Russia reports budget for weapon destruction

Russia has budgeted $174 million for destroying chemical weapons in 2003, far less than what is needed to help Moscow meet its goals, the head of the chemical disarmament program said Wednesday.

Zinovy Pak, the head of the Russian Munitions Agency, said the 2003 allocation was about the same as that for 2002.

“We are certainly not satisfied with the sum, for we have to start construction of the main scrapping facilities for poisonous gases in Shchuchye … and Kambarka,” Pak said, according to the Interfax-Military News Agency.

Russia has been trying to convince other nations of the seriousness of its efforts to destroy its chemical weapons arsenal, which at nearly 44,000 tons is the world’s largest.

The process, launched after Russia ratified the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention, has been beset by numerous delays blamed on a lack of funding.


New rail system draws 1 million onlookers

Nearly 1 million curious and excited people thronged stations to get a peek and take a ride as the capital’s swank new subway and metro rail system opened Wednesday for regular service.

Tens of thousands of people stood in lines to board the rail system, which officials hope will relieve chronic congestion in New Delhi, a city of 16 million people and 4 million vehicles.

Officials used radio spots to warn the crowd against unruly behavior. Still, passengers tampered with the automated doors of the train cars, forcing authorities to ground one of the four trains scheduled to ply through the day.

The metro could represent a true lifestyle leap for the gritty, traffic-clogged city.

Tickets cost up to 16 cents, affordable for ordinary Indians. The five miles that opened Wednesday cover one of Delhi’s most congested areas, which houses a largely poor, working class population.


Israel won’t vaccinate public against smallpox

Israel’s Health Ministry decided Wednesday not to vaccinate the public against smallpox, citing security services’ determination that there is no strong threat of an Iraqi biological attack now.

Israel has vaccinated about 15,000 health and rescue personnel against smallpox in recent weeks because of the growing threat of war between the United States and Iraq.

There are fears a U.S. attack would lead Saddam Hussein’s regime to strike at Israel, possibly with biological or chemical weapons. The Iraqis fired 39 Scud missiles at Israel during the 1991 Gulf War, but none carried chemical or biological warheads.

However, after consultations with Israeli and American security officials, the Health Ministry concluded Iraq probably does not have both the smallpox virus and the capability to use it in an attack on Israel, director Boaz Lev said Wednesday.


Pro-Kremlin party head killed by gunmen

Unidentified gunmen shot and killed the head of a pro-Kremlin party in the Chechen capital Grozny, a Chechen government official said Wednesday.

Sayed-Amin Adizov, a construction company chief who also headed the Grozny chapter of the United Russia party, was killed as he rode in his truck on Tuesday night, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Adizov’s father, who headed the Chechen council of elders under the region’s first separatist leader, Dzhokhar Dudayev, was gunned down in 1995, the Interfax news agency reported.

A pro-Kremlin party leader in Moscow, Vyacheslav Volodin, said the killing was an attempt to derail efforts at normalization in Chechnya.