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Megawati for global coalition to tackle terrorism
AFP, JAKARTA , August 8

Indonesian president Megawati Sukarnoputri called for a global coalition to tackle terrorism the day after an Indonesian court handed a death sentence to one of the Bali bombers.
   Delivering the ASEAN Lecture here, Megawati said the September 11 attacks on the United States, last October's Bali bombing, and the deadly car bombing in Jakarta on Tuesday have shown that regional plans of action to tackle terrorism and cross-border crimes like drug smuggling are inadequate.
   "It became clear that no single country or group of countries could overcome this threat alone. In Indonesia's view, which is shared by the rest of the ASEAN members, it would take a global coalition involving all nations, all societies, religions and cultures to defeat this threat," she said.
   Indonesian newspapers on Friday welcomed the death sentence handed to Bali bomber Amrozi by a court on Thursday but warned it will not stop future terror attacks.
   Amrozi, 41, was the first of 34 suspects to be tried for the October 12 bombings that killed 202 people, mostly Western holidaymakers, on the resort island.
   Police blame the Bali attack on the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) militant Islamic network, which seeks to topple elected governments and set up a pan-Islamic state in much of Southeast Asia.
   They have also linked JI to the JW Marriott blast in Jakarta and warned of future attacks, possibly in retaliation for the Bali verdict.
   The sentence is "an event of major significance," wrote The Jakarta Post in an editorial.
   "Indeed, both the judgment and the circumstances that led to it can be regarded as setting a new milestone in the country's history of jurisprudence," the paper said.
   A smiling Amrozi welcomed his death sentence with a raised right fist and then gave two thumbs up as police led him away.
   The Republika daily called his behaviour "rather odd...as if a hero had just won a war."
   Koran Tempo said Amrozi's reaction to the sentence is a reminder that terrorism cannot be defeated by relying only on heavier penalties and repressive actions.
   "Why? Amrozi's thumbs-up drives us to reply that we will never run out of militants ready to become martyrs," the paper wrote in an editorial.
   The paper said rising "social frustration" and exploding unemployment contribute to militancy while Megawati's government has failed to promote democratic reform necessary for combating terrorism.
   Koran Tempo warned the battle against terrorism will be a marathon one that must be conducted with the guarantee of civil rights and free speech.
   "Without all that, we will watch again with shattered hearts a smile and happy flash in the eyes like the one shown by Amrozi yesterday," the paper said.

US used napalm-like firebombs during Iraq invasion: Pentagon


US forces used napalm-like MK-77 firebombs against Iraqi forces in their drive toward Baghdad last spring, a Pentagon official confirmed Thursday, defending their use as legal and necessary.
   US Marine Corps jets dropped the firebombs at least once in March to take out Iraqi positions at the town of Safwan just across the Kuwait border from the US-led invasion force, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. It is like this: you've got enemy that's hard to get at. And it will save your own lives to use it, and there is no international contraventions against it," the official said. "I don't know that there is any humane way to kill your enemy."
   Marines used the napalm-like bombs on at least two other occasions during the drive to Baghdad - against Iraqis defending a bridge across the Saddam Canal and near a Tigris river bridge north of the town of Numaniyah in south central Iraq, the San Diego Tribune reported Tuesday.
   "We napalmed both those (bridge) approaches," Colonel Randolph Alles, the commander of Marine Air Group 11, was quoted as telling the newspaper. "Unfortunately, there were people there because you could see them in the (cockpit) video.
   "They were Iraqi soldiers there. It's no great way to die," he said. The MK-77 are filled with a different mix of incendiary chemicals than napalm but have the same terrifying effect, a penetrating fire that seeps into dug-in infantry positions.

