English News Archive

News between April 17, and April 5, reversely ordered by date (i.e.: the newest can be found on top). For recent news select English News.


Headlines


Argentines convicted for anti-Semitic attack
11:19 p.m. Apr 17, 1998 Eastern

By Guillermo Haskel

BUENOS AIRES, April 17 (Reuters) - Three Argentine skinheads were sentenced on Friday to three years in prison each for beating and seriously injuring a man they believed to be Jewish, local media reported Friday.

A federal court said the crime of seriously injuring Alejandro Salgueiro, 32, was aggravated with ``racial or religious hatred.''

Salgueiro, who is not Jewish, was attacked in 1995 in a Buenos Aires neighborhood by a gang of some 20 skinheads, many of them wearing black leather garments etched with swastikas.

He recalled his attackers kicked him while shouting ``f--king Jew, you don't deserve to live'' and ``death to Jews, Peruvians, Bolivians and Paraguayans.''

Argentina is home to one of the largest Jewish communities in the world and also has large communities of immigrants from its South American neighbors Peru, Bolivia and Paraguay.

The reading of the sentence could not be completed as relatives of the three men of 28, 21 and 20 years shouted insults against the judges and Nazi expressions.

``I will kill you all, sons of bitches. All judges should be hanged,'' shouted the mother of one of them.

The mother of another called for more anti-Jewish bomb attacks like the one against the AMIA Jewish community center in 1994, shouting ``the AMIA attack was too little. Another bomb should be placed.''

A bomb destroyed the Israeli Embassy and killed 29 people in 1992 and another bomb razed the AMIA in Buenos Aires killing 86 people. Also Jewish cemeteries were several times desecrated in last few years.

The three men, Orlando Romero Da Silva, Luciano Griguol, Andres Paszkowki, had pleaded innocent. Paszkowki claimed that ``I could have never done such thing as I have a Jewish friend and my surname is Polish.''

A prosecutor used the statement against him, noting that precisely many anti-Semites claim to have Jewish friends.

Peronist President Carlos Menem last year ordered the creation of a committee to investigate activities by Nazi war criminals who fled to Argentina after World War Two. REUTERS

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.

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Las Vegas SUN

Today: April 15, 1998 at 15:15:15 PDT

Harvard Paper Called Anti-Jewish

ASSOCIATED PRESS

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) -- The editors of the Harvard Crimson recently looked around the newsroom and came to a sudden realization: too many Jews.

Editors of the student newspaper said they wanted more diversity among the editors and columnists, and they added positions to include other ethnic groups.

But Justin Danilewitz, who is Jewish, says the concern was so great that it led to his exclusion from the editorial board. He aired his complaints in a Commentary magazine article titled "Counting Noses at the Harvard Crimson."

Crimson editors say that Danilewitz has the story wrong and that his failure had nothing to do with his faith, but they would not elaborate.

The 125-year-old Crimson, whose alumni include former Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy, has about 300 mostly volunteer staffers, about one-fourth of whom work in the news department.

Danilewitz, a junior and frequest guest columnist, applied for the chairmanship of the editorial board, which dictates the paper's editorial policy and is made up of the columnists and top editors. He claims that two other students were selected for the job because they advocated reducing the number of Jewish columnists.

"Officially they say there isn't a quota system," he said. "But the editors have shown their intentions. If their rejection of me wasn't about religion, then I have to think that religion wouldn't have had to be brought up."

Danilewitz said that during the application process last winter he was told by an outgoing Crimson editor that she felt it was a "problem" that eight of the paper's 10 columnists were Jewish. He added that the two Jewish students selected as co-chairmen of the editorial board were chosen because they felt they should recruit columnists from various ethnic backgrounds.

"In their position papers, they specifically said that Jewish columnists from the tri-state area (New York, New Jersey and Connecticut) were overrepresented," said Danilewitz, who wrote his article in the April edition of the journal published by the American Jewish Committee.

Crimson editors admit that there were newsroom discussions about the high ratio of Jewish staffers. Incoming editors wanted to broaden the editorial staff's racial and ethnic makeup, which now includes eight Jewish columnists out of 16. Black, Islamic and female students were among the six additional columnists.

Former managing editor Valerie MacMillan, who was among the more than two dozen people who voted on Danilewitz's candidacy, said religion played no part in the decision.

"I'm afraid that they may be sour grapes," Harvard Crimson President Matthew W. Granade said. "We saw the decision to diversify as expanding the staff, not excluding anyone."

He added: "I think the paper is the better for it. Now you can turn to the Crimson's editorial pages and see opinions expressed that were never expressed before."

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Thursday April 16, 1:37 pm Eastern Time

Company Press Release

Increased Vigilance Urged as "Anniversary of Terrorism and Hatred" Approaches

ARLINGTON, Va.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--April 16, 1998--Individuals and businesses are urged to be particularly vigilant about suspicious activity as April 19, a key ``anniversary of terrorism and hatred'' approaches.

This according to Pinkerton Global Intelligence Services, a division of Pinkerton's Inc. (NYSE:PKT- news), which analyzes global violence and terrorist events. Sunday marks the anniversary date of the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 and the federal assault on the Branch Davidian Compound near Waco, Texas in 1993.

The date is also the anniversary of several historical events significant to United States militia groups and other radical organizations.

``While federal, state and local law enforcement officials typically upgrade security as a precaution during this period of increased risk, citizens can also make a significant contribution by being attuned to their surroundings and reporting unusual events to local authorities,'' said Frank Johns, managing director of Pinkerton Global Intelligence Services.

``Vigilance will be especially important around federal facilities and government offices, which are frequent targets of terrorist activity,'' Johns added. Also, as the anniversary falls on a Sunday this year, Johns advises caution throughout the following week.

Although the April 19 anniversary date passed without incident in 1996 and 1997, major concerns remain as extremist and hate groups continue to grow in number and increase membership. The Southern Poverty Law Center estimates that 474 such groups and chapter organizations now exist throughout the United States, a 20 percent increase over 1997.

As one example of a potential threat, a ``call to action'' was recently issued to the members of various United States militia groups via the Internet and other means urging violence against government facilities on April 19, 1998. This is an apparent reaction to the March 18 arrest in Michigan of three North American Militia members on weapons charges.

``As with previous communications to militia groups, this message does not appear to be the work of an organized entity ready to carry out a campaign of attacks, but perhaps was provoked by one individual or a fringe group,'' said Johns.

The April 14 conviction of Richard McLaren, leader of the Republic of Texas separatist group, could also be a potential ``trigger'' event. McLaren was found guilty of 26 counts of federal fraud and conspiracy, and seven other members of the group, including his wife, were also convicted of fraud.

Pinkerton is one of the world's largest and most respected security companies, providing uniformed security officers, investigations, security systems integration, pre-employment selection, and consulting and risk assessment services.

Founded in 1850 by Allan Pinkerton, the ``original private eye,'' the company today has more than 80 percent of the Fortune 1000 as clients and revenues exceeding $1 billion. Pinkerton has headquarters in Encino, Calif. and has more than 250 offices and 47,000 employees throughout the United States, Canada, Latin America, Europe and Asia.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Frank Johns, managing director of Pinkerton Global Intelligence Services, is available to provide interviews on this topic or other items related to global violence, crime and terrorism. For additional information on Pinkerton, visit our Web site at www.pinkertons.com


Contact:
     Pinkerton, Encino
     Mark H. Leaf, 818/380-8784 (public relations)
     Frank Johns, 703/525-6111

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Wednesday April 15, 1:17 pm Eastern Time

Company Press Release

SOURCE: Anti-Defamation League

The Anti-Defamation League Vigilant on the Anniversary Of Oklahoma City Bombing

ATLANTA, April 15 /PRNewswire/ -- The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) continues to be concerned about the anti-government extremists that use April 19th, the anniversary of the Waco and the Oklahoma City tragedies as a rallying point for their hate messages. ADL research indicates that armed militia, although fewer in number today than since the Oklahoma City bombing, continue to pose a significant threat of violence and disorder.

Jay Kaiman, Southeast Director for the ADL observes, ``What is clear is that many militia now dodge the watchful eyes of law enforcement and the press by holding small unadvertised meetings, no longer identifying themselves as a group.'' The strategy has been called by some extremist leaders ``leaderless resistance,'' promoting no central control or direction and making it harder to identify potential threats. ``It is suspected that whoever is behind the bombings in Atlanta and Birmingham have been exposed to this philosophy,'' according to Kaiman.

Trends that continue to be of issue relating to hate groups in America include increased proclivity towards violence and criminal activity, cross- fertilization between various strands of anti-government movements, Preparedness Expos around the country, and the Internet as a new potent addition to their arsenal.

The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice, and bigotry.

SOURCE: Anti-Defamation League

Copyright © 1998 PRNewswire.

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Wednesday April 15 9:41 AM EDT

Bio-terrorism seen as serious threat in U.S.

By Maggie Fox

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States is ripe for a terrorist attack using biological weapons and is nowhere near ready for it, experts said Tuesday.

"Are we ready? Absolutely not. Should we get ready? I don't think we have a choice," Michael Osterholm, the state epidemiologist at Minnesota's Department of Health, said.

"It isn't a matter of if -- it's a matter of when."

The 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway by the Aum Shinri Kyo doomsday group that killed 12 people and made thousands ill was only the tip of the iceberg, Osterholm told a news briefing sponsored by the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases.

"Today, the United States is a unilateral world power," he said, and this made it a target.

People did not believe it could happen because bioweapons had rarely been used in the past. But no government would risk taking on the United States militarily, making bio-terrorism one of the few options. "Our underbelly is our civilian population," Osterholm said.

"There are a number of groups that have reasons to want to bring about social and political unrest," he added. "We have focused too long on Iraq."

Osterholm did not name any specific groups but mentioned the break-up of the former Soviet Union.

The threat also comes from within. "Oklahoma City didn't come from an external source," he said, referring to the 1995 bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City.

"There is a growing number of millennium cults who believe the year 2000 could be the end of the Earth and should be the end of the Earth, and are actively pursuing ways to bring that about," he said.

Such weapons were easy to put together. "The bad guys already know about it," Osterholm, a top expert in the spread of diseases, said. "If you want to go on the Internet, the information is readily available."

The main threats were anthrax and smallpox, but plague, the botulin toxin that causes botulism food poisoning, ricin, and Q fever, caused by Rickettsia microbes that act like both bacteria and viruses, could all be used as weapons.

Osterholm and other experts have frequently accused extremist groups of testing anthrax as a weapon. The disease, normally animal-borne, can be fatal in humans.

He described a World Health Organization (WHO) scenario in which 100 pounds of anthrax was dispersed just over a mile upwind from downtown Washington D.C., a city of 500,000 people. "In a short time you would kill or incapacitate 220,000 persons," he said.

This would overwhelm hospitals and emergency response teams. There were vaccines and antibiotics against anthrax, but they were no good once someone showed the symptoms.

"I can't imagine trying to get 500,000 people in and telling them we have to give them three vaccinations in 30 days and give them antibiotics for 30 days," Osterholm said.

He said an attack on Minnesota's Mall of America, visited by people from all over the country and the world, could infect 350,000 people in a single day.

"We really must address this problem," agreed Dr. Richard Duma, an infectious disease expert at Halifax Medical Canter in Daytona Beach, Florida.

"There should be a plan for all these diseases and how they should be handled, rather than burying our heads in the sand."

Osterholm and Duma said federal response teams, though ready for a bomb attack or natural disaster, were poorly prepared for a medical emergency, he said.

They said the country should stockpile more vaccines and antibiotics, and maintain an expertise in rare diseases that might not be recognized at first.

(Reuters/Wired)

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Wednesday April 15 7:25 AM EDT

Group Says Violent Plots Rise in United States

By June Preston

ATLANTA (Reuters) - Right-wing plots to derail trains, assassinate public figures and blow up bridges have increased sharply in the United States in the three years since a bomb blast ripped apart an Oklahoma City federal building, the Southern Poverty Law Center says.

"As we approach the anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing (on April 19), we need to remember not just the lives that have been lost, but that extremist and race-based terrorism is on the rise," said Morris Dees, founder of the watchdog organization that has tracked hate groups since 1981.

The law center plans to issue its findings in a report on Wednesday.

Mark Potok, editor of the center's Intelligence Project report on hate crimes, said violent conspiracies had proliferated since the Oklahoma City blast on April 19, 1995.

"Many people would have assumed that acts of terror would decline after the Oklahoma City bombing, that such an appalling incident would drive people away from such movements," Potok said. "Instead, the movement has become harder-edged and plots and conspiracies have grown rather dramatically."

Potok spoke by telephone from the center in Montgomery, Alabama, which burned to the ground in 1983 in a fire believed to have been started by the Ku Klux Klan.

"The anti-government movement has branched out since then," Potok said. "Not everyone is a white supremacist. It has a much broader base of support than a few years ago.

"Many of the propagandists have stripped away racial terms. They don't talk about blacks and Jews up front. Instead, they talk about the Second Amendment and the Brady bill and the demise of small-family agriculture in this country."

Potok said the Internet had played a big role in spreading the word to individuals who may sympathize with the message of the radical right.

"It has allowed propaganda to be amplified in a way unheard of up until now," he said. "A single white supremacist can broadcast a message that reaches millions.

"These are people who in the past sat alone in their rooms shaking their fists at the world. Now that person goes to their computer screen and finds mail and up to the minute news about the movement."

Potok said the number of hate groups had increased since Oklahoma City and "out of hate groups a very small percentage of people emerges who are actually willing to blow up bridges and murder people."

He said Timothy McVeigh, convicted for the Oklahoma City blast that claimed 168 lives, had become a heroic figure to some members of anti-government groups, but a larger number believed McVeigh was a dupe used by the government.

"I would say Timothy McVeigh is a folk hero to a very small number in the movement," he said. "But that is a very hard row to hoe -- you're not going to get many followers flying that flag."

"A more common version is that some rogue elements in the government used McVeigh as a patsy, in the way some believe (John F. Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey) Oswald was used as a patsy."

Potok detailed more than two dozen cases of hate-crime conspiracies tracked by the Southern Poverty Law Center since the Oklahoma City explosion, including dozens of plots to blow up government buildings, bridges, newspaper offices and banks.

Prime targets of several conspiracies, he said, were Internal Revenue Service buildings in several states. One group, he said, robbed 22 banks in seven states to finance the activities of the Aryan Republican Army.

