Russian President Boris Yeltsin said he will meet soon with Chechen rebel leader Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev. The meeting would be an important advance in the 17-month-old conflict between Russian troops and separatists in Chechnya. “The ice has begun to break,” declared Yeltsin. Progress towards peace could give him a major boost in the June 16 presidential race.
Residents accused security forces of pressuring them to vote as staggered parliamentary elections in the strifetorn Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir began. Separatists who have fought a seven-year war against New Delhi claimed responsibility for a powerful car bomb that went off in the capital, killing 13. Separatists were also suspected in a bombing that killed 14 bus passengers in northwestern India. The voting, Kashmir’s first in seven years, was to end this week.
COMPUTERS FOR CUBA
The U.S. Treasury allowed a shipment of secondhand Canadian computers to be delivered to hospitals in Cuba. Customs officials, enforcing the U.S. boycott of Cuba, had seized the equipment at the California-Mexico border from a group called Pastors for Peace. Release of the computers prompted Brian Rohatyn of Vancouver to end his 87-day protest fast in San Diego. “I’m feeling good and happy,” he said in an interview. “Canadian support has been incredible.”
Divers recovering bodies from East Africa’s worst shipping disaster said more than 1,000 people may have died on the sunken ferry Bukoba. The overloaded Tanzanian vessel, legally allowed to carry 441, capsized on Lake Victoria. Witnesses said it sank quickly after initial efforts by rescuers went terribly wrong. Two holes they cut in the hull allowed water to flow in as passengers screamed for help.
CHINESE ARMS HAUL
U.S. authorities said they had smashed a ring smuggling Chinesemade automatic weapons into the country and accused officials of two Chinese state firms of being involved. Agents in San Francisco arrested seven people in a sting operation after seizing 2,000 AK-47 rifles in March, the biggest such haul in U.S. history.
DELIGHTED DEFECTOR! North Korean fighter pilot Capt. Lí Choi
Su celebrates his arrival in Seoul, South Korea, after flying his unarmed MiG-19 jet across the world’s most heavily guarded border.“! couldn’t live under the North’s system any longer,” he told reporters, shouting in excitement. Lee’s defection—the first by a northern pilot in 13 years—heightened tension on the Korean peninsula. Shortly before his flight, five North Korean gunboats briefly sailed into the South’s waters, one of a series of incursions by the North recently. Several diplomats have also defected.The Communist North is suffering from a serious famine and continuing uncertainty over the role of reclusive “Great Leader” Kim Jong II.
A very Major beef with Europe
To applause from many of his countrymen, British Prime Minister John Major launched a frontal attack on the European Union over its worldwide ban on exports of British beef. Major ordered British representatives to pursue a policy of non-cooperation with the European Union at meetings and in official bodies. The 15-nation bloc, of which Britain is a key member, has demanded that London order a wide-ranging cull of British cattle to prevent further cases of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, commonly known as mad-cow disease. Britain has proposed less sweeping culls, but the European Union has rejected them as insufficient. The bloc ordered the beef ban in March after Major’s government conceded that mad-cow
disease may lead to a fatal illness in humans.
Major vowed to disrupt EU business until the ban was eased and a framework agreed on for its ultimate lifting. Foreign Minister Malcolm Rifkind said the policy could last for three months or more. EU officials noted that there were limits to how much business London could hold up, since many decisions require only a simple majority rather than unanimity. EU farm ministers were also due to meet on June 3 to consider allowing British exports of beef gelatin, beef tallow and bull semen. But Major’s move appeared to be broadly popular, both in his own Conservative party and among people in the street. That led to speculation that he was preparing to call a snap summer election.
The crackdown on Myanmar’s democrats
Authorities arrested more than 200 pro-democracy politicians in Myanmar (formerly Burma) as they prepared for a party congress at the Yangan home of Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi. Suu Kyi said most were elected MPs from her party, the National League for Democracy, whose sweeping 1990 victory was not recognized by the ruling military junta. The U.S. state department said it would consider imposing new sanctions on Myanmar. The junta took power in 1988 amid a bloody crackdown on democracy activists and held Suu Kyi under house arrest from 1989 to 1995. Suu Kyi said she thought it was “quite possible” the junta would re-arrest her, although a spokesman said, “We have no plans for that—yet.”
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