West Bank violence jolts truce
REUTERS, West Bank, August 8

The militant Islamic group Hamas vowed to punish Israel and said it was reviewing its commitment to a month-old cease-fire after a West Bank raid on Friday in which two members of its armed wing were killed.
   An Israeli soldier was shot dead in the operation in Askar refugee camp in the city of Nablus, and violence also erupted along the Lebanon frontier, shattering months of calm.
   Asked if Hamas was reassessing the three-month truce that has helped underpin a U.S.-backed Middle East peace plan, Ismail Abu Shanab, a leader of the organization in Gaza, told Reuters: "That is correct."
   An Israeli field commander, who could be identified under army regulations only as Colonel Harel, said the raid was aimed at arresting two senior Hamas men planning attacks on Israelis.
   Hamas's armed wing, the Izz el-Deen al-Qassam brigades, promised a payback.
   "The crimes of the Zionist enemy committed against our people...will not pass without the enemy paying a proper price for these violations," the brigades said in a statement.
   "We call on our resistance cells to respond to these crimes and to teach the enemy a deterrent lesson," the statement added in an appeal which Abu Shanab said he supported.
   The brigades identified their dead as Fayez Assader, 26, Qassam's leader in the Nablus area, and Khamis Abu Salem, 22.
   On Israel's northern frontier, Hizbollah, using anti-tank missiles, automatic weapons and mortar bombs, attacked Israeli army posts at Shebaa Farms for the first time in seven months.
   The guerrilla group regards the area as Lebanese territory. The United Nations says it is Israeli-occupied Syrian land.
   Israeli military sources said there were no Israeli casualties in the attack, launched six days after a boobytrapped car killed a Hizbollah official in Beirut in a blast that Hizbollah blamed on Israel.
   Witnesses in south Lebanon said Israeli aircraft responded with heavy strikes on the eastern and southern edges of the Lebanese border village of Kfar Shouba.
   The Israeli military sources said Israeli artillery launched barrages and Apache helicopter gunships took to the air to try to locate the source of fire.
   Hizbollah, which is backed by Syria and Iran, last attacked the Shebaa Farms area in January. Israeli troops withdrew from south Lebanon in 2000, ending a 22-year occupation under daily assault by Hizbollah fighters.
   Commenting on the West Bank raid, Colonel Harel said troops who surrounded the building where the Hamas men were holed up came under fire from inside after calling on the occupants to leave. Residents heeded the call, the militants did not.
   During the exchange of fire, an explosive charge or an explosives-making workshop blew up, the officer said. Witnesses said the blast caused the top floor of the three-story building to collapse. The army then blew up the rest of the structure.
   Local residents said eight families were made homeless. Harel said the army had no choice but to destroy the building because it was "filled with explosives."

Hun Sen wins in polls amid reports of FUNCINPEC defections

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen officially took line honours in national elections, amid reports of defections from a rival party that could help him rule in his own right.
   The National Election Committee (NEC) said preliminary results from the July 27 poll showed Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party (CPP) had won 2.45 million votes.
   The opposition Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) was next with 1.13 million votes while the royalist FUNCINPEC party, which served as a junior partner in the CPP-led outgoing coalition, was third with 1.07 million votes.
   "The preliminary results show the CPP is leading," NEC spokesman Tep Nitha told reporters. "However, we cannot declare who the winner is until the number of seats is calculated."
   Tep Nitha said the allocation of seats in the new parliament -- to be decided on a proportional representation basis -- would be announced by September 6.
   CPP President Chea Sim urged all parties to accept the results, saying they reflected the will of Cambodians from an election that has been widely praised by independent election monitors.
   "Cambodia is moving forward on the principle of democracy," he said. "And no other politicians can destroy the result of this election."
   The CPP has claimed it will score 73 seats in the 123-seat National Assembly, a result that falls short of the two-thirds majority required to rule in its own right.

Secret of walking on water uncovered

So that's how they do it. If you have ever wondered how insects like water striders walk on water or skim across the surface of ponds, rivers and oceans, scientists in the United States have the answer.
   Rather than move by creating waves, as some researchers had thought, the insects use one of their three sets of hairy legs like oars to create vortices or spirals in the water that propel them forward at speeds of up to 60 inches per second.
   Professor John Bush of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his colleagues who uncovered the secret said that although tiny waves were created, they were not the main driving force.
   "The momentum transfer is primarily in the form of subsurface vortices," Bush said in a report in the science journal Nature.
   Water striders, also known as skimmers, come in hundreds of different species ranging in size from one centimetre (about half an inch) to the giant Vietnamese variety - 20 times bigger and still able to walk on water.
   The researchers uncovered the secret by using sophisticated tracking and a high-speed video camera that showed the curlicue patterns they made.
   They also created a mechanical water strider, called Robostrider, based on the real thing.
   It is made out of a drinks can, with stainless steel wire legs and an elastic band and pulley as its middle legs.