"The problem of the radical right for years has been cash," Potok said. "That was the problem Timothy McVeigh had: How do you finance a major plot? This struggle to raise money has gone on for the past 15 years because creating a second American revolution costs money." ^[email protected]

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Friday April 17, 3:51 pm Eastern Time

Company Press Release

SOURCE: Chemical Manufacturers Association

New Analysis Examines Terrorist Threat to U.S.; Warns Nature, Form of Terrorism are Evolving

ARLINGTON, Va., April 17 /PRNewswire/ -- A newly published analysis of the threat posed by foreign and domestic terrorists against the United States and its people warns that the nature and form of terrorism are evolving and that the dangers to Americans at home and abroad are changing as well.

The analysis, ``The Terrorist Threat in America,'' is a two-part examination of the modern terrorist threat. It was written in part by two former high- ranking officials in the nation's war on terrorism, Vincent Cannistraro and David C. Bresett. Cannistraro was formerly the chief of operations and analysis at the Central Intelligence Agency's Counterterrorism Center. Bresett was formerly the chief of the Secret Service's Foreign Intelligence Branch and directed the inquiry that led to the identification of the terrorists responsible for the downing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. The analysis was published by the Chemical Manufacturers Association.

In part one of the analysis -- ``Violent Politics: Today's Terrorist Threat'' -- Cannistraro and Bresett warn that the bombing of the Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City, rather than being an isolated incident, is an ominous portrait of the future. The Oklahoma City bombing, in which 168 men, women and children were murdered, is an example, they say, of a dangerous new strategic concept being employed by domestic extremists known as the ``leaderless underground'' or ``leaderless resistance.'' This new strategy, they write, is making it more difficult for federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies to identify, monitor and infiltrate terrorist groups and to predict and combat their activities.

CMA President and CEO Fred Webber said the association was motivated to produce the analysis because of its concerns that new government regulations could inadvertently increase the risk of terrorist attacks. The new regulations -- now being developed by the Environmental Protection Agency -- would make available on the Internet vast amounts of what the EPA's own security consultant calls ``targeting quality'' information on more than 66,000 industrial, public, military and federal energy facilities.

Among other things, the new rules being developed by EPA require that each of the 66,000 facilities evaluate the risks to people and the environment posed by various accidental release scenarios. One of these is called a ``worst-case scenario'' -- or, quite literally, the worst thing that could happen if any of the substances covered by the new rule are accidentally released into the environment. The law requires that this information be made public -- although it does not specify how. The EPA has announced that it intends to put all of the information, including the worst-case scenario data, onto the Internet. Federal law enforcement, security and intelligence officials object to putting the worst-case scenario data on the Internet. USA Today reported today that ``Outraged security experts say the database would be a convenient tool for terrorists.''

CMA supported passage of the 1990 amendments to the air act -- including provisions to collect and make public the worst-case scenario data. ``We continue to support the plan to make the information public,'' Webber said. ``Our only concern is making the data available via the Internet. The EPA's own security contractors found that putting the information on the Internet will increase the risk of it being used by terrorists seven-fold.''

Webber said the association ``continues to urge the EPA to submit its plan to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Central Intelligence Agency and the other federal agencies involved in combating terrorism for a formal review and analysis, as well as an examination of possible alternatives to putting the worst-case scenario data on the Internet. If the FBI and CIA tell us there is no problem with the agency's plan, that it won't increase the risk of terrorist attacks,'' Webber said, ``then that will be enough for us. More important, it will be enough for the American people.''

In part one of the analysis, Cannistraro and Bresett advise there are a number of factors likely to determine the scope of the future terrorist threat faced by Americans. Among them, they write, are domestic terrorist groups' hatred of the federal government -- and extremists' increasing, and increasingly sophisticated, use of modern technology. For example, they advise that extremists are becoming more sophisticated in the ways in which they collect and share information for operational purposes -- and in their use of modern communications tools, such as the Internet and encryption technology.

They also point out that with so much information available from open sources (such as the Internet) on individuals, on towns and cities, and on the nation's vast and unprotected infrastructure -- and more data becoming available every day -- it would be unwise for policymakers to think extremists will not use it.

Part two of the analysis describes the details of the agency's proposal (known formally as the Risk Management Program); some of the downsides of putting data on the Internet -- what experts call the Internet's ``darkside''; and some of the steps being taken by federal, state and local governments to prepare for more terrorist attacks.

``We're not experts on the subject of terrorism,'' Webber said. ``That's one of the reasons we developed this analysis -- to educate ourselves on the threat terrorists pose to our country and its people.'' Webber said be believes the analysis will also ``be an important and useful tool for policymakers in the Congress, at the EPA, the White House and elsewhere as work continues on the new EPA regulations.''

Copies of the analysis are available from CMA by calling 703-741-5803.

SOURCE: Chemical Manufacturers Association

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Wednesday April 15 9:13 PM EDT

Jury gets case at abortion trial

By YEHUDA SUGAR

CHICAGO, April 15 (UPI) _ An attorney for the National Organization for Women has pleaded with a jury to stop violence against women by finding anti-abortion activists guilty of racketeering in their campaign to close abortion clinics.

But a defense attorney characterized the activists as extremists in the tradition of Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., pushing the limits of their First Amendment rights to save unborn children and protect their mothers.

After about five hours of closing arguments in Chicago today, the case went to a four-woman, two-man jury that will begin deliberating Thursday. Judge David Coar dismissed a female juror who became ill during the final phases of the trial.

NOW attorney Fay Clayton told the jury a guilty verdict would force the anti-abortion groups to change their approach toward women who try to obtain abortions. She said, ``We cannot tolerate the use of threats and force by one group to impose its views on another.''

Coar said the defendants need only have committed as few as two acts of extortion, such as a threat or violence through the workings of an enterprise, to be found guilty under the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. The law was enacted in 1969 to crack down on organized crime.

The Pro-Life Action League, its executive director Joseph Scheidler, aides Tim Murphy and Andrew Scholberg and the group Operation Rescue are accused of leading an organized national campaign using threats and violence to shut down abortion clinics.

Evidence presented in the trial showed that Scheidler and his co- defendants _ through a national coalition called the Pro-Life Action Network _ helped organize numerous blockades where women were prevented from entering clinics, verbally harassed, and in a handful of cases, physically assaulted.

NOW and the clinics are seeking a permanent injunction and unspecified compensatory damages in their class action suit.

Defense attorney Tom Brejcha asked the jury to view a guilty verdict as a ``grave, grave, serious matter'' that could put a chilling effect on historic First Amendment freedoms.

He said abolitionists, anti-nuclear activists, feminists, Jesus, Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi and NOW itself have all engaged in civil disobedience similar to the anti-abortion groups, without being pegged extortionists.

Copyright 1998 by United Press International.

All rights reserved.

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States Dictate Own Foreign Policy

By Harry Dunphy
Associated Press Writer
Monday, April 13, 1998; 4:53 p.m. EDT

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Showing that some Americans care deeply about what happens in far-off lands, cities and counties in eight states are slapping sanctions on foreign governments. But their ventures into free-lance foreign policy are raising concerns at the State Department and abroad.

At least 26 communities and the state of Massachusetts have imposed sanctions on companies that deal with repressive governments in Nigeria, China, Cuba or Myanmar.

Other cities and states are considering similar action, including several targeting Switzerland because of its dealings with Nazi gold.

``Resort to unilateral sanctions has become almost a fad,'' said Clayton Yeutter, who was U.S. trade representative in the Reagan administration.

The State Department says such state and local actions can do more harm than good, however well intentioned.

``Sanctions may impair the president's ability to send a clear and unified message to the rest of the world,'' Deputy Assistant Secretary of State David Marchick told Maryland legislators. ``They can impede ... conduct of foreign policy. They can create conflicts with our allies with whom we need to work to achieve common goals.''

Marchick is one of several U.S. diplomats who have had to embark recently on unusual domestic missions to lobby against such laws. European representatives also have found themselves dealing directly with state legislators and city council members.

U.S. companies such as Apple Computer, Eastman Kodak and Hewlett Packard pulled out of Myanmar, also known as Burma, when Massachusetts enacted a law in 1996 imposing penalties on bidders for state contracts if the company also does business with the Asian country.

State Rep. Byron Rushing, who wrote the Massachusetts bill, said it helped pave the way for President Clinton to impose federal sanctions against Myanmar last year.

``We showed there was support at the grass-roots level for action against Burma to influence our own government as well as Burma to advance the cause of human rights,'' Rushing said.

Europeans and Canadians are angry over U.S. government sanctions against companies doing business in Cuba and Iran. Now they face the prospect of diplomatic confrontations with individual states and cities.

While trying not to tell state and local governments to ignore human rights and other emotional issues relating to other countries, the State Department wants them to word any measures in ways that will not cause trade problems with allies.

Congress also is looking into the impact of federal sanctions on U.S. businesses and jobs. The State Department has established a sanctions team that is expected to report soon to Capitol Hill.

The National Trade Council, which represents about 550 corporations, says it plans to file a lawsuit later this month contending that state and local sanctions violate the Constitution.

The Constitution gives the federal government the power to regulate commerce with foreign nations and prohibits states from entering into agreements or engaging in war with foreign powers.

``Only the federal government has responsibility over foreign relations and foreign commerce,'' said Dan O'Flaherty, a trade council vice president. ``State legislators and city councilmen may be pleased, but these laws are a threat to the national interest.''

Corporations are concerned that free-lance foreign policy pronouncements by state and local governments could limit opportunities for exports and investment abroad.

Business groups also argue that local and federal sanctions are ineffective, damage relationships with allies and make U.S. companies less competitive.

Todd Malan, executive director of the Organization for International Investment, which represents 60 U.S. subsidiaries of companies based abroad, said such sanctions ``threaten investment by foreign-owned companies that create jobs for Americans.''

City councils in Oakland and Berkeley, Calif., and Amherst, Mass., have targeted Nigeria.

New York City is one of more than 40 municipalities that have passed resolutions against religious discrimination in Northern Ireland. The actions do not impose sanctions but require contractors to sign pledges to hire both Catholics and Protestants if they do business in Northern Ireland.

Last month, city and state officials in New York decided to delay planned sanctions against Swiss banks after the banks announced they would negotiate a global settlement with Holocaust victims over gold stolen by the Nazis.

Most of the state and local sanctions put on the books since 1995 are modeled on economic measures taken by various local governments against South Africa's racist policies in the mid-1980s.

Alan Larson, assistant secretary of state for economic affairs, said the South African measures may have had an important effect in speeding the downfall of apartheid.

But, he said, they ``were swimming with the tide of public opinion, not cutting across trading rights or political rights of our major partners. We do know it's possible for sanctions to be introduced in a way that hits the intended target rather than distracting attention with trading disputes.''

Since the 1980s, the United States has signed treaties that bar sanction laws and give other nations the right to demand compensation if their companies are affected.

The European Union warned last month that failure to resolve a dispute over Massachusetts' sanction law would result in bringing a case before the World Trade Organization.

The State Department would have to defend Massachusetts before the WTO. Individual states have no standing before the world body.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

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Thursday April 16, 7:33 am Eastern Time

Company Press Release

Israel's Jubilee Participants to Attack Anti-Semitism

Thousands to Sign Pledge in Support of Jewish People

ORLANDO, Fla.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--April 16, 1998--Organizers of the Israel's Jubilee conference, scheduled for April 29 through May 3 in Orlando, Florida, today announced a massive effort to mobilize America's estimated 15 million pro-active, pro-Israel Christians to strike a blow against anti-Semitism in the United States and around the world. During the coming weeks, 50,000 - 100,000 Christians are expected to sign a pledge of solidarity with Israel, making a ``personal commitment to view any anti-Semitic act against a Jewish individual, family, business, or synagogue as an act against one's own church, and to oppose it by every means possible.''

The formal statement will be issued at the Israel's Jubilee conference where the estimated 18,000 in attendance will be asked to sign it. Individuals and organizations around the world will also be given the opportunity to sign the pledge, as well as members of Congress and other national and world leaders who will receive copies by fax and mail, as well as over the Internet.

The statement will be presented to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israeli people. Copies also will be sent to heads of state and other leaders throughout the world, including President Clinton and members of the U.S. Congress, making a strong statement about the solid support of the American Christian community for Israel and the Jewish people.

``Many historians and scholars believe that if the church in Austria and Germany had taken this stand on behalf of Jews in the late 1930s, it could have prevented the Holocaust in which six million Jews died,'' said Cheryl Schang, conference chairperson. ``We want to invigorate the church in America and worldwide to identify, attack, and eradicate the tenets of anti-Semitism wherever it is found.''

Schang noted that while statistics from the Anti-Defamation League show that the number of anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. took a nine percent dip in 1997, individual and state-sponsored anti-Semitism continues in the rest of the world. ``I think most Americans would be shocked to learn that more than two dozen countries forbid Jews to live within their borders,'' she said, also noting that anti-Semitism is proliferating on the Internet, in hate magazines and tabloids, and among groups like the Aryan Nation which continue to expand.

``There simply is no historical or biblical authority for the claim that Jews crucified Jesus,'' she said, refuting a rationale commonly-cited by hate groups for anti-Semitic acts. ``During the Israel's Jubilee conference, we will explore the Hebraic roots of Christianity. In doing so, we honor Judaism as a valid and important religion, and seek to combat the tragic results of erroneous teachings about the Jewish people by the Church from 300 B.C. through the first half of the 20th Century.''

The Israel's Jubilee event is sanctioned by Israel's 50th Anniversary Committee as an official part of the nation's birthday celebration. With an estimated 18,000 in attendance, and reaching an international audience via satellite and the Internet, it is expected to be the largest gathering of Christians and Jews ever convened in support of the State of Israel. Participants include: Ambassador Alan Keyes, who helped lead the successful effort in the UN to repudiate the ``Zionism is Racism'' resolution; Shimon Erem, former general in the Israeli's Defense Forces who was instrumental in founding the State of Israel; former 700 Club co-host Ben Kinchlow; former Time Jerusalem bureau chief David Aikman; Rabbi Daniel Lapin, founder of Toward Tradition and host of a nationally syndicated radio program; Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice; Jan Wilhelm Van der Hoven of the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem; Dr. John Hagee, renowned pastor, broadcaster and author; Benny Hinn, who leads an international media ministry, and singer Pat Boone.

