Archive for Wednesday, March 31, 2004


March 31, 2004



Sharon to obey party on Gaza Strip pullout

Beset by a bribery scandal, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on Tuesday went before a gathering of his Likud Party to endorse a referendum among members on his Gaza Strip withdrawal proposal.

Sharon told the Likud convention in Tel Aviv he would abide by the results of the vote among the more than 200,000 members of the right-leaning party, whose leaders have been divided on the pullout.

"Accepting the democratic decision, as reached by the widest forum, is the right way to maintain unity within the Likud, also at times of difficult decisions," he said.

No date was set for the referendum, which was approved by delegates at the meeting earlier in the evening. But it is expected to follow Sharon's planned visit next month with President Bush in Washington.


Forensic experts agree president was shot

A team of U.S. forensic experts Tuesday cast doubt on the conspiracy theories swirling around the injury of Taiwan's president, saying the graze wound suffered by Chen Shui-bian a day before his re-election was consistent with a shooting.

"The examinations that we have conducted ... all lead us to the conclusion that President Chen sustained a gunshot wound of the abdomen," Cyril Wecht, the Allegheny County, Pa., coroner, told a news conference after visiting Chen.

"There is no question at all in our minds that the wound on President Chen's abdomen is what we call a grazing type of gunshot wound," said Wecht, who became famous for disputing the single-bullet theory in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

The loser in Taiwan's March 20 election, Lien Chan, and his supporters have suggested Chen was not the victim of an assassination attempt on the campaign trail but was involved in a political hoax designed to generate sympathy votes.


Miner blows self up

An angry miner with dynamite strapped to his chest blew himself up in Bolivia's congress Tuesday, killing two police officers and wounding 10 others, authorities said.

La Paz Police Chief Guido Arandia said the suicide bomber -- whose demand for early retirement benefits underscored the grievances of many low-paid miners in Bolivia -- stormed into congress around midday and went to a part of the building away from the congressional chambers.

The miner detonated his vest laced with at least five sticks of dynamite as congressional security police tried to negotiate. Arandia said the miner killed himself and fatally wounded Col. Marbel Flores, head of the congressional security police, and an officer who wasn't immediately identified. Col. Carlos Za, head of the country's intelligence service, was critically injured.

Arandia said there was no doubt the man had intentionally blew himself.

Police had evacuated congress earlier Tuesday after receiving reports that disgruntled miners planned to force their way into the building. Police had no immediate report on whether the bomber was acting alone or with others.

The bombing comes with thousands of Bolivian miners out of work.

Mexico City

Political leader resigns amid corruption scandal

Cuauhtemoc Cardenas, who created Mexico's Democratic Revolutionary Party 15 years ago, has resigned from the party's leadership amid a brewing bribery scandal involving close aides to the party's leading presidential candidate.

Cardenas, 69, said he would remain a member of the party but wouldn't take any party posts. At a news conference late Monday, he fumed that the party had been "kidnapped by parasitic forces."

"There's a confrontation with those who promote sectarian policies, are developing a parasitical democracy and who may be involved in corruption," he said.

Cardenas' resignation caused a commotion in Mexico's political arena, which is fast filling with aspirants to succeed President Vicente Fox in 2006.

The leading contender to replace Fox is Mexico City Mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, a member of Cardenas' party. But Lopez Obrador's standing has been challenged by videotapes of aides accepting cash from business executives.

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