Archive for Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Briefly

June 30, 2004

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London

Beheading victim's dad calls handover a sham

The father of an American beheaded in Iraq said Tuesday the handover of sovereignty there was a sham and accused President Bush of causing immense pain to thousands of people by going to war.

Michael Berg, whose 26-year-old son, Nicholas, was decapitated by militants, said at a news conference organized by the Stop the War Coalition that the transfer was "nothing more than another nut-and-shell game."

"We know that the Iraqi people have not had an election yet, so we do not have a democracy over there, we just have a dictatorship of Bush and (Prime Minister Tony) Blair," he said. "What kind of stability is there in Iraq when we have to sneak the transfer of power in two days ahead of time for who knows why?"

Indonesia

Free circumcisions offered for votes

Walking past open sewers and crowded tenements, the campaign organizer for President Megawati Sukarnoputri pointed to a glistening mosque, boasting that her party spent $1,600 to renovate it.

The Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle has also handed out rice, instant noodles and fish in this impoverished north Jakarta neighborhood, a party activist said proudly, and plans to offer free circumcisions, a tradition in this Muslim nation but often too expensive for the poor.

Critics say the Indonesian leader, who is up for re-election Monday, is bribing the electorate.

The voter intimidation and government-funded projects that ex-dictator Suharto used to prop up his 32-year-old rule, they say, has given way to newly independent political parties spending large sums to woo voters.

Israel

More rockets strike during Sharon visit

Palestinian militants rocketed border town Sderot on Tuesday during a visit by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, underscoring Israel's helplessness in stopping the crude projectiles launched from the Gaza Strip.

Five rockets hit Sderot, even though Israeli soldiers reoccupied parts of the northern Gaza Strip earlier in the day to prevent such barrages. One Sderot resident was hurt. Sharon, who was more than a mile from where the rockets struck, was unharmed.

In the Gaza Strip, Israeli tanks encircled the town of Beit Hanoun, home to 21,000 Palestinians. Bulldozers tore up the main road in the eighth major Israeli military operation there since the outbreak of fighting in 2000.

Troops advanced about 700 yards into town, meeting no armed resistance, only sporadic stone-throwing by teenagers, residents said. A local hospital said 17 of the youngsters were wounded by army fire, one critically.

United Nations

U.S. expels guards at Iran's U.N. mission

The United States expelled two security guards at Iran's U.N. mission for photographing "sensitive" sites in New York after two previous warnings about such picture-taking, U.S. officials said Tuesday.

Iran's U.N. Mission denied the charges, saying that the guards photographed only typical tourist attractions in the city.

The United States took action after the FBI recently observed the pair videotaping, State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said in Washington. The incident occurred in May, a note to the Iranians said.

The United States had warned Iran twice before about such photography, Ereli said. Since the Iranians persisted, he said, the United States had no choice but to expel the guards.

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