The commitment of Christian Alliance for Israel, the event organizer, is based upon the biblical mandate to bless Israel, to provide encouragement and support for the nation and its people, and to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. The five-day conference will feature discussions of Israel's history, prophetic developments related to the reestablishment of the modern State of Israel, the Hebraic roots of Christianity, the many faces of anti-Semitism and Christian-Jewish dialogue on significant issues. The family-friendly conference will provide special activities for children. Call 1-888-894-2927 for registration or information. Registration is $98. Group discounts are available.

ATTENTION EDITOR:


Contact:
     Patricia Johnson, 818/703-8329
     Ed Steele, 714/997-8450

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Thursday April 16 8:57 AM EDT

ARCHERD: Disney's Special Holocaust Movie

By Army Archerd, Daily Variety Senior Columnist

HOLLYWOOD (Variety) - There'll be some very special guests at the Academy screening of Disney's "Miracle at Midnight" next Tuesday -- in recognition of Holocaust Remembrance Day.

One is Dr. Ebba Lund, coming in from Copenhagen for the evening. She chartered the first fleet of Danish fishing boats that carried Jewish families to safety in Sweden. The other is George Hubner and wife Edith. They are the parents of Jordan (Mrs. John) Davis.

John is an executive producer of the TV movie, which tells the story of the Holocaust rescue of Danish Jewry. And John tells me he became interested in doing this film because of the stories his father-in-law told him of his family's involvement in hiding Jews in the attic of their Danish home during this horrendous period. (Davis' wife Jordan converted to Judaism when she married him).

Disney airs the film May 17 during sweeps on "The Wonderful World of Disney." It stars Sam Waterston and Mia Farrow.

The April 21 Academy screening is being shown by the Committee for Celebrating Righteous Deeds and Human Decency and Temple Shalom for the Arts. The committee was formed last year after the Yom Kippur service appearance at the Temple by Cristoph Melli, the security guard at the Bank of Switzerland who rescued critical Holocaust-era bank documents. The "Miracle at Midnight" event and screening is co-chaired by Rabbi David Baron, Barbara and Jon Avnet, Sandra and Jack Rapke and Ellen Meyer. In advance of the Tuesday screening, the Hubners, Davises, Dr. Lund, Rabbi Baron and other Danish survivors of the Holocaust will meet at a luncheon.

Further, Disney is sending out 1,700 cassettes of the TV movie to schools and educators and other rabbis to help teach the lesson of heroism.

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Jason Alexander, aka "Seinfeld's" George Costanza, who earlier told us he'll never be George again, is busier than ever. At his Angel Ark Prods. office at Universal, he is first readying to co-produce and star in "Officer Bob" with MasterMind Films. It's a comedy and he expects to start filming in late summer. He will then direct, but not act in, "Cherry Pink" with Jean Doumanian producing. He says it's a light-hearted coming-of-age story of teen-agers in 1955. He has two TV movies in development to produce for Universal as well. And a TV movie based on an event in the life of Rachel Chagal with Hearst Prods.-CBS. Down the line, his long-time ambition is to return to Broadway in a musicalized "Marty."

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Space is hot! With "Lost in Space" and HBO's "From the Earth to the Moon" reaching new heights, and NASA celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, and the 30th anniversary of the first moon landing next year, comes yet another tangent to the out-of-this-world saga: to honor America's real space travelers and to educate today's youth about their accomplishments, Bandai America, Saban Entertainment's toy licensee for the "Power Rangers in Space," is creating a special line of action figures called "Heroes of Space."

The line will portray real superheros, former astronauts of America's space program. And Saban will produce PSAs featuring the astronauts to be shown on the Fox Kids Network. The association of former NASA astronauts with Saban and Bandai is made through Universal Spaceworks LLC, representing the former astronauts. So far, 18 astronauts have agreed to their likenesses and the first assortment of "Heroes in Space" includes moonwalker Charles (Pete) Conrad, Apollo XII, Charles Duke, Apollo XVI, and Alan Bean, Apollo XII. The action figure likenesses will be in major markets in September. The men will share in royalties -- and contribute to an educational foundation as well.

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Jay Leno will toss out the first ball May 1 at Chicago's Wrigley Field when the Cubs play the St. Louis Cardinals. Leno will also lead the singing of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during the 7th inning stretch -- as a tribute to the late Cubs' announcer Harry Caray. Leno will be in Chicago for a week (May 4-8) of shows at the Rosemont theater.

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Milton Berle and wife Lorna were among those at the Cinegrill Tuesday (April 14) to cheer Lisa Carroll. Berle wrote some timely lyrics for her rendition of "Hello! Dolly." ... When Ray Anthony and his band play from the Beverly Hilton's Coconut Club this weekend, KGIL also inaugurates remotes from the ballroom. You can bet Merv Griffin will appear on those remotes -- like in the days of Freddy Martin at the Cocoanut Grove.

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Dan Aykroyd and wife Donna Dixon welcomed their third daughter, Stella Irene Augustus A., April 5 ... And CAA's Glenn Bickel and his wife Georgia welcomed their third son, Peter Andrew B., March 27 at Cedars-Sinai ... Larry Thompson and his story dept. executive Kelly LeBlanc will marry in late fall.

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Ireland's Minister of Arts & Culture, Sile de Valera, in Hollywood for the first time, was introduced to local filmmakers involved in Irish production at Jimmy's Wednesday by Morgan O'Sullivan and his World 2000 Entertainment partner Tom Palmieri. The duo are involved in the Ireland production of the 50 segs of "Mystic Knights" for the Fox network and Saban and the Halmi-Henson "Animal Farm."

Reuters/Variety ^[email protected]

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Romania Probes German Troop Deaths

By Mihaela Armaselu
Associated Press Writer
Thursday, April 16, 1998; 7:02 p.m. EDT

NAENI, Romania (AP) -- Farmers have warily begun their spring plowing in Romania's Naeni hills, where new evidence indicates at least 200 German soldiers were slaughtered by advancing Soviet troops near the end of World War II and buried in mass graves.

The fate of the missing soldiers has been largely a mystery for more than a half-century.

But this month, local residents have told military investigators that 200 to 300 German soldiers were killed and hastily buried in eight villages near Naeni. If true, the killings would represent the largest wartime atrocity against German soldiers in Romania.

Villagers had apparently known about the burial sites for decades, but Romania was part of the Soviet bloc until 1989 and authorities were reluctant to investigate the allegations.

With the help of eyewitnesses, authorities are examining partial skeletons and slowly piecing together the story of how the retreating German soldiers died.

In 1944, with tide of the war turned against them, German troops began retreating through Romania in hopes of reaching Hungary, a German ally.

Some 100 German soldiers were reportedly killed near a vineyard in the village of Fintesti, said one man who witnessed the killings of the captured soldiers.

``Most of them were shot in the head and were very young, about 20,'' said 83-year-old farmer Gheorghe Zaharia, gripping his walking stick.

Another witness, Ana Gheorghe, 68, wept as she recalled how she witnessed Soviets slaughter scores of fleeing German soldiers in a mill yard near her house.

``The Germans jumped on their horses and tried to run away but the Soviets cut them down with machine guns,'' she said.

She said her family and some neighbors later buried the soldiers and the horses in a mass grave.

In 1968, the state allotted her a small piece of land in a neighboring village. While plowing one day, she discovered human bones and skulls, though she and her husband didn't dare report the incident to the communist authorities.

Military prosecutors say no identity tags have been found near the remains.

Romania is seeking information and financial aid from Germany to continue their investigation. The German embassy in Bucharest said Thursday, however, that it was unaware of any burial sites containing the remains of German soldiers.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

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Polish Priest Defends Cross at Camp

By Beata Pasek
Associated Press Writer
Saturday, April 11, 1998; 6:49 p.m. EDT

WARSAW, Poland (AP) -- A prominent Polish Catholic priest barred from the pulpit for anti-Semitic remarks has decorated an altar for Easter with signs defending a controversial cross near the Auschwitz death camp.

The Rev. Henryk Jankowski placed placards reading ``Let's respect national symbols,'' ``Solidarity,'' and ``Auschwitz'' at his St. Brygida church in the Baltic port city of Gdansk. He is still the church's chief cleric, though he been barred from giving sermons for one year.

Jews around the world have demanded that the 26-foot cross, which commemorates a 1979 mass celebrated by Pope John Paul II, be removed from grounds near the former Nazi concentration camp as a sign of respect for Holocaust victims.

But backers of the cross in this overwhelmingly Roman Catholic country say it is a symbol of Poland's martyrdom and resistance under Nazi occupation and of anti-Communist opposition.

``National symbols are being violated, trampled upon,'' Jankowski was quoted Saturday as saying by the Gazeta Wyborcza daily.

Jankowski was barred by Roman Catholic authorities in November from giving sermons for one year following anti-Semitic remarks.

In one case, in a 1995 sermon the priest said the Star of David ``is implicated in the swastika as well as in the hammer and sickle.''

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

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German U.S. Army Monument Unveiled

Sunday, April 12, 1998; 12:03 p.m. EDT

WEIMAR, Germany (AP) -- A small eastern German town unveiled a stone monument Sunday to U.S. soldiers who helped liberate the Buchenwald concentration camp in 1945.

The monument in Hottelstedt, near Weimar in former East Germany, commemorates when a U.S. patrol on April 11, 1945, came upon Russian prisoners who had escaped the camp and who told the Americans of an inmate insurrection there.

By the time the U.S. troops arrived, most of the 5,000 SS guards had fled. When the prisoners heard the U.S. artillery, they grabbed discarded guns, took remaining guards prisoner and hoisted a white flag.

Gen. George S. Patton later brought journalists to Buchenwald to help report the extent of mass murder and sadism at Nazi camps. Between 1938 and 1945, about 56,000 people were starved, tortured and executed at Buchenwald.

The Hottelstedt monument is the first to U.S. soldiers in the German state of Thuringia, formerly part of East Germany. That country's communist government had played down the American role in Buchenwald's liberation.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

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Tuesday April 14 5:13 PM EDT

Berlin Jews Seek More Time for Memorial

BERLIN (Reuters) - Berlin's Jewish community Tuesday called for more time for reflection in the debate over plans to build a Holocaust memorial in the city.

Plans for the monument, to commemorate the 6 million Jews murdered by the Nazis, have provoked emotional debate and criticism in Germany. A short list of four designs is under consideration.

A Berlin newspaper reported last week that Chancellor Helmut Kohl wanted to reach a swift decision on the choice of the final design.

But Andreas Nachama, the leader of the city's Jewish community, said all the designs on the list were too abstract. The memorial had to be something people would still understand in 10 years' time, he said.

"A Holocaust memorial must have wide public approval. Therefore I advise that we bide our time," Nachama said.

Berlin Mayor Eberhard Diepgen has also expressed serious reservations over the designs, saying none was capable of relaying the horror of the Holocaust.

Nachama said a possible solution would be to set up a temporary exhibition until a design with broad public support could be found.

He suggested an exhibition documenting the Holocaust or a display of the competing designs.

Nachama made clear he was not in favor of abandoning the project. "It would send out the wrong signal if we were to erect no memorial at all," he said.

The groundbreaking ceremony to unveil the monument is due to take place Jan. 27, 1999 -- 54 years to the day after the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp.

Of the four designs on the short list, Kohl favors one by New York-based architect Peter Eisenman and sculptor Richard Serra. They envisage creating a graveyard-like labyrinth of 4,000 concrete pillars up to 24 feet tall.

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Brazilian Saved Jews From Nazis

Sunday, April 12, 1998; 5:04 p.m. EDT

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (AP) -- A Brazilian diplomat defied the Nazis and his own government to save hundreds of French Jews during World War II, a newspaper reported Sunday.

Luis Martins de Souza Dantas, Brazil's ambassador to France during the Nazi occupation, risked his life and career by issuing visas to Jews so they could escape Nazi death camps, the Rio daily Jornal do Brasil said.

During World War II, Brazil was ruled by Getulio Vargas, a known fascist sympathizer. A 1938 document recently made public indicates the ambassador was under strict orders not to give visas to Jews unless they were rich and famous.

In 1941, Vargas ordered a government commission to investigate Souza Dantas after 37 Jews arrived in Rio de Janeiro by boat. They were detained with invalidated visas that had been renewed by the Brazilian Embassy in France. Six months later, the commission found no wrongdoing and allowed the Jews to stay in Brazil.

Souza Dantas, the son of an aristocrat and grandson of an abolitionist, served as ambassador to France from 1922 until he retired in 1944. He died 10 years later in Paris at the age of 78.

The Holocaust museum in Jerusalem is considering honoring the former diplomat with an exhibit, the newspaper reported.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

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Croatian to Apologize in Israel

By Dina Kraft
Associated Press Writer
Thursday, April 16, 1998; 1:01 p.m. EDT

JERUSALEM (AP) -- During his visit to Israel next month, the Croatian foreign minister is expected to apologize for the suffering of Jews in Croatia in World War II, an Israeli official said Thursday.

Foreign Minister Mate Granic is to pave the way for an eventual visit by Croatian President Franjo Tudjman, who has been denounced by some Israeli officials as an anti-Semite.

Relations between the two countries were chilly for years following a book by Tudjman questioning how many Jews died in the Holocaust. An Israeli official said Thursday that Israel is interested in normalization and expanding trade.

Israel expects that when Granic tours the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem as part of his visit in May, he will apologize, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Croatia was a Nazi puppet state during World War II, and about 30,000 Jews were killed in the camps run by that regime.

Tudjman is often accused by rivals of cultivating the nationalism that harks back to those days.

Tudjman apologized to Jews in 1994 for their suffering in World War II Croatia. He changed references to the Holocaust in his book in its 1997 English-language edition, a move that paved the way for establishing diplomatic relations with Israel last September.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

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Friday April 17 11:07 AM EDT

Govt., Media Criticize Chirac Vision

By Crispian Balmer

PARIS (Reuters) - French President Jacques Chirac drew scorn from government ranks and criticism from the media Friday, a day after laying out his vision of Europe at a lengthy news conference.

Interior Minister Jean-Pierre Chevenement and Communist Party leader Robert Hue both accused the conservative president of conveniently forgetting the past, while some papers said Chirac sounded like a teacher delivering a colorless lecture.

Chirac called only the third news conference of his three-year old presidency to extol the virtues of the planned single European currency, the euro, and at the same time reassure his compatriots that France was not about to lose its national identity.

Chevenement, one of the only ministers in the Socialist-led cabinet who staunchly opposes the euro, told French radio that Chirac also used to be against monetary union.

"Jacques Chirac has not always had the same opinion that he expressed yesterday," he said. "He is covering himself...in the European flag to hide the divisions within his own camp, the implosion of the right," he added.