Amrozi appeals as Indonesians cheer verdict
REUTERS, Indonesia, August 8

Indonesia's "smiling bomber" told his lawyers on Friday to appeal against the death sentence he was given for his role in last year's Bali attacks despite saying during his trial he wanted to die a martyr.
   Many Indonesians from street sellers to a presidential candidate cheered Thursday's conviction by a court in Bali.
   Amrozi, the 40-year-old mechanic-turned-militant, signed a document authorizing his defence team to appeal the conviction, his lawyer, Mirzen, told Reuters.
   Chief defence lawyer Wirawan Adnan said they would not argue that Amrozi was innocent but their appeal, which had to be lodged within seven days, would be on the grounds their client was denied due process.
   Dubbed the smiling bomber for his chilling grin, Amrozi admitted buying the van that was later packed with explosives and detonated outside one of two nightclubs on the resort island in October 2002. The attack killed 202 people, many of them foreign tourists.
   Legal experts have said any appeal against Amrozi's verdict was likely to fail, due in part to immense pressure from a government keen to limit economic fallout from terror fears.
   Indonesians lauded the death sentence, and one of the country's most prominent Muslim leaders said convicted "terrorists" should have their punishment meted out immediately.

US appoints Bush supporter to salvage Iraqi corporate sector

A major Republican fundraiser and backer of President George W Bush, Thomas Foley, have been appointed to salvage the Iraqi corporate sector, one of his companies said.
   Foley was named the director of public sector development for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, electronic and mechanical manufacturer TB Woods, of which he is chairman, said in a statement.
   In Iraq, he will oversee 194 state-owned businesses.
   "Mr. Foley will also be responsible for developing a privatization plan and foreign trade and investment programs for Iraq," said the statement, dated Wednesday. Foley is to report to the US governor of Iraq, Paul Bremer.
   During his posting in Iraq, Foley is to take an unpaid leave of absence from the TB Woods board, the company said.

Six killed in factional violence in Somalia

At least six people were killed and nine were wounded on Friday in clashes between two rival armed groups in Somalia’s southern Bay region, militia sources and local elders said.
   The fighting in the village of Habarre, 175 kilometres (105 miles) south of Mogadishu, was between two militia groups loyal to rival leaders of the split Rahanwein Resistance Army (RRA) faction, according to Aden Nur “SaransorEa member of one of the groups.
   The Bay and Bakol regions, previously controlled by a united Rahanwein Resistance Army, have seen intermittent bouts of violence triggered in 2000 by a power struggle between warlord Hassan Mohamed Nur “ShatigududEand his two former allies Sheikh Aden Mohamed “ModobeEand Mohamed Ibrahim Habsade.
   Somalia last had a functioning government in 1991 when the regime of dictator Mohammed Siad Barre was overthrown. The country has since then been ripped apart by interclan warfare.

Taylor moves closer to exit as humanitarian fears grow
AFP, MONROVIA , August 8

Liberian President Charles Taylor was edging closer towards fulfilling his pledge to finally surrender power, as the United States promised to provide more aid to help the one million people facing a humanitarian crisis in the West African country. But a mysterious arms shipment that arrived overnight Friday in the Liberian capital Monrovia raised new questions about Taylor's commitment to stand down.
   Taylor, a former warlord indicted for war crimes by a UN-backed court in Sierra Leone, sent a message to Liberia's parliament on Thursday in which he admitted he was no longer in a position to stay on as president.
   He claimed in the message that he was the victim of an "international conspiracy", which meant he was no longer able to preside over what he described as the humiliation of the Liberian people.
   "They have prevented me from carrying out my constitutional responsibility of defending the country, providing essential social services to the people," he said, referring to UN sanctions and an arms embargo in place since 2001.
   Parliament approved Taylor's resignation by 46 votes in favour with one against, as well as his choice of Vice President Moses Blah as his successor.
   Taylor's comments came as a Nigerian advance guard of West African peacekeepers made their first foray into Monrovia, as they bid to impose peace between Taylor's loyalist troops and rebel forces.
   But they also coincided with news of the arrival of a Boeing 707 jet at Monrovia's main airport with an illicit shipment of enough arms and ammunition to fill two trucks.
   Liberian Defence Minister Daniel Chea attempted to retrieve the cargo, but was prevented from doing so by the Nigerian peacekeepers, sources close to the force said.
   If all goes according to plan, Taylor should step down at midday on Monday and start making preparations to travel to Nigeria, the region's economic and military giant which has offered him asylum.
   But while it appears increasingly likely that Taylor will fulfil his pledge to step down in three days, it remains unclear when he plans to leave Liberia -- a key sticking point in the search to end the latest four-year bout of civil war in the country.
   Nigerian officials have indicated Taylor wants guarantees that he will not be pursued by the Sierra Leone court when he takes up asylum in Nigeria.
   Taylor's government has also asked the International Court of Justice in The Hague to quash the indictment and the international arrest warrant issued by the court.
   But on Thursday, both UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and US officials said that Taylor would not escape trial even if he left Liberia. "The law has to take its course," Annan said.

