks and Red Brigades documents, ANSA said.

■ Vatican City

Austrian miracle recognized

The Vatican on Saturday recognized a miracle performed by Charles, the last emperor of Austria and a relative of the colorful 19th-century empress "Sissi," officially setting him on the path to beatification. Beatification, in which a person is declared blessed, is a key step towards sainthood, itself attained following the Roman Catholic Church's approval of two miracles. Charles sat on the throne of the now-defunct Austro-Hungarian empire between 1916 and 1918. "He served his people with justice and charity. He sought peace, helped the poor, cultivated a spiritual life," said the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints. It gave no details on the miracle attributed to him.