Chirac, a conservative, has been forced into an uneasy power-sharing arrangement with a leftist government since he gambled, and lost, by calling early parliamentary elections last year.

Meanwhile, his conservative allies have been thrown into turmoil by recent power-sharing deals struck at a local level between mainstream center-right politicians and the previously shunned, far-right National Front party.

Chirac's own powerbase, the Paris city council from which he launched his successful 1995 drive for the presidency, is gripped by an internecine struggle between rightist supporters battling for control of the mayor's office.

Chirac side-stepped any questions on center-right divisions on Thursday, a decision described by conservative daily Le Figaro as "curious," adding that the president had adopted a "pedagogic" tone for much of his address to reporters.

Leftist daily Liberation was predictably more critical.

"Jacques Chirac administered us a lesson which strangely lacked spontaneity, style and almost conviction," it wrote in an editorial, calling him the "convertible Chirac" for his change of heart over the euro.

Jean-Marie Le Pen, the outspoken leader of the National Front who is still smarting over a recent television address in which Chirac branded the Front as "racist and xenophobic," leaped at the chance to shower Chirac with insults.

"The president of the republic offered France a press conference full of truisms, banalities, half truths and other cliches," he said in a statement.

Chirac told reporters that national taxes and public spending were too high and that reforms were needed if France was to take advantage of Europe's economic and monetary union (EMU).

Rightist politicians applauded his words.

"One must welcome President Jacques Chirac's constant European commitment, while at the same time deploring government policies which are preparing France in such a mediocre fashion for Europe," said the leader of the Gaullist RPR party, Philippe Seguin.

But the Communists' Hue said the president had failed to learn any lessons from his failed gamble in last year's snap election, which Chirac had hoped would strengthen the right's majority ahead of EMU.

"I had the feeling yesterday, while listening to the president, that he was suffering from a type of amnesia," Hue told RTL radio station.

"He wants to continue with ultra-liberalism," he added, arguing that the leftist coalition won last year's election by demanding that Europe pay more attention to social issues like unemployment.

Chirac also ruffled feathers in the Netherlands with his insistence that France's candidate for the key job of head of the future European Central Bank, Jean-Claude Trichet, should take precedence over Dutch candidate Wim Duisenberg.

"If Duisenberg is blocked, I'm not going to support a Frenchman. There is absolutely no question of that," Prime Minister Wim Kok told Reuters on Friday.

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Monday April 13 12:33 PM EDT

Europe tracks soccer hooligans

PARIS, April 13 (UPI) _ French police said Monday they have been warned that Britain's ``toughest football hooligans'' are planning to disrupt this summer's World Cup soccer matches.

According to British police reports now in the hands of French law enforcement officials, efforts by soccer fan extremists to get to matches in France are being closely monitored. Senior English officers were in Paris last week for a summit on anti-hooligan efforts, attended by representatives from all 15 European nations that have qualified for the World Cup finals.

One British report says the most revealing evidence yet of planned fan disruption came to their attention just days before England's friendly match in Switzerland last week.

The British police intelligence report says, ``We saw people coming out of the woodwork who we haven't heard from since the last World Cup England played in back in 1990. Among them were some of the worst of our offenders who we thought had retired. They obviously want to get involved in this World Cup.''

French police say five ``known soccer hooligans'' were turned away by Swiss immigration officers at Geneva airport after English police identified them from flight passenger lists as potential troublemakers.

Police in London said Monday another 14 men were persuaded not to board a flight the following day after the Swiss told the authorities at Luton airport that the fans would be refused entry. Airport authorities in Britain said the group's reaction to being denied flight to Switzerland was ``very agressive,'' and police dispatched a riot- equipped squad to the airport terminal.

In Paris, British Police Chief Superintendent Eddy Curtis, who will be the senior English police officer in France for the tournament, confirms that attempts to disrupt the World Cup are being coordinated.

``The most significant thing about this group is that they were not all from one club, but from five different clubs'', Curtis said. ``We know what they are up to and we will be keeping a good eye on them.''

Unlike Switzerland, which is not a member of the European Union, France cannot bar entry to citizens of another EU state on the grounds that they may be a threat to public order.

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Professor May Run Against Gingrich

By David Pace
Associated Press Writer
Friday, April 17, 1998; 1:21 a.m. EDT

ATLANTA (AP) -- The House historian Speaker Newt Gingrich hired and then fired a few days later has served notice that she may challenge the Republican leader for re-election.

A lawyer for Christina Jeffrey, a Kennesaw State University history professor, notified the state Board of Regents this week that she intends to file suit in federal court challenging the board rule that prohibits university system employees from seeking or holding public office.

If her lawyer can obtain an injunction against the rule, Ms. Jeffrey said Thursday, she plans to register by the May 1 deadline as a candidate for Gingrich's 6th District seat.

``I want the way cleared for me to be able to do it and I'm serious about wanting to run,'' she said.

Ms. Jeffrey, a lifelong Republican, said she hasn't decided whether she would register as a Democrat or Republican. Gingrich has no announced opposition from either party in the July 21 primary.

Gingrich had no comment on Ms. Jeffrey's plans.

Gingrich hired Ms. Jeffrey for the $85,000-a-year historian job shortly after he was elected speaker in 1995. He fired her a few days later after complaints that her 1986 review of a Holocaust course for the Education Department had criticized it for not presenting Nazi and Ku Klux Klan views.

Ms. Jeffrey has said her comments in the review were taken out of context and mischaracterized.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

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FEATURE-Goebbels aide recalls ``magic'' eyes of Hitler
10:03 p.m. Apr 08, 1998 Eastern

By Stephen Brown

BUENOS AIRES, April 9 (Reuters) - Joseph Goebbels' wartime press adjutant, Wilfred Von Oven, refuses to talk about the Holocaust because, at the age of 86, he wants to spend his last years in his Argentine bungalow rather than a German jail.

But his admiration for Adolf Hitler, to whom he was introduced by Nazi propaganda minister Goebbels near the end of the Second World War, cannot be disguised: ``Some don't agree ... but Hitler's eyes were magic,'' he told Reuters in an interview at his home in the leafy Buenos Aires suburb of Bella Vista. ``I cannot change now the opinion I had back then.''

Von Oven emigrated after the war in a wave of 40,000 German refugees, including fugitive Nazi war criminals, attracted by Argentine President Juan Peron's open-door policy for Germans, which earned Argentina a reputation as a haven for Nazis.

Simon Wiesenthal Center Nazi hunters say Von Oven is not a wanted war criminal despite having been Goebbels' personal press assistant from 1943 to the end of the war. Goebbels, one of Nazi Germany's most venomous anti-Semites, killed himself in Hitler's bunker as Russian forces rolled into Berlin.

Von Oven said his job meant following Goebbels ``everywhere, day and night'' but that they never discussed the Holocaust. ``Nor will I talk about it now, because I am a German citizen and German law forbids denying or casting doubt on the Holocaust and imposes a minimum 3-1/2 years in jail,'' he said.

He omitted mention of a lawsuit against him eight years ago but lawyer Pedro Bianchi, whose clients also include convicted Nazi war criminal Erich Priebke and ex-Adm. Emilio Massera, a feared leader of Argentina's former military dictatorship, told Reuters: ``I defended him.''

CLIENT DECLARED HOLOCAUST A LIE

``Von Oven declared that the existence of the gas chambers and the Holocaust and deaths of 6 million Jews was not true. There was a lawsuit but I got him off because it's not a crime in Argentina,'' Bianchi told Reuters.

Von Oven is still an upright, trim figure with thick silver hair and blue eyes. A small bandage on his temple over a skin tumor from the sun is the only sign of frailty. Twice widowed, he has two sons, one of them living in Stuttgart.

His house smells of damp. The living room is stuffed with plush armchairs, leather-bound books and a neat row of empty whisky bottles. On the mantelpiece are the ribbon for his Iron Cross, his officer's braiding, a chunk of the battleship Graf Spee and his grandfather's Crimean War revolver.

He is proud of his journalistic career -- as a uniformed correspondent with Germany's Condor Legion fighting with the fascists in the Spanish Civil War, then in the same role with Panzer divisions on front lines in the Second World War.

In post-war Argentina he was correspondent for Der Spiegel and edited a German-language newspaper. But he does not mention two German-language magazines he edited here in the 1960-70s, ``Germany Commentary'' and ``Voice of the Plata.''

``In both of them he always denied the Holocaust,'' recalls one leading figure in Argentina's German community.

A NAZI ONLY UNTIL 1932

Von Oven says he was a member of the Nazi party and its ``Brownshirt'' uniformed arm but only from 1930-32, when he quit the party. That is why the victorious Allies' postwar ``de-Nazification'' courts cleared him, he says.

Born in Bolivia, where his father ran a German export business, he tried to return after the war but it did not want him. Then he heard of ``another South American country governed by a very pro-German general. They were right, it was Peron.''

He arrived in 1951. The post-war German community in Argentina was close-knit and its members say all the former Nazis knew each other. Some were scientists Peron recruited to build an arms industry although Von Oven says Peron got ``the worst of the harvest.''

It was the hiding place of Adolf Eichmann, the Holocaust architect kidnapped by Israel in 1960, Hitler's aide Martin Bormann and possibly concentration camp doctor Josef Mengele, the ``Angel of Death.'' Two others were extradited in recent years: Franz Schwamberger in 1987 and Priebke in 1995.

In 1995, Argentina belatedly set up a Commission to Clarify Nazi Activities. Its first decision last month was to ask for arrest warrants for three alleged Nazi war criminals: Fridolin Guth, Friedrich Rauch and Erich Mueller.

Von Oven's friends included Schwamberger, accused of the murder of 5,000 people, Mueller, who also worked for Goebbels, and Rauch, an ex-SS officer. He did not know Fridolin Guth.

Von Oven says Mueller lived openly in Argentina until his death five or six years ago. ``I visited him in his nursing home in Cordoba.'' He says Rauch died six months ago in Austria at 90. ``He lived in Graz and I visited him frequently.''

He scoffs at the idea that Rauch could be a war criminal: ``He was the most upright man I met and never committed a crime in Germany or anywhere else.''

Von Oven is indignant at the idea that his own name could appear on such a list. ``If I appear on a list it would be a lie, my record is perfectly clear,'' he said in heavily accented Spanish. ``I have nothing to regret, I didn't hurt anyone.''

Still refusing to discuss mass extermination in the Nazis' concentration camps, Von Oven said: ``Bad things happen on both sides in war. ... All wars are filthy, not just our wars.''

Van Oven, author of books such as ``Who Was Goebbels?'' and ``With Goebbels to the End,'' does not hide his loyalties. But he laughs off talk that he belonged to Odessa, a secret group that hid Nazi war criminals and found them new identities.

``There were even press stories that I was the treasurer of Odessa. It's ridiculous, it never existed,'' he said. He says the only outfit he knows about was a ``Comrade Network'' 40 years ago that sent coffee and cigarettes to jailed Nazis in Europe.

Neither was there a master plan to set up a ``Fourth Reich'' in Peron's Argentina, he insists. ``No, no, no. We didn't talk about the possibility of losing the war, even at the end.'' REUTERS

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.

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Art looted by Nazis in Austrian museums - report
10:45 a.m. Apr 08, 1998 Eastern

VIENNA, April 8 (Reuters) - Austria's Greens party demanded an investigation on Wednesday into more than 200 paintings on display in Austrian state museums which it said could be art looted by the Nazis during World War Two.

Terezija Stoisits, a member of parliament for the Greens, said works of art seized from private owners by the Nazi regime may have seamlessly been appropriated by the Austrian Republic after World War Two.

``Each of these pictures has its history and belonged to somebody who owned a house and had a life in Austria. We want to trace the history of these pictures,'' Stoisits told a news conference.

The Greens referred 241 works of art of allegedly dubious origin to parliament for investigation. The controversial pictures include works by Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele and Edvard Munch.

The Austrian Ministry of Education, responsible for the state museums, said however that a commission had already been appointed to investigate the origin of works of art owned by the Republic. First results are expected in a few months.

``We don't need the Greens initiative,'' a ministry spokeswoman told the APA news agency. ``So far the work of the commission has shown that not as many works of art are of dubious origin as was presumed.''

Stoisits said some of the pictures were clearly registered by museums as previously belonging to Nazi officials, including one marked as ``former property of Martin Bormann.''

Bormann was Adolf Hitler's right-hand man in charge of the confiscation of art from mainly Jewish owners throughout the Third Reich.

Other paintings lack any information about ownership before 1938, when Hitler annexed Austria.

``The question is, why have the art experts in our museums never acted?'' Stoisits said. ^[email protected]

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.

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UK's Cook said to admit errors in Israeli visit
05:27 a.m. Apr 08, 1998 Eastern

LONDON, April 8 (Reuters) - British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook was reported on Wednesday to have admitted privately to British Jews that he mishandled a controversial visit to Israel last month.

A visit which Cook made to the construction site of a new Jewish settlement in Har Homa, in Arab east Jerusalem, resulted in a snub from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who cancelled a dinner engagement with his British visitor.

Cook also upset Israelis by failing to visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial while laying a wreath at Deir Yassin, site of a disputed 1948 killing of Palestinian Arabs by Israelis.

After he returned from Israel, Cook forcefully defended his visit to Har Homa and was publicly backed by British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who is to visit the region himself next week.

But Eldred Tabachnik, President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, told BBC radio that Cook had admitted to him that he had acted wrongly during the trip by visiting the site of an alleged massacre of Arabs but not going to the Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem.

``He said that in certain respects he had acted wrongly. He said he would in the future go to Yad Vashem. He asked to meet the Board of Deputies. We agreed and we're arranging a date,'' Tabachnik said.

Tabachnik said Cook had acknowledged he had failed to express sympathy to his Israeli hosts over the loss of life in Jerusalem last year in two street bomb explosions.

Cook's office had no immediate comment.

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.

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Jews want Croatia to demand Ustasha extradition
12:47 p.m. Apr 08, 1998 Eastern

By Laura Lui

ZAGREB, April 8 (Reuters) - Croatia should demand the extradition of former Nazi concentration camp commander Dinko Sakic from Argentina and try him on its own territory, prominent Jews here said on Wednesday.

The Argentine government petitioned a federal court on Tuesday for the arrest of Sakic, a 76-year-old Croat accused of running the Jasenovac concentration camp where Serbs, Jews and Gypsies were murdered in World War Two.