Powell reiterates US opposition to non-aggression pact for DPRK

Secretary of State Colin Powell reinforced US opposition to North Korea's demands for a non-aggression pact, but hinted that Congress could endorse a less formal guarantee if it emerged from nuclear-crisis talks.
   Powell restated the consistent US refusal to offer the Stalinist state such a formal pact as a way out of the crisis, noting that President George W Bush has repeatedly said he has no plans to invade the Stalinist state.
   But he suggested during a session with foreign reporters that Washington could provide some kind of security assurance to Pyongyang, especially if it eventually emerged from six-party talks on the showdown expected within the next two months.
   "What we have said is there should be ways to capture assurances to the North Koreans from not only the United States, but we believe from other parties in the region that there is no hostile intent among the parties that might be participating in such a discussion," Powell said.
   "When one comes up with such a document, such a written assurance, there are ways that Congress can take note of it without it being a treaty or some kind of pact," he said.
   "A resolution taking note of something," Powell said, suggesting a form of action Congress could pursue, short of ratifying a treaty.
   Some observers have suggested that one way out of the North Korean crisis might be to frame a new set of East-Asia security guarantees, encompassing not only North Korea and the United States, but China, Japan and other powers.
   As Powell spoke, a Chinese diplomatic delegation was in North Korea to fine-tune policy approaches ahead of the six-way talks. Vice Foreign Minister Wang Yia, who is considered a candidate for Beijing's chief delegate to the talks, is leading the delegation on its three day visit, according to China's official Xinhua news agency.
   North Korea has said the talks, involving Russia, Japan, the United States and the two Koreas would take place in Beijing, but details and timings are still being discussed.

Russian Guantanamo prisoners fear to return
AFP, MOSCOW, August 8

Eight Russian nationals captured by US troops in Afghanistan and held at a US base in Cuba fear returning back to Russia because prison conditions there are even worse, the Gazeta newspaper reported Friday.
   The popular daily quoted a letter written by one of the eight men back to his family in Russia as saying that detainees in Guantanamo were being treated well.
   "Nobody is being beaten or humiliated," Gazeta quoted Ayrat Vakhitov's letter as saying.
   "I don't think there is even a sanatorium in Russia that would compare to this," said the letter.
   Vakhitov's mother Amina told the paper that she also hoped that her son would not be extradited to Russia for trial.
   "I fear the Russian prisons and the Russian courts," Amina said.
   She said her son, a native Chechen, went to the restive republic after serving a brief year prison term in Russia "just to check things out."
   Then he went on to Afghanistan, where he was detained by the Taliban, and later arrested by US troops.
   Last November the US ambassador to Moscow, Alexander Vershbow, said Washington was prepared to hand over Russian citizens captured in Afghanistan on condition that they are put on trial.
   Captured in Afghanistan in late 2001, some 680 people from 42 countries are being held without trial at the US base in Cuba in conditions that human rights groups have denounced as unacceptable.

US freezes assets of Chechen rebel warlord Basayev

The United States on Friday designated feared Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev a threat to US national security and imposed financial sanctions on him, including a freeze on his assets.
   Basayev "has committed, or poses a significant risk of committing, acts of terrorism that threaten the security of US nationals or the national security, foreign policy or economy of the United States," Secretary of State Colin Powell said.
   The blacklisting of Basayev under various executive orders signed by President George W. Bush in response to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States was announced in the Federal Register.
   Basayev is the main separatist warlord in the breakaway Russian republic of Chechnya and has taken responsibility for a series of suicide attacks in May that killed nearly 100 people, as well as the October hostage-taking in a Moscow theatre.
   US officials also accuse Basayev of having received millions of dollars from Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda network.
   In late February, Powell similarly designated three Chechen rebel groups affiliated with Basayev, accusing them of ties to al-Qaeda and adding them to the US list of banned terrorist organizations.
   The three groups affected by that move were the Riyadus-Salikhin Reconnaissance and Sabotage Battalion of Chechen Martyrs, the Special Purpose Islamic Regiment and the Islamic International Brigade.
   All were implicated in the Moscow theatre hostage-taking incident, in which 129 people died, and also have ties with bin Laden, al-Qaeda and Afghanistan's former ruling Taliban militia dating back to the mid-to-late 1990s, the State Department said at the time.

