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Archive for Saturday, January 11, 2003

Briefly

January 11, 2003

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Washington, D.C.: U.S. bombing ranges to replace Vieques

The Navy will expand its use of bombing ranges in Florida and elsewhere on the U.S. mainland -- and may close Roosevelt Roads naval station in Puerto Rico -- after it abandons its training grounds on Vieques in May, officials said Friday.

The naval station has been the largest employer in Puerto Rico.

"Without Vieques there is no way I need the Navy facilities at Roosevelt Roads -- none," said Adm. Robert Natter, commander of the Atlantic Fleet.

Other Navy officials, however, said that any decision to close Roosevelt Roads would have to be made by an independent base-closing commission, as required by Congress, in 2005.

The Navy has used Vieques as its main Atlantic Coast training range for more than 50 years, but it has been hindered by local protests stemming from an April 1999 bombing accident that killed a civilian security guard. In January 2000, the Clinton administration set a May 2003 target date for withdrawing from Vieques, but Congress required the Navy to certify that alternative training sites were at least as good as Vieques.

St. Vincent: Leaders discuss security cooperation

Officials from throughout the Americas on Friday discussed ways to police the Caribbean's remote coastlines and tiny airports in a bid to keep terrorists from moving through the region on their way to carry out attacks.

Delegates, ending a three-day Organization of American States meeting on security threats in small-island states, looked for ways to stop terrorists from targeting tourist resorts in the Caribbean or using the islands as stop-off points on their way to attacks on the United States.

The United States supports the Caribbean's efforts so far to improve airport and border security and encourages additional improvements, said Thomas Shannon, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for the Western Hemisphere.

Because many Caribbean islands have little money for security, officials are considering creating a fund that Caribbean governments could share to address security concerns. Details of the fund have yet to be worked out.

London: Government approves weapons amnesty

The British government said Friday it would review its witness protection program and allow gun owners to give up illegal weapons without fear of retribution, as it battles a four-year increase in gun crime.

Officials meeting at a gun crime summit called for new anti-gun legislation to be presented at a follow-up meeting in March. Britain already has some of the toughest gun laws in the world, including a ban on all handguns.

The Home Office said the government and police would organize an amnesty so gun owners could surrender illegal weapons without fear of punishment, and review measures to protect witnesses of crime from reprisals.

Gun crime is still relatively rare in Britain, where handguns were banned in 1997 after the massacre of 16 children and a teacher at a primary school in Dunblane, Scotland. Previous amnesties yielded thousands of weapons.

Mexico City: Fox accepts resignation of foreign secretary

In the first Cabinet shuffle of his 2-year-old presidency, President Vicente Fox accepted the resignation of Foreign Secretary Jorge Castaneda on Friday and replaced him with Economy Secretary Ernesto Derbez.

Fox credited Castaneda with increasing Mexico's stature abroad and thanked him for his "commitment, loyalty and professionalism."

"In this new stage, we want to make Mexico a bridge between regions of the world," Fox said.

Fox invited Fernando Canales, governor of northern Nuevo Leon state, to take Derbez's post as economy secretary.

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