``I think Croatia should do it. He was the commander of Jasenovac and Jasenovac is a symbol, just like German camps are, a symbol of Nazi attempts to exterminate people,'' said Mihael Montiljo, head of the Croatian-Israeli Friendship Society.

``If I remember rightly, (President Franjo) Tudjman once said that those who committed war crimes in World War Two, once their guilt is proven, should answer for this. I think this would be applicable to this case,'' he told Reuters.

Slavko Goldstein, a Jewish activist, said he also believed it would be in Croatia's interests to try Sakic.

``He was the commander at the time when many people were killed. So it is reasonable to suspect he committed war crimes. Those crimes do not expire,'' he told Reuters.

Sakic's past was publicised by Argentine television's Channel 13 in an investigation aired on Monday.

He admitted running Jasenovac from December 1942 to October 1944 when Croatia was ruled by the Nazi-puppet Ustasha regime.

He has lived openly in Argentina with his wife Esperanza for 50 years.

``I am proud of my past as I was serving my country. There isn't a country in the world where there are no prisons or camps and someone has to do this unrewarding task,'' Sakic said in an interview published in Croatia in 1995.

``I sleep like a baby. If I were offered the same post today, I would accept it...My conscience is totally clear.''

Jasenovac was known as the ``Auschwitz of the Balkans'' and the number of people who perished there is still contested. Independent Croatian estimates say 85,000 people died.

The Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Centre, a Jewish organisation which hunts Nazi war criminals, claims 600,000 died in Jasenovac.

Sakic, who openly campaigned for Croatian independence, said in the television interview he met Tudjman when he visited Buenos Aires in 1994 and they agreed to meet a second time.

But the President's office played down reports, saying Tudjman ``did not separately meet with Sakic nor have separate talks with him,'' state news agency Hina said on Tuesday.

``The two met at a reception in Tudjman's honour, where the guests were not invited by the president himself,'' it added.

Sakic said in the 1995 interviews nobody was put in Jasenovac for their race or religion but for being against the Croatian state, or NDH as it was known during World War Two.

``If we tell the truth about NDH we have nothing to be ashamed of as we were defending the country on the foundations of which present Croatia was created,'' he said.

Present-day Croatia has been criticised for its often ambiguous stance to its fascist past.

Tudjman's 1996 proposal to turn Jasenovac into a memorial for all World War Two victims by reburying Ustasha members alongside their victims to promote ``Croatian reconciliation'' seems to have been dropped following immense international pressure.

The government formally apologised in August to the Jewish people for crimes committed by the Ustasha regime after which Croatia established diplomatic relations with Israel.

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.

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Argentina says ready to expel death camp Croat
05:20 p.m Apr 08, 1998 Eastern

By Stephen Brown

BUENOS AIRES, April 8 (Reuters) - Argentina will expel Croatian concentration camp commander Dinko Sakic if charges that he ordered the deaths of thousands of Serbs, Gypsies and Jews in World War Two are true, the government said Wednesday.

Justice Minister Raul Granillo Ocampo told reporters the government would ``show the same attitude'' it did with former Nazi captain Erich Priebke, extradited to Italy in 1995. It would also forbid Sakic from ever returning to the country.

The government petitioned a court Tuesday for the arrest of the 76-year-old Croat, who has lived here for 50 years, after Argentine television revealed his alleged secret.

Sakic commanded Jasenovac concentration camp from December 1942 to October 1944 when he was in his early 20s. Croatia was then under the rule of the fascist Ustasha regime, puppet of Adolf Hitler's Nazis.

The camp was known as the ``Auschwitz of the Balkans'' and up to 600,000 people were massacred there. Many Croatian Jews were also deported from the camp to German Nazi death camps.

Sakic told Channel 13 that when he ran the camp, treatment was humane: ``When I was there no guard or administrator was allowed to so much as touch a prisoner.''

Granillo Ocampo said an arrest warrant was imminent but he had not yet seen any extradition request. However, he added that Argentina ``supports all requests of this type, especially if the charges against him are true.''

``In the case of Priebke, who was a Nazi, we not only agreed to his extradition but we forbade his return to the country.''

In Zagreb, Croatian Jews urged their government to demand Sakic's extradition. ``He was the commander of Jasenovac and Jasenovac is a symbol, just like German camps are, a symbol of Nazi attempts to exterminate people,'' said Mihael Montiljo of the Croatian-Israeli Friendship Society.

But the Jewish organization B'nai Brith doubts Croatia's nationalist President Franjo Tudjman, who met Sakic in Buenos Aires during a visit in 1994, will comply.

``My guess is Tudjman won't do it,'' its head Tommy Baer said from Washington. The alternatives were for Argentina to try him as a war criminal, or for Israel or Germany to file extradition requests, said the B'nai Brith president.

``Jasenovac was a killing camp and this guy was a murderer. He enjoyed killing,'' said Baer.

>From Sakic's house in the beach resort of Santa Teresita, his wife Esperanza told Reuters Tuesday he was ``as innocent as a breast-feeding baby. It's such a huge lie. I'm distraught.''

But on Wednesday, a woman who would only identify herself as a family spokeswoman said nobody was home: ``They will give a news conference when everything is cleared up.'' Asked about news reports that he had fled, she said: ``No. The moment the court summons him, he will make himself available.''

The Croatian embassy denied reports he was hiding there.

Victor Ramos, head of the government's Institute Against Discrimination, Xenophobia and Racism who filed the detention request on the orders of President Carlos Menem, said a judge was asking Interpol for details of any arrest warrants.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish group which hunts Nazi war criminals, describes Jasenovac as one of the most brutal camps of the war. Many of the Serbs, Gypsies and 25,000 Jews who died there were bludgeoned to death with hammers.

But Sakic said in a 1995 interview in Croatia he was proud of his war record. ``I sleep like a baby. If I were offered the same post today, I would accept it,'' he said.

``I am proud of my past as I was serving my country. There isn't a country in the world where there are no prisons or camps and someone has to do this unrewarding task,'' he said in the interview.

His presence is a setback for Argentine attempts to shake off its image as a haven for Nazis like Adolf Eichmann and Martin Bormann. Post-war leaders Juan and Evita Peron had fascist sympathies and Sakic said they personally helped him.

Ustasha leader Ante Pavelic also hid in Argentina, until an attempt on his life in 1957. Argentina's image was further hurt by two unsolved anti-Jewish bombings in 1992 and 1994. ^[email protected]

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.

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FEATURE - Film tells story of hero rescue of Jewish children
09:21 p.m Apr 05, 1998 Eastern

By Nigel Stephenson

PRAGUE, April 6 (Reuters) - Nicholas Winton, one of the unsung heroes of World War Two, is still revered at the age of 88 as the father who saved scores of his ``children'' from Nazi death camps.

Winton, a Briton who was working in Prague in 1939 as the former Czechoslovakia was invaded and occupied by the Nazis, arranged for 664 children, most of them Jewish, to be transported to Britain, almost certainly saving their lives.

Until the 1980s Winton's achievement went unrecognised -- most of the children had no idea who saved them.

Now, a Czech-British production team is hoping to capture the extraordinary story in a documentary film which they aim to have ready for distribution next year.

``We feel that the story is absolutely unique...It is really Schindler, Wallenberg and him who rescued people on such a grand scale,'' said co-director Matej Minac.

Martina Stolbova, of Prague's Jewish Museum and one of the film's producers, said it is to be called ``Nicholas G. Winton - The British Wallenberg'' after the Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, who disappeared after saving thousands of Jews in World War Two.

Steven Spielberg told the story of Oskar Schindler, a German industrialist who saved more than 1,000 Jews from the Nazis, in his Oscar-winning film ``Schindler's List.''

Last month, Winton was back in Prague, as part of the film project, to meet some of his surviving ``children'' as they are known, many now in their 70s. At a reception in his honour, Winton gave his blessing to the planned documentary.

``It is part of the remembrance aspect of the Holocaust and the Holocaust cannot be remembered for very much longer by the people who were part of it. It can only be remembered through the children and grandchildren and with films and books,'' he said.

``If the people do it honestly and with sympathy and really add the correct background...it is something that needs to be done. I hope it comes off. I hope they get the backing,''

THE STOCKBROKER SAVIOUR

Winton was a 30-year-old stockbroker when the Nazis completed their occupation of Czechoslovakia.

After the ill-fated Munich agreement between Germany and western European powers in September 1938, the Nazis annexed the Sudeten border regions where a sizeable German minority lived. The occupation of the remainder of the Czech lands began in March of 1939.

Winton set up an office in Prague and travelled frequently to London with details of hundreds of children for the British Home Office (Interior Ministry). For each child, he had to find a foster parent and a 50 pound guarantee.

He managed to arrange for 664 children to get out on several trains but a transport with 250 due at the beginning of September 1939 was unable to leave Prague.

All the children later died in concentration camps.

Among the ``children'' he saved were acclaimed film director Karel Reisz and Dagmar Simova, cousin of the Czech-born U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

Simova, who lived in London with young Madlenka's Czech diplomat father, only knew of Winton's role 10 or 12 years ago but believes his story should be told.

``It is never too late to make things known and his story is certainly interesting,'' Simova said.

Margeta Rytisova, 73 and her sister Elinor Koeppelova, 69, were 14 and 10 when they were evacuated to England.

``We didn't know Mr Winton. We didn't meet him until 1991. We didn't know how we got to England or who found anybody for us,'' Rytisova said.

``One day our parents said we were going to England, that they would follow us in another year. They never did.''

Their father died. ``Our mother was murdered by the Germans in a concentration camp.''

Like many of those saved, Rytisova, who served in Britain's Royal Air Force, returned to Czechoslovakia after the war.

``I was demobilised early because I wanted to come back. I always thought that my mother might have lost her memory and we might find her,'' she said.

Prague's Jewish community hosted a lunch for Winton and about 10 of his children during his recent visit.

However, film co-director Minac said the children's religion was not important for Winton.

``He didn't care for the question of being Jewish or not. He said, 'I am not rescuing people because of their religion, I am saving their lives'.''

The documentary, which has begun filming, is a joint Czech-British production.

Stolbova, the culture administrator at the education and culture centre of Prague's Jewish Museum, has been contacting ``children'' across the world.

``We would like to make it as soon as possible because of Mr Winton's age,'' she said.

The plan is to film in at least 10 countries where the children have links, including Israel, Sweden and the United States as well as Britain and the Czech Republic.

``We are working on this voluntarily. It is for the future generations,'' she said. ``We found it fascinating and it should be recorded because he is the last living hero.''

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.

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French centrists expel renegades, opt for relaunch
10:54 a.m. Apr 08, 1998 Eastern

PARIS, April 8 (Reuters) - The Union for French Democracy (UDF), the party hardest hit by the turmoil rocking France's right-wing, on Wednesday excluded three leaders who forged local power deals with the far-right National Front.

Former defence minister Charles Millon of the Rhone-Alpes region, Charles Baur from Picardie and Jacques Blanc from Languedoc-Roussillon were thrown out for breaking a long-standing taboo and allying with the Front to win election as chairmen of their regional councils last month, the UDF said.

The UDF, a loose federation of the non-Gaullist right, also agreed to relaunch itself as a new centrist movement merging its five component parties, possibly under a new name, UDF leader Francois Leotard said after a leadership meeting.

Leotard told the daily Le Figaro he remained staunchly opposed to any compromises with the National Front, the pariah party which wins about 15 percent in elections and has launched a new strategy to forge links with the mainstream right.

``In my political family, some people accept the idea that the far-right could be the extension of the right, but that is light years away from where we are and what we should be,'' he said.

The Front, which President Jacques Chirac has denounced as racist and xenophobic, emerged as the kingmaker in five of France's 22 regions last month after elections saw the right wing vote split between them and the mainstream conservatives.

Five UDF leaders who accepted Front votes to get elected came under heavy pressure to resign, but only two did so. The episode drove a deep split in the mainstream right and pushed the UDF to the brink of collapse.

In his interview, Leotard said the new-look UDF would support European unity, free market economics and decentralisation of power from Paris.

Francois Bayrou, head of the Christian Democratic faction of the UDF and an early proponent of a new party, welcomed the decision as ``extremely positive.''

But Alain Madelin, who leads the free-marketeer faction, declined to comment after the meeting. ^[email protected]

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.

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French culture watchdog to guard against far right
02:14 p.m Apr 09, 1998 Eastern

PARIS, April 9 (Reuters) - The French government named a watchdog committee on Thursday to guard against assaults on cultural activities by the far-right National Front of Jean-Marie Le Pen.

Culture Minister Catherine Trautmann said in a statement announcing who would serve on the watchdog panel that cultural activities were ``more than ever'' being targeted by the Front.

She accused the Front of a ``demagogic attempt to turn the people against artists and establish a cultural identity which opposes creativity.''

The Front, which President Jacques Chirac has denounced as ``racist and xenophobic,'' regularly wins about 15 percent of the vote in national elections. It runs town halls in four southern cities and recently cut power-sharing deals with rightist politicians in a number of French regional councils.

Its cultural agenda has been most visible in the four cities with National Front mayors, where local officials have cancelled concerts by rap singers, transformed a planned theatre and cultural complex into a shopping mall, and removed leftist books and publications from libraries.

Front officials sacked the director of a municipal theatre in Vitrolles who had scheduled films with homosexual themes. It shut down a Vitrolles youth centre and banned a tribute at a Toulon book fair to Jewish author Marek Halter.

Trautmann asked the new panel to be on the lookout for Front actions targeting cultural activities, to study the situation and make recommendations.

Among the watchdog committee's members are actors Pierre Arditi and Michel Piccoli, fashion designer Agnes B, singer Jane Birkin, theatre director Ariane Mnouchkine and architect Jean Nouvel.

After Trautmann led an anti-Front rally last year in the eastern city of Strasbourg, where she was then serving as mayor, Le Pen, the Front's firebrand leader, paraded around the stage at a Paris campaign rally carrying an oversize photograph of Trautmann's head, set on a platter. ^[email protected]

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.

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France bans two far-right National Front unions
03:00 p.m Apr 10, 1998 Eastern

PARIS, April 10 (Reuters) - The French supreme court on Friday banned two trade union affiliated to the far-right National Front, saying they had taken illegal racist stands and were political tools rather than labour groups.

In a connected development, a conservative deputy tabled a bill to deprive the National Front of public funds allotted to political parties because of its ``racist and xenophobic'' views.

