Russia fears that the United States is developing anti-satellite laser weapons that could upset the strategic arms balance. The U.S. military successfully fired a ground-based laser at one of its own air force satellites, but a Pentagon spokesman said the purpose was merely to measure the satellite's vulnerability to laser attack. Resluts were inconclusive due to technical problems.
ZAPPING A SATELLITE
MANDELA HITS SANCTIONS
Following a controversial meeting with Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi, South African President Nelson Mandela called on the United Nations to lift sanctions against the country, saying they hurt ordinary Libyans. Mandela visited Libya in the face of strong criticism from the United States, which has targeted Gadhafi as a backer of terrorism. Mandela said he wanted to thank Libya for its support during the struggle against apartheid.
The International Whaling Commission was divided over an Irish compromise proposal that would allow limited commercial whaling. The commission banned commercial hunts worldwide in 1986 to protect depleted stocks. But pro-hunting nations such as Norway insist some whale breeds are plentiful enough to hunt. Ireland, which will draft a detailed plan, fears the conflict will cause the 39-nation IWC to collapse, triggering full-scale hunting of whales.
REFORMING THE 1RS
Legislation turning the Internal Revenue Service into a more taxpayerfriendly agency won broad support in the U.S. Congress. The measures would create a new oversight board and shift the burden of proof in civil court tax cases to the 1RS. Reform became a hot issue following emotionally charged Senate hearings where taxpayers testified about trying for years to have their cases resolved.
GYPSIES HEAD FOR BRITAIN
Czech and Slovak Roma, commonly known as Gypsies, flooded into Britain, soon after Canada re-imposed visa requirements to stem a similar tide. Facing discrimination at home, they apparently believed Britain would welcome them. Slovakia broadcast television ads urging them not to travel to Britain.
Pushing the land-mines cause
Land mines, globalization and rogue members dominated the agenda when Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and the leaders of 51 other Commonwealth countries gathered in Edinburgh for a four-day summit. Fresh from a trip to Russia, Chrétien also urged about a dozen reluctant Commonwealth countries to sign the Canadian-sponsored treaty banning the use of land mines. The official focus of this year’s conference was supposed to be trade and investment. But the economic talks were quickly overshadowed by debate over the West African states of Sierra Leone and Nigeria. Sierra Leone was suspended from the Commonwealth in July following a military coup, while Nigeria had been given the same treatment in 1995 after author Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other political dissidents were hanged by the regime of Gen. Sani Abacha. Canada wants Nigeria kept out at least until Abacha delivers on promises to hold national elections.
In Russia, Chrétien was heartened by a new commitment from President Boris Yeltsin to sign the land-mine treaty. Yeltsin first indicated Russia would abandon opposition to the treaty after the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines in early October. But he hedged under pressure from the Russian military. Yeltsin’s new, written promise to sign came after two days of urging by the Canadian visitor. Chrétien made less headway over complaints about intimidation of Halifax-based IMP Group in a dispute over its $60-million stake in a Russian hotel. Yeltsin promised to look into the case, but said Canadians were not investing enough in Russia.
Pol Pot speaks
Cambodian guerrilla chief Pol Pot denies he was responsible for massive genocide when he controlled the country from 1975 to 1979. Unrepentant in his first interview since Vietnamese troops drove him from office 18 years ago, he rejected historians’ conclusions that more than one million of his countrymen died in Cambodia’s “killing fields.” “To say that millions died is too much,” he told the Hong Kong-based Far Eastern Economic Review. “My conscience is clear.” During his revolutionary rule,
Khmer Rouge zealots executed masses of people, while many others died of starvation and disease when Pol Pot forced people from the cities into the countryside. But he blamed many of the deaths on Vietnamese agents. “I came to carry out the struggle, not to kill people,” he said. “You can look at me: am I a savage person?” Pol Pot’s former comrades ousted him as leader of the Khmer Rouge in June after a bloody split in which, he admitted, he ordered a rival and his family killed. Now 72 and ailing, he lives under house arrest at Khmer Rouge headquarters in the north Cambodian jungle.
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