Antidepressants grow new brain cells: US study

Antidepressants may help stimulate the growth of new brain cells, US-based scientists said on Thursday in releasing research that may lead to the development of better drugs to fight depression.
   Research on rats shows that two different classes of antidepressants can help brain cells regenerate Eand not in areas normally thought of as being involved in depression.
   "This is an important new insight into how antidepressants work," Dr. Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, said in a statement.
   The study fits in with others that suggest depression can shrink the hippocampus, a brain region crucial to learning and memory but only recently found to be involved in depression. Major stress and trauma -- both depression triggers Ecan also cause the shrinkage.
   "We have known that antidepressants influence the birth of neurons in the hippocampus. Now it appears that this effect may be important for the clinical response," Insel said.
   New antidepressants may be developed to target this process directly, said Rene Hen of Columbia University in New York, who led the study.
   "The proof in humans is going to come when we extend the work into finding drugs that stimulate neurogenesis. If these drugs have antidepressant effects in humans, this is going to be proof that the process is critical in humans," Hen said in a telephone interview.
   "There is a push already in the pharmaceutical industry to find such compounds."
   The new study may also help explain why it can take weeks for antidepressants to give patients relief. "If antidepressants work by stimulating the production of new neurons, there's a built-in delay," said Hen. The stem cells that give rise to new cells need time to divide, to differentiate into neurons, move to their new homes and link up with other neurons.
   To make sure that the new brain cells in the hippocampus was the source of the lifted depression, Hen and colleagues at Yale University and in France worked with genetically engineered mice, using X-rays to kill newly growing cells in the hippocampus.
   These mice did not respond as they normally would to antidepressants. Mice which were given fluoxetine, an antidepressant sold under the brand-name Prozac by Eli Lilly and Co., and were then given X-rays did not resume grooming as would be expected.
   Mice that received no X-rays and were killed after being dosed for 11 or 28 days with fluoxetine showed significant growth of new brain cells.
   A drug in a different class, the tricyclic imipramine, also stimulated the growth of neurons, Hen's team reported in Friday's issue of the journal Science.
   "Besides finding drugs that target this process, the other basic research challenge for me is to find out what the function of these new neurons is," Hen said.
   Experts say that 16 percent of Americans Emore than 30 million people Ewill suffer major depression at some point in their lives.

Saudi man linked to Sept 11 was on govt payroll: Report

Omar al-Bayoumi, a Saudi national suspected of having contacts with two September 11 hijackers, was paid with Saudi government funds for several years while living in the United States, The Wall Street Journal said Friday.
   The details of Bayoumi's source of financial support was gleaned from newly reviewed internal documents from the Saudi government and Bayoumi's employment records that link him to the Saudi government more directly than was previously known, the daily said.
   Bayoumi, who worked for a contractor for the Saudi civil aviation authority, befriended future September 11 hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid al-Midhar when they came to San Diego in early 2000 and even helped them pay rent, according to people familiar with a still classified section of a recently released congressional report on the attacks.
   He was questioned in Britain shortly after the attacks, but was released and quickly left for Saudi Arabia. Saudi Ambassador to the United States Prince Bandar bin Sultan has called allegations that Bayoumi was a Saudi agent "blatantly false."
   Bayoumi, in interviews with Arab media outlets, has also dismissed the charges that he had contacts with the September 11 hijackers as groundless.
   An unclassified section of the congressional report said Bayoumi worked for the Saudi civil aviation authority at one time and had access to large amounts of money from unspecified sources in Saudi Arabia.
   The employment records in the hands of US investigators, however, show that money from the Saudi government was paid to Bayoumi as salary, ostensibly for working for a Saudi government contractor, when he lived in California.
   When the contractor tried to end Bayoumi's employment in 1999 a Saudi government official objected and Bayoumi remained on the payroll, the daily said.
   For seven years, the finance department of a Saudi Civil Aviation Presidency project called Air Navigation Systems Support employed Bayoumi, the daily said.

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