The Cour de Cassation declared the National Front Police and the National Front Prisons illegal as being ``the tools of a political party which helped create them and whose interests and objectives they exclusively serve.''

The court also said both unions, which group police and prison guards, illegally called for distinctions based on race, colour and national or ethnic origin.

Jean-Marie Le Pen's National Front, which wins around 15 percent of the votes in elections, wants to give preference to native French people for jobs and social benefits and send immigrants home.

The supreme court was ruling on appeals against conflicting lower court decisions -- one by a Paris court which declared the National Front Police illegal, and another from a court in the southern town of Montpellier which authorised the National Front Prisons.

The Front's deputy leader Bruno Megret called the ruling ``a political-judiciary conspiracy.''

``Everything goes when it comes to stopping the National Front. But doing this means flouting the Republic, democracy and freedom,'' he said.

The Socialist-led CFDT trade union welcomed the supreme court's ruling as a clear condemnation of discrimination and attempts to turn trade unions into tools of propaganda.

Claude Goasguen, a MP for the Union for French Democracy (UDF), said he had tabled a bill to cut off public funds to the National Front.

``Any party described as xenophobic and racist should no longer benefit from public financing,'' he said, recalling that the French Constitution bans any discrimination based on race or creed.

French political parties are awarded public funds in proportion of the votes they win in elections.

President Jacques Chirac called the Front ``xenophobic and racist'' last month in a condemnation of three UDF dissidents who cut deals with the Front in order to win control of regional councils. ^[email protected]

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.

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Neo-Nazis to mark Bismarck anniversary-report
10:46 a.m. Apr 11, 1998 Eastern

BONN, April 11 (Reuters) - The German magazine Der Spiegel reported on Saturday that neo-Nazi and other right-wing extremists plan rallies across Germany to mark the 100th anniversary of the death of the ``Iron chancellor'' Otto von Bismarck.

Bismarck united the kingdoms of Prussia, Bavaria and Saxony with dozens of principalities in 1871 to create a German empire or ``Reich'' that was much bigger than today's unified Germany.

Right-wingers hold Bismarck's memory dear because of this, and hanker after the provinces of East Prussia and Pomerania, in today's Poland and Russia, which were lost after World War Two.

The marches for Bismarck would be inspired by annual rallies across the country to mark the death of top Nazi Rudolf Hess in Berlin's Spandau Prison on August 17, 1987, Spiegel said.

The weekly news magazine said the right-wing extremist National Party of Germany would join forces with other radical groups and gather at Bismarck's grave in Friedrichsruh, outside Hamburg, on July 30 to commemorate his death in 1898.

Historians are divided over the extent to which Bismarck, Germany's first chancellor, contributed to the rise to power of Adolf Hitler's Nazi party.

After the horrors of the Holocaust and two world wars, many Germans tended to blame their ``distorted'' historical development partly on Bismarck's failure to establish democracy and on aggressive Prussian militarism. ^[email protected]

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.

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Bonn confident Holocaust memorial will go ahead
06:46 a.m. Apr 09, 1998 Eastern

By Tara FitzGerald

BONN, April 9 (Reuters) - The German government said on Thursday it was confident plans to build a Holocaust memorial in Berlin would go ahead despite delays and controversy.

Plans for the monument, which is to be built to commemorate the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis, have provoked emotional debate and criticism in Germany and the choice of a final design remains a stumbling block.

The spokesman said there were still more meetings to go ahead, largely to finalise the choice of design, between the three groups running the project -- the federal government, the Berlin city government and a private lobby group.

``These talks will set out the conditions for a definitive decision,'' the spokesman said.

The monument was originally due to get the final go-ahead last month once the three groups had agreed on a winning design.

There are four designs on the shortlist and Chancellor Helmut Kohl favours one by New York-based architect Peter Eisenman and sculptor Richard Serra. They envisage creating a graveyard-like labyrinth of 4,000 concrete pillars up to 7.5 metres (24 feet) tall.

The spokesman said the three groups had decided to request a re-working of the Serra-Eisenman design to be presented for consideration again, but gave no further details.

``The Chancellor also wants to meet once again with the artists (of this design) and when that has happened there will definitely be another sitting of the committee,'' he said.

The Berlin daily Tagesspiegel said on Thursday Kohl was keen to reach a swift decision on the memorial.

``The struggle to make this monument a worthy structure despite all the difficulties is a task that must now be completed,'' the newspaper quoted Kohl as writing in a letter to Holocaust survivor Ernst Mueller.

The letter, dated April 6, was also quoted as saying the three groups were in agreement that there should be a consensus decision over the final design.

Berlin mayor Eberhard Diepgen recently expressed serious reservations over the designs on the shortlist, saying none of them were capable of relating the horror of the Holocaust.

The groundbreaking ceremony to unveil the monument is due to take place on January 27, 1999 -- 54 years to the day after the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp. ^[email protected]

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.

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Germany dismisses Russian high court on booty art
10:41 a.m. Apr 06, 1998 Eastern

BONN, April 6 (Reuters) - The German government on Monday dismissed a Russian supreme court ruling effectively barring the repatriation of wartime ``booty'' art, appealing to Moscow to observe its commitments to international law.

Russia's Constitutional Court said President Boris Yeltsin could not block laws approved twice by parliament halting the return, mainly to Germany, of art treasures seized by the Red Army during World War Two.

It ruled after the Russian parliament had asked the court to rule on Yeltsin's powers of veto after he twice refused to sign a law, citing irregularities.

``The German government remains convinced that the (Russian) law violates international law and Russia's legal commitments to it,'' deputy government spokesman Herbert Schmuelling told a regular government news conference.

``It hopes that this point of view will find respect in the further treatment of the law,'' Schmuelling said in a government statement reacting to the ruling.

Germany, Russia's biggest trading partner and creditor, wants Moscow to return art treasures that include a Gutenberg bible, gold artefacts supposedly from the ancient site of Troy and paintings by Impressionists Claude Monet and Henri Matisse.

But many Russians support the parliamentarians, believing the art should stay as compensation for Nazi Germany's devastation of Russian cultural treasures and the sufferings of the Soviet Union, which lost 27 million people in the war.

The constitutional wrangle pitting Yeltsin against both houses of parliament could still drag on for many months. He is expected to appeal to the court over alleged parliamentary irregularities when the bill was approved. ^[email protected]

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.

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Eastern German leader urges end to racist attacks
09:25 a.m. Apr 08, 1998 Eastern

BERLIN, April 8 (Reuters) - The premier of Brandenburg called on Wednesday for an end to racist violence in the eastern German state, saying frequent attacks were thwarting foreign investment in the depressed region.

Manfred Stolpe told ORB radio station that racist violence in the state that surrounds Berlin was ``unacceptable and inhumane,'' and vowed his state government would fight it with ``tough measures and determination.''

Official government crime figures put Brandenburg high in the league table of violent attacks on foreigners and police have set up a special anti-racist crime unit.

``It is a disaster, what is being reported about Brandenburg around the world,'' Stolpe said.

``A climate of openness towards foreigners is needed in our society,'' said Stolpe, who was once a prominent Protestant clergyman and dissident in the former communist East Germany.

The federal government's commissioner on foreigners' affairs, Cornelia Schmalz-Jacobsen, said in her annual report in December racist attacks remained a serious problem in eastern Germany, where 2,323 racist crimes were reported in 1996.

She expressed alarm about the emergence of ``foreigner-free'' zones within at least 25 east German towns, including discos and cafes listed on the Internet.

In 1997, 31 percent of Turks in an official survey, who had visited the state of Brandenburg, said they had noticed a ``particularly strong'' hatred of foreigners.

Hostels housing foreigners, refugees and asylum-seekers became the targets of firebomb attacks and physical assaults during a wave of neo-Nazi and racist violence that swept across the east after German unification in 1990.

Although the wave of racist violence has since subsided, incidents are still frequently reported in Brandenburg -- one of Germany's poorest states with high levels of unemployment.

One of the worst was the baseball bat clubbing of Italian building workers, leaving one victim paralysed. Two men were convicted and jailed for 15 and eight years last year for the attack. A year earlier, two Germans were jailed for paralysing a black British construction worker from the waist down. ^[email protected]

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.

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FOCUS-Russia gets tough with Latvia
01:26 p.m Apr 08, 1998 Eastern

By Gareth Jones

MOSCOW, April 8 (Reuters) - Russia began tightening the economic screws on Latvia on Wednesday to protest against the tiny Baltic state's treatment of its Russian-speaking minority.

``President Boris Yeltsin has ordered ministers to prepare economic measures against Latvia, including restrictions on Russia's oil exports crossing its territory,'' a Kremlin spokeswoman told Reuters.

Latvia said the reprisals were unjustified and would harm the economies of both countries.

Moscow has long criticised Riga over strict citizenship rules that leave most of its 700,000 Russian speakers stateless, but tensions rose sharply last month when Latvian police manhandled a group of elderly protesters, most of whom were ethnic Russians.

A reunion of Latvian veterans of the Nazi SS in Riga and an explosion on Monday near the Russian embassy have also fuelled Russian anger.

Sergei Kiriyenko, Yeltsin's prime minister-designate, said in televised comments that he was putting together a package of economic sanctions against Latvia.

Kiriyenko, whose nomination hinges on parliamentary approval, said the measures included ``specific limitations on the purchase of Latvian goods.''

``Of course it would be good not to introduce sanctions. But if Latvia behaves in this way towards Russians we are simply compelled to take such measures,'' the former banker said.

Russia's acting First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov, told Interfax news agency Russian oil companies had sharply reduced oil shipments to Latvia, in line with Yeltsin's request.

``Without doubt, Russia has other ways of exerting pressure on Latvia,'' said Nemtsov, a pro-market liberal expected to keep his job in the new government now being formed.

Latvia's Ventspils port handled 11 percent of Russian oil exports last year, making it second in importance only to Russia's own Black Sea port of Novorossiisk, which handled 25 percent. In practical terms, Russia may find it hard to substantially divert oil away from Ventspils in the near future.

Riga said Russia's plans would be counterproductive.

``Such a unilateral act is unsupported by any recent developments in our bilateral relations,'' Latvian Foreign Minister Valdis Birkavs said in a statement.

``If Russia cuts the transit of goods, it will be harming the health of its own economy as well as ours,'' Birkavs added.

``We are neighbours, we need good relations with Russia and we need to work on it but we can only do this through dialogue.''

Kremlin press secretary Sergei Yastrzhembsky told Interfax Yeltsin wanted to speed up work on a pipeline linking Tengiz oil fields in Kazakhstan with Novorossiisk and to start building new oil terminals on the Russian coast of the Gulf of Finland.

Interfax also quoted Yastrzhembsky as saying Yeltsin backed calls made by Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov and several regional governors for a boycott of Latvian goods. Moscow shops sell lots of Latvian dairy products, confectionery and china.

Latvia denies Russian charges of discrimination against its Russian speakers, most of whom moved there after the republic's forcible annexation by Stalin into the Soviet Union in 1940.

But Riga sets conditions, including knowledge of the Latvian language -- a non-Slavic tongue unrelated to Russian -- for those wishing to obtain citizenship. About 550,000 people rely on old Soviet passports which are due to expire in October.

The European Union and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe have urged Riga to try harder to integrate its Russian minority.

Latvia is keen to join the EU but, unlike its northern neighbour Estonia, was not invited this year into the first wave of potential new entrants from central and eastern Europe.

On Tuesday Italian Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini said in Moscow that the recent events had distanced Latvia from the possibility of joining a second wave of EU membership.

Latvian government parties have been seeking a compromise to soften rules on naturalisation but nationalist Prime Minister Guntar Krasts' party is against any change.

On Wednesday the largest member of Latvia's ruling coalition, the left-leaning Democratic Party, stormed out, accusing Krasts of souring ties with Russia. ^[email protected]

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.

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Latvia Government in Crisis Amid Russia Row
05:06 p.m Apr 08, 1998 Eastern

By Patrick Lannin

RIGA (Reuters) - Latvia was rocked by political crisis Wednesday as the largest party in the government coalition stormed out, accusing the nationalist prime minister of souring relations with Russia.

The walkout occurred as Russia threatened to divert its oil business from the Baltic state, raising the pressure in a long-running row over Latvia's treatment of ethnic Russians.

Latvia's port of Ventspils handled about 11 percent of Russia's crude exports last year, a volume second only to the Russian port of Novorossiisk.

Prime Minister Guntar Krasts said he would soldier on with a minority government while President Guntis Ulmanis threatened early elections if parties could not solve their problems.

The leftist Democratic Party Saimnieks, the biggest member of a six-party coalition, said it could no longer work with Krasts of the nationalist Fatherland and Freedom party.

``(Fatherland and Freedom's) selfish interests hinder efforts for a compromise with other political forces in the country, do not allow it to listen to practical and pragmatic recommendations by European states and provoke worsening ties with Russia,'' the Democratic Party said in a statement.

Its departure left Krasts' coalition with 45 seats in the 100-seat parliament but he said he would continue as premier.

``I will consult with the remaining coalition partners, continue the work of this government and replace the Saimnieks' ministers who have quit,'' Krasts told Latvian radio.

President Ulmanis said early elections were possible if parliament could not solve the government row and the crisis in ties with Russia. The next election is due in October.

Russian President Boris Yeltsin earlier told ministers to find ways to bypass Latvia to ship oil to the west although industry experts said this would be difficult because of the sheer volume of crude which Ventspils handles.

Interfax news agency quoted Yeltsin's press secretary as saying he also backed initiatives by some politicians who advocated boycotting Latvian goods.

Since the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia has consistently accused Latvia of discriminating against its 700,000-strong Russian-speaking minority.

Latvia denies the charge, but sets conditions, including knowledge of the Latvian language, for those wishing to obtain citizenship as part of a naturalization process.

Around 550,000 people rely on old Soviet passports and will be left stateless when they expire in October.

Tensions between the two countries rose sharply last month when Russia accused Latvia of using brutal police tactics to break up a protest by Russian-speaking pensioners.

The dispute turned nastier as Russia's then-prime minister, Viktor Chernomyrdin, personally insulted Krasts, and the Kremlin's main spokesman threatened sanctions against Latvia.

Moscow was further angered by a reunion of Latvian veterans of the Nazi SS in Riga last month and by two recent bomb blasts, including one near the Russian embassy Monday which caused damage but no casualties.

The Latvian SS veterans are not seen by international institutions as war criminals but critics say they still fought on the side of the Third Reich, which killed six million Jews.

Latvia's government includes a wide spectrum of parties, from former communists to nationalists. Despite several crises, it has kept Latvia broadly on the path of economic reforms which it launched after quitting the former Soviet Union in 1991.

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.

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Russia tightens screws on Latvia over minority row
12:32 p.m. Apr 08, 1998 Eastern

By Gareth Jones

MOSCOW, April 8 (Reuters) - Russia began tightening the economic screws on Latvia on Wednesday to protest against the tiny Baltic state's treatment of its Russian-speaking minority.

``President Boris Yeltsin has ordered ministers to prepare economic measures against Latvia, including restrictions on Russia's oil exports crossing its territory,'' a Kremlin spokeswoman told Reuters.

Moscow has long criticised Riga over strict citizenship rules that leave most of its 700,000 Russian speakers stateless, but tensions rose sharply last month when Latvian police manhandled mostly elderly ethnic Russian protesters.

Several other incidents including a reunion of Latvian veterans of the Nazi SS in Riga and an explosion on Monday near the Russian embassy have also fuelled Russian anger.

Sergei Kiriyenko, Yeltsin's prime minister-designate, said in televised comments that he was putting together a package of economic sanctions against Latvia.

Kiriyenko, whose nomination hinges on parliamentary approval, said the measures included ``specific limitations on the purchase of Latvian goods.''

``Of course it would be good not to introduce sanctions. But if Latvia behaves in this way towards Russians we are simply compelled to take such measures,'' the former banker said.

Russia's acting First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov, told Interfax news agency that Russian oil companies had already sharply reduced oil shipments to Latvia, in line with Yeltsin's request.

``Without doubt, Russia has other ways of exerting pressure on Latvia,'' said Nemtsov, a pro-market liberal expected to keep his job in the new government now being formed.

Latvia's Ventspils port handled 11 percent of Russian oil exports last year, making it second in importance only to Russia's own Black Sea port of Novorossiisk, which handled 25 percent. In practical terms, Russia may find it hard to substantially divert oil away from Ventspils in the near future.

Kremlin press secretary Sergei Yastrzhembsky told Interfax Yeltsin was urging his government to speed up work on a pipeline linking Tengiz oil fields in Kazakhstan with Novorossiisk and to start building new oil terminals on the Russian coast of the Gulf of Finland.

Interfax also quoted Yastrzhembsky as saying Yeltsin backed calls by some politicians -- who have included Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov and several regional governors -- for a boycott of Latvian goods. Moscow shops sell considerable quantities of Latvian dairy products, confectionery and china.

Latvia denies Russian charges of discrimination against its Russian speakers, most of whom moved there after the republic's forcible annexation by Stalin into the Soviet Union in 1940.

But Riga sets conditions, including knowledge of the Latvian language -- a non-Slavic tongue unrelated to Russian -- for those wishing to obtain citizenship. About 550,000 people rely on old Soviet passports which are due to expire in October.

The European Union and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) have urged Riga to try harder to integrate its Russian minority.

Latvia is keen to join the EU but, unlike its northern neighbour Estonia, was not invited this year into the first wave of potential new entrants from central and eastern Europe.

On Tuesday Italian Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini said in Moscow that the recent events had distanced Latvia from the possibility of joining a second wave of EU membership.

Latvian government parties have been seeking a compromise to soften rules on naturalisation but nationalist Prime Minister Guntar Krasts' party is against any change.

On Wednesday the largest member of Latvia's ruling coalition, the left-leaning Democratic Party, stormed out, accusing Krasts of souring ties with Russia.

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.

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Russia Condemns Bombing, Says Fascism on Rise
11:44 a.m. Apr 06, 1998 Eastern

By Patrick Lannin

RIGA, Latvia (Reuters) - A bomb exploded near the Russian embassy in the Latvian capital Riga on Monday, spurring Moscow into warning that fascism was on the rise in the former Soviet republic.

Nobody was hurt when an anti-personnel mine exploded in a concrete rubbish bin opposite the embassy on Monday. But the bombing coincided with a sharp downturn in relations between Moscow and its communist-era satellite.

``This terrorist act is the result of spurring anti-Russian hysteria in Latvia, of encouraging nationalism and extremism,'' the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

``Blasts ring out, monuments are defiled, fascists are raising their heads. This has to be stopped. We demand that the Latvian authorities take decisive measures and punish those guilty.''

The bomb went off in the early hours of Monday and damaged several diplomatic cars. The embassy building was not hit.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Valery Nesterushkin told Reuters he was worried that the blast had come just days after an explosion outside a synagogue in Riga. That blast damaged doors and windows.

``We are not saying that they are the rings of the same chain, but these events are happening in Riga and they are the results of a social atmosphere that reigns there...where the human rights of part of the population are in question.''

Last month relations between Latvia and Russia hit a low point after a dispute over Latvian police handling of a protest of mainly Russian-speaking pensioners.

Moscow said the police actions, which involved the pushing and shoving of protesters, amounted to police brutality. Latvia, however, has defended the police.

The two sides traded accusations and threats at the highest level, and the Kremlin's main spokesman also threatened unspecified economic sanctions against the Baltic state.

Russia also condemned last month's controversial celebrations in Riga of Latvian SS veterans who fought alongside Nazi Germany in World War Two.

Latvian President Guntis Ulmanis sacked army commander Juris Dalbinsh for taking part in the march and criticised Latvian politicians for not doing enough to improve ties with Russia.

Last month unidentified vandals also damaged a monument to Russian soldiers killed during the war.

On Monday Nesterushkin praised the swift reaction of Latvian Interior Minister Ziedonis Chevers, who visited the scene of the blast and met Russia's ambassador. ``The authorities are drawing conclusions...that there is a problem there,'' Nesterushkin said.

``Chevers said the explosion was another provocation by all forces which want to destabilise the situation in Latvia and hinder the democratic development of the state,'' a Latvian interior ministry spokesman said.

Latvia, which won independence from Moscow in 1991, is under intense pressure to integrate its Russian-speaking minority, which comprises 700,000 of the former Soviet republic's 2.6 million people.

The European Union and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) have urged Riga to change citizenship laws that have left most Russian-speakers stateless.

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.

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Schumer enters Democratic race against NY Sen. D'Amato
03:14 p.m Apr 08, 1998 Eastern

By Ellen Wulfhorst

NEW YORK, April 8 (Reuters) - Rep. Charles Schumer formally launched his bid Wednesday for the Democratic Senate nomination, joining what promises to be a lively race to try to unseat longtime Republican Sen. Alfonse D'Amato.

Schumer will face off in the party's Sept. 15 primary against former vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro and New York City Public Advocate Mark Green for the nomination to run against D'Amato in November.

A liberal whose congressional district includes parts of the city's Brooklyn and Queens boroughs, Schumer trails the other two Democrats in public opinion polls. But he has raised $11 million, more than Ferraro and Green combined.

``I'm the underdog, no question about that, but I relish the role,'' he said after making his formal announcement speech at Brooklyn College, adding, ``I have the wherewithal to get my message out.''

Schumer, a strong advocate of gun control who has been in the House since 1980, said he would make education and job creation the key issues in his campaign.

Sidestepping questions about his Democratic rivals, he took aim at D'Amato and mocked his nickname ``Senator Pothole.''

``If this race is about filling the most potholes, then compare my record to yours, Sen. D'Amato, and we'll count how many potholes your votes have created all over the state when you stood shoulder to shoulder with (House Speaker) Newt Gingrich and cut our hospitals and our schools and our Medicare,'' he said.

Ferraro, the first to enter the Democratic race, had similarly strong words for D'Amato in a recent interview, when she called him ``a chameleon'' and ``an embarassment.''

In his announcement, Green, the elected public advocate who has ties to consumer advocate Ralph Nader, also let loose on D'Amato, calling him ``an ethically challenged, hypocritical incumbent.''

D'Amato, who enjoys powerful political and financial support from party leaders, was running for a fourth term.

Public opinion surveys have shown Ferraro, of all the Democrats, leading D'Amato, but a recent poll showed him narrowing the gap to just two percentage points.

D'Amato, chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, has been involved in the quest to uncover hidden assets of Holocaust victims in Swiss banks. He also was instrumental in a Senate probe into the Whitewater scandal surrounding President Clinton and his wife Hillary's business dealings.

A conservative, he has campaigned against abortion and opposed gun control. But lately he has championed such issues as breast cancer research and tougher environmental standards.

He also has come to be known for making flamboyant blunders, such as mimicking Judge Lance Ito by adopting a Japanese accent on a radio talk show during O.J. Simpson's murder trial.

``This will be a very closely fought contest,'' said pollster and political analyst Lee Miringoff, who said the Democrats will be hampered by a primary that is held late in the season and will use up a large chunk of the candidates' resources.

``Democrats have had a lot of trouble unseating D'Amato in the past, and many fear this field has the makings to undo themselves also,'' he said. ``It will be quite a race.''

Ferraro, who made history in 1984 as the first woman to run for vice president on a major party ticket, tried unsuccessfully six years ago to win the Senate nomination.

In the bitter 1992 race, her opponents attacked her husband John Zaccaro's business dealings and alleged ties to organized crime, and she has made a plea to keep a negative tone out of this campaign. REUTERS

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.

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Jewish group casts doubt on Spanish Nazi gold figures
09:31 p.m Apr 09, 1998 Eastern

LOS ANGELES, April 9 (Reuters) - A Jewish group on Thursday took issue with a report by Spain that all it received in looted Nazi gold during the Second World War was eight ingots worth $114,000, saying Spain actually received looted gold worth about $300 million at today's prices.

The World Jewish Congress said it would release documents later this month to counter some of the conclusions of a Spanish investigation into wartime gold shipments. The report

concluded that Spain was not involved in illegal purchases of looted Nazi gold.

The report by Spanish government investigators maintained that Spain's gold transactions during the war -- estimated at $765 million -- were ``legally impeccable.'' The commission said that just after the war Allied investigators searched Spain's reserves of more than 4,000 gold ingots and found only eight ingots of looted German gold, valued at about $114,000, which was returned.

But a senior WJC official said the group had recently uncovered documents in the U.S. national archives that said Spain received 2,235 looted Nazi gold bars totaling 26.8 tonnes that were worth $30 million at wartime prices or about $300 million today.

More than 95 percent of that amount was sold to Spain by Switzerland, the WJC said, meaning that the responsibility for its restitution lay with the Swiss, not the Spanish.

``Moral restitution demands that the facts be presented correctly,'' the WJC official said.

The report presented to Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar on Wednesday concluded that the Spanish government bought 67.4 tonnes of gold during the war, the Madrid daily newspaper ABC said, adding that the bulk of the shipments, 38.6 tonnes, reportedly came from Swiss banks, while 14.9 tonnes came from Britain, 9.4 tonnes from Portugal and 2.5 tonnes from Germany.

The commission was formed last year to investigate claims that Spain, neutral during the war under the dictatorship of Gen. Francisco Franco, received large shipments of Nazi gold, much of it stolen from Jews sent to German concentration camps.

The Spanish report differs sharply from the conclusions of other inquiries, which have estimated that Spain received up to 100 or more tonnes of gold, the bulk of it looted by the Nazis and funneled through neutral Switzerland. REUTERS

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.

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Swiss gear up to fend off more Holocaust-era charges
12:09 p.m. Apr 05, 1998 Eastern

By Greg Calhoun

ZURICH, April 5 (Reuters) - Switzerland, under prolonged attack for its handling of Nazi gold during World War Two, appears to be trying to change tactics and begin taking the offensive.

Last week, before any suits were filed, the Swiss central bank said it would fight back against any action taken by U.S. lawyers who might try to sue it over purchases of looted gold from Nazi Germany during the war.

Switzerland's foreign minister Flavio Cotti also took an aggressive stance, stating in a television interview on Friday that he was becoming fed up with an endless flow of absurd charges and excessive demands.

And last month the head of a Swiss government coalition party said the Berne government should consider punishing U.S. companies if U.S. state and city financial treasurers enacted a boycott of Swiss banks.

Switzerland has been the target of persistent criticism, threats of legal action and massive class action suits following the disclosure by its banks early in 1996 that they could find only a little more than 38 million Swiss francs of unclaimed wealth in accounts opened before 1945.

Under mounting pressure the banks, together with Jewish Groups, set up an independent panel headed by former U.S. Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker to search for unclaimed wealth at the banks.

The Swiss National Bank, private banks and insurers in Switzerland have set up a humanitarian fund for Nazi victims and their survivors.

Last year the Swiss government outlined plans for a Swiss Solidarity Foundation that would use proceeds from official gold sales to finance humanitarian aid to victims of poverty, catastrophe and human rights abuses.

And just last month Switzerland's biggest banks averted sanctions by U.S. states and cities by agreeing to try and negotiate a settlement of Holocaust-era claims.

However, none of this has been enough to take the pressure off Switzerland.

Indeed, for many this tiny neutral country and its financial institutions which form the private banking hub of Europe, are seen as destined to a role of reacting to each new claim, charge and wartime revelation.

The latest development likely to escalate into a problem is a new study by Swiss historian Thomas Buomberger which claims that over 700 works of art stolen from Jews by the Nazis are still hanging in Swiss museums or are in private hands.

According to the Swiss newspaper SonntagsBlick, at least one lawyer is already gathering material for a possible legal claim.

Switzerland's special envoy for Holocaust issues, Thomas Borer, said in an interview with the same newspaper that the Swiss government had been working intensively for months on the question of wartime art dealings.

``We must expect that this theme will be used to put pressure on us,'' Borer said in the interview.

Whatever the outcome of this latest report, the overall situation for Switzerland shows all the signs of a problem about to get worse.

There are no guarantees that the negotiations entered into by the commercial banks will end the threat of billion dollar class action law suits like the ones filed in New York by Holocaust victims.

It's not even clear what issues are to be negotiated.

More studies and documents are bound to emerge like the ones which surfaced in the U.S. just a few days ago showing that the Soviet Union secretly told the U.S. that the Swiss had kept much more looted gold than they admitted having just after World War Two.

``We have already accustomed ourselves to renewed intense discussions following the quiet times,'' Borer said in the interview. ^[email protected]

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.

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Sweden condemns Russian stance on Latvia
05:56 a.m. Apr 09, 1998 Eastern

By Jonathan Lynn

STOCKHOLM, April 9 (Reuters) - Sweden condemned Russia's economic pressure on Latvia and called for the two neighbours to settle their differences by open discussion.

Swedish Foreign Minister Lena Hjelm-Wallen said she was concerned by Russia's reactions during a bitter row with Latvia over the treatment of a large ethnic Russian minority in the former Soviet republic.

``The announcement made...by Russian President Yeltsin's press spokesman concerning economic measures against Latvia is a matter of deep concern,'' Hjelm-Wallen said in a statement, issued late Wednesday.

``This is not the way to solve problems between European neighbours.''

Yeltsin said on Wednesday he wanted to find alternatives to exporting oil through the small Baltic state's territory.

Latvia's Ventspils port handled 11 percent of Russian oil exports last year, making it second in importance only to Russia's own Black Sea port of Novorossiisk.

However, Yeltsin's spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembsky backed down from the severity of the statement on Thursday, saying Russia was not planning to impose economic sanctions on Latvia.

But he added that Latvia could resolve the dispute by taking the problem of Russian-speakers ``seriously.''

Relations between Russia and Latvia, which regained independence in 1991 after nearly 50 years of occupation, have been frosty because Moscow says Latvia discriminates against ethnic Russians living there.

Latvia will not grant ethnic Russians automatic citizenship, arguing that they arrived with the former occupying power.

Relations plummeted to a new low in March when Latvian police forcibly broke up a demonstration of pensioners, most of whom were ethnic Russians, protesting at rises in the cost of living.

A reunion of Latvian veterans of the Nazi SS in Riga, which was attended by some senior officials, and an explosion outside the Russian embassy in Riga on Monday also angered Moscow.

Hjelm-Wallen said the Russian measures were not in the spirit of cooperation and understanding which Sweden wanted to see in the Baltic region.

``No one can benefit from such measures, least of all the Russian-speaking population of Latvia,'' she said, adding that dialogue, not hidden or open threats, was the solution.

Hjelm-Wallen's comments follow supportive statements for Latvia from its fellow Baltic nation of Estonia on Wednesday.

Norway's Foreign Minister Knut Vollebaek said on Wednesday the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), set up in the 1970s as a forum for East-West dialogue, was concerned about the tension but believed it could be resolved.

Italian Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini said in Moscow on Tuesday that the recent events would further delay Latvia's hopes of joining the European Union.

The Latvian stock exchange has weakened steadily this week because of the crisis in relations with Russia.

Sweden has been building up business in the Baltic states with the government announcing on Thursday that its development agency would help modernise a Riga municipal heating project.

But comment in the Swedish press on Thursday remained predominantly negative towards Latvia.

``To criticise Russia for interference is no use,'' said tabloid newspaper Aftonbladet. ``Latvia must treat all its inhabitants democratically, as citizens... Latvia does not have an exemption for democracy.''

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.

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Commission to resolve Holocaust insurance claims
08:40 p.m Apr 08, 1998 Eastern

By Greg Frost

SAN FRANCISCO, April 8 (Reuters) - An international commission was established on Wednesday to resolve hundreds of millions of dollars in Holocaust-era insurance claims against some of Europe's largest insurance companies.

Jewish leaders and insurance regulators from California and New York said they reached an agreement with four major European insurers to set up the commission that would finally resolve the claims.

Under the agreement, the commission will ensure that insurance claims of Holocaust victims are paid quickly to their relatives and descendants.

``Today's historic agreement provides the necessary framework to provide long-overdue justice to Holocaust victims and their families,'' New York State Insurance Superintendent Neil Levin said in a statement.

The memorandum of intent was signed by the New York and California regulators and by representatives of Zurich Insurance, French insurance group AXA, Italian insurer Assicurazioni Generali and German insurer Allianz.

California Insurance Commissioner Chuck Quackenbush said the amount of potential claims was still unknown but could be a billion dollars.

``It could be a significant amount. It could be a billion dollars. It could be hundreds of millions of dollars. We really don't know. It depends on how many claimants come forward,'' Quackenbush told Reuters.

``The important thing is that this is the critical step. This is a breakthrough.''

New York Republican Sen. Alfonse D'Amato proposed the idea of an international Holocaust insurance commission at a congressional hearing in February.

State insurance commissioners have been holding hearings to search out Holocaust survivors and heirs who have not been paid for wartime insurance policies.

But the undertaking is complicated. Some witnesses have produced copies of unpaid policies on life, property and dowries, but others have only anecdotal evidence and memories.

Insurance companies have said that in some cases, records were destroyed in the war. In others, benefits of policies confiscated by Nazis were paid to Germany. ^[email protected]

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.

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Catholic Church Regrets Past Tension with Jews
02:32 a.m. Apr 11, 1998 Eastern

By Philip Pullella

ROME (Reuters) - The Roman Catholic Church criticized itself over its past relations with Jews on Friday when a prayer in a Good Friday service led by Pope John Paul II said Jews had been ``crucified by us for so long.''

The prayer, read by a speaker, came during the traditional and evocative Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) procession around the wind-swept ruins of Rome's ancient Colosseum, where the 77-year-old Pope braved driving rain to lead the service.

The prayer recounted the Biblical story of the crowd in Jerusalem shouting ``Crucify Him!'' when Roman governor Pontius Pilate asked what should be done with Christ.

It then answered what appeared to be a silent rhetorical question about responsibility for Christ's death.

``Oh no, not the Jewish people, crucified by us for so long...not the crowd...not them, but us, all of us and each of us (crucified Christ), because we are all assassins of love,'' the prayer said.

The prayer went on to say that all people were responsible for the follies of this century, including ``the ashes of Auschwitz, the ice of the Gulags,'' the killing fields of Asia and the massacres of central Africa.

The Catholic Church officially repudiated the notion of collective Jewish guilt for Christ's death in 1965 in a document drawn up by the reformist Second Vatican Council.

But Friday was believed to be the first time the concept was repudiated at a Good Friday service in the Pope's presence commemorating the crucifixion.

Catholic-Jewish relations were also the subject of a ``Passion of the Lord'' service in St Peter's Basilica attended by the Pope earlier on Friday.

``There was a deicide (killing of a God) but we know that not only the Jews were responsible, but all of us,'' Father Raniero Cantalamessa, official Preacher of the Pontifical Household, said at that service.

``Let's make a bonfire of our hostilities. Let's destroy them before they destroy us,'' Cantalamessa said.

Last month the Vatican issued its controversial document on the Holocaust, called ``We Remember, a Reflection on the Shoah.''

The document was an apology for individual Catholics who failed to help Jews persecuted by the Nazis. But it fell far short of satisfying some Jewish leaders.

At the Colosseum procession the Pope, looking tired, held up a cross for only two of the 14 ``stations'' that recall events between Christ's arrest and burial.

This has been the practice since 1994, when the Pontiff broke his leg. The cross was carried at other points in the service by seven faithful from the Philippines, Italy, Burundi, Argentina and China on a wet and stormy evening.

Speaking to a crowd from Rome's Palatine hill at the end of the Via Crucis service, the Pope said the world should not forget those suffering from hatred and violence or rejected by selfishness and indifference.

``It is now the dead of night. As we contemplate Christ dead on the cross, our thoughts turn to the countless injustices and sufferings which prolong his passion in every part of the world. I think of the downtrodden and exploited,'' he said.

Good Friday was the second of four days of ceremonies culminating on Easter Sunday that will be a test of the frail Pope's stamina.

On Saturday night, the Pope will preside at an Easter vigil mass in St Peter's Basilica.

On Easter Sunday, the most important day in the Christian liturgical calendar, the Pope celebrates a mass in St Peter's Square to commemorate Christ's resurrection from the dead.

The Pope will deliver his twice-yearly ``Urbi et Orbi'' (to the city and the world) message and blessing at noon on Sunday when he sends his best wishes to the faithful around the globe in a multitude of languages.

Many more millions of Christians -- those belonging to Orthodox churches across eastern Europe and Russia -- were preparing to celebrate their Easter next weekend.

Three religious holidays converged in Jerusalem as Jews prepared for Passover and Muslims held Eid al-Adha prayers.

The Old City's narrow alleyways were lined by Israeli soldiers on alert for revenge attacks by Muslim militants following the mysterious death last week of master bombmaker Muhyideen al-Sharif.

On the Via Dolorosa, where the Stations of the Cross mark significant points along Jesus' route to the site of the crucifixion, pilgrims from around the world used the Bible as their guide to walk in his footsteps.

``I feel there is oppression in the air. I just feel if Christ would come back he would be crucified again,'' said Tony Stanfield, from Traverse City, Michigan, carrying a large cross.

At the front of the procession, an elderly man in a loincloth, a crown of thorns on his head and a heavy cross on his shoulder, reenacted Jesus's death march. ``Blood'' in the form of red paint dripped from his face.

``Jesus needs your help. Who is going to help him?'' a man dressed as a Roman soldier shouted, bringing the Scriptures to life.

``This is the most painful day, the most thoughtful day for any Christian,'' said Campbell Leggat from London.

At sunset, Jews began the eight-day Passover holiday of deliverance from slavery in ancient Egypt. Israeli markets were crowded with last-minute shoppers before the traditional Seder meal during which the saga of the biblical exodus is read.

In a Passover interview, Israeli President Ezer Weizman lamented the yearlong stalemate in the peace process with the Palestinians.

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.

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Catholics: Don't Blame Jews for Christ's Death
05:00 p.m Apr 10, 1998 Eastern

By Philip Pullella

ROME (Reuters) - The Roman Catholic Church criticized itself over its past relations with Jews Friday when a prayer in a Good Friday service led by Pope John Paul II said Jews had been ``crucified by us for so long.''

The prayer, read by a speaker, came during the traditional and hauntingly evocative Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) service around the ruins of Rome's ancient Colosseum, where Christians were slaughtered during the time of ancient Rome.

The prayer recounted the Biblical story of the crowd in Jerusalem shouting ``Crucify Him!'' when Roman governor Pontius Pilate asked what should be done with Christ.

It then answered what appeared to be a silent rhetorical question about responsibility for Christ's death.

``Oh no, not the Jewish people, crucified by us for so long...not the crowd...not them, but us, all of us and each of us (crucified Christ), because we are all assassins of love,'' the prayer said.

The prayer went on to say that all people were responsible for the follies of this century, including ``the ashes of Auschwitz, the ice of the Gulags,'' the killing fields of Asia and the massacres of central Africa.

The Catholic Church officially repudiated the notion of collective Jewish guilt for Christ's death in 1965 in a document drawn up by the reformist Second Vatican Council.

But Friday was believed to be the first time the concept was repudiated at a Good Friday service in the Pope's presence commemorating the crucifixion.

Catholic-Jewish relations were also the subject of a ``Passion of the Lord'' service in St Peter's Basilica attended by the Pope earlier on Friday.

``There was a deicide (killing of a God) but we know that not only the Jews were responsible, but all of us,'' Father Raniero Cantalamessa, official Preacher of the Pontifical Household, said at that service.

``Let's make a bonfire of our hostilities. Let's destroy them before they destroy us,'' Cantalamessa said.

Last month, the Vatican issued its controversial document on the Holocaust, called ``We Remember, a Reflection on the Shoah.''

The document was an apology for individual Catholics who failed to help Jews persecuted by the Nazis. But it fell far short of satisfying some Jewish leaders.

At the Colosseum procession the Pope, looking tired, held up a cross for only two of the 14 ``stations'' that recall events between Christ's arrest and burial.

This has been the practice since 1994, when the Pontiff broke his leg. The cross was carried at other points in the service by seven faithful from the Philippines, Italy, Burundi, Argentina and China on a wet and stormy evening.

Good Friday was the second of four days of ceremonies culminating on Easter Sunday that will be a test of the frail Pope's stamina.

On Saturday night, the Pope will preside at an Easter vigil mass in St Peter's Basilica.

On Easter Sunday, the most important day in the Christian liturgical calendar, the Pope celebrates a mass in St Peter's Square to commemorate Christ's resurrection from the dead.

The Pope will deliver his twice-yearly ``Urbi et Orbi'' (to the city and the world) message and blessing at noon on Sunday when he sends his best wishes to the faithful around the globe in a multitude of languages.

In the past, hundreds of thousands of people have packed St Peter's Square and the surrounding area for the Easter service, which is transmitted live around the world.

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.

TOP


Zimbabwe Speaker in row with Mugabe avoids censure
10:34 a.m. Apr 06, 1998 Eastern

By Cris Chinaka

HARARE, April 6 (Reuters) - Zimbabwe's ruling party said on Monday it had decided against disciplining Speaker of Parliament Cyril Ndebele, who has been accused by President Robert Mugabe of being part of a rebellion trying to topple him.

Joseph Msika, national chairman of Mugabe's ZANU-PF party, said Ndebele would not be called to account for trying to stop the party from disciplining an MP who called on the president to quit.

A furious Mugabe last month suspended Dzikamai Mavhaire, a ZANU-PF stalwart, for moving a motion in parliament calling on Mugabe to quit and seeking a limit on presidential terms.

Mugabe has held power for the last 18 years, and has not ruled out standing for re-election at the end of his current six-year presidential term in the year 2002. The constitution has no limit on the number of terms a leader can serve, and Mavhaire said Zimbabwe risked becoming a presidential monarchy as a result.

Addressing a ZANU-PF party central committee meeting, Mugabe denounced those who supported Mavhaire's motion as witches and evil schemers with misguided political ambitions.

The 74-year-old president said he was particularly angry with Ndebele, who had tried to protect Mavhaire by giving him a parliamentary immunity certificate. Mugabe accused Ndebele of trying to stultify the party and described his move as ``rank madness.''

ZANU-PF initially said it would call Ndebele -- who maintains he acted correctly -- to account. But on Monday Msika said this would not happen, without explaining the change in the party's position.

``The Speaker has no case to answer. He may have made an omission in his advice but that does not warrant him to be tried,'' he said in a statement.

Political analysts said ZANU-PF probably decided against the disciplinary hearing because it feared it might damage Mugabe politically and bolster party opponents who say he has become intolerant.

Mugabe, Zimbabwe's ruler since independence from Britain in 1980 after a seven-year bush war he co-led, accuses his party critics of aiding a campaign by his opponents to oust him from power in the face of a social and economic crisis blamed on mismanagement during his rule.

Political analysts say Mugabe has become vulnerable to a leadership challenge as some of his lieutenants see him as out of touch with the public mood, and as he was the main target of recent union-led protests over rising food prices and taxes.

Mugabe has blamed Zimbabwe's former white rulers -- who deny the charge -- of stirring social unrest to stop him from seizing mostly white-owned farms to resettle black peasants.

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


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