News in brief


Published March 26, 2001

Sharon blasts Arafat for role in violence


Insisting Israel won"t be "put on trial," Prime Minister Ariel Sharon grudgingly met yesterday with a U.S.-led panel investigating Mideast violence and blamed Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat for ordering months of fighting.

Meanwhile, 20 Palestinians were injured in clashes with soldiers, and an Israeli driver was wounded by gunmen. An Israeli man visiting a West Bank town was briefly seized by Palestinian activists.

The panel, led by former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell, has been meeting with a wide range of Israelis and Palestinians, gathering information on the worst outbreak of fighting since the two sides launched peace negotiations in 1993.

The violence which has killed 434 people broke out last September after Sharon, then opposition leader, made a controversial visit to a disputed Jerusalem holy site.

But Sharon insisted yesterday that he was not to blame, saying Arafat ordered the uprising.

"The full responsibility for the outbreak of violence and its persistence rests on Arafat," Sharon told the commission. "We know for sure that the security forces of the Palestinian Authority, including the presidential guard, Force 17, are directly involved in the recent terror activities."

Macedonia close to quelling rebellion

GAJRE, Macedonia

Government troops punched through rebel lines and moved into a hillside village yesterday, spraying houses with bullets as they spearheaded an offensive to push ethnic Albanian insurgents back from Macedonia"s second-largest city.

While not claiming all-out victory, Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski said government forces were doing well, asserting that the thrust to "clear the terrain of terrorists is being carried out successfully, and already key positions have been taken."

The fighting has brought combatants into their closest quarters yet in the six-week conflict near Macedonian border with the Serbian province of Kosovo, where ethnic Albanians constitute a majority. NATO, which has policed Kosovo since expelling former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic"s troops in 1999, wants the Macedonian conflict defused to prevent a wider Balkan war.

The rebels say their aim is limited to more rights for ethnic Albanians within Slav-dominated Macedonia, but the government accuses them of seeking independence and drawing on Kosovo for fighters and weapons.

In Washington, President Bush said he hoped U.S. and NATO efforts will prove effective in helping Macedonia quell the conflict.

Fatal German aircraft crash investigated


A German air force fighter-bomber crashed in a sprawling military training range, killing both crew members, military officials said yesterday.

Nellis Air Force Base officials said the Tornado bomber crashed late Friday in the restricted area of the base"s training area, about 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

The crash was being investigated by German and U.S. air force officials.

Germany is one of five foreign nations that sent aircraft to participate in the Red Flag mock-combat aerial exercises being conducted at the base.

Because of safety concerns and restrictions on the range, reporters were not allowed access to the area.

Red Flag began March 3 and runs through April 13.

British army begins mass livestock burial


As Britain struggled to keep up with the disposal of slaughtered livestock, the army started digging huge pits at an old air base yesterday for the mass burial of up to 500,000 carcasses from the foot-and-mouth epidemic.

Earthmovers scooped out huge trenches at an abandoned airfield at Great Orton in Cumbria county, northwest England, with more than 190 cases the region worst hit by the highly infectious disease.

The government has said Britain will slaughter nearly all livestock on farms adjacent to foot-and-mouth infection sites in an effort to contain the disease.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on Sunday confirmed 47 new cases of the disease, including more than a dozen in Cumbria, bringing the total to 607. Some scientists believe this could spiral to 4,000 by June.

Testosterone linked to early puberty


Scientists attempting to figure out why some girls go through puberty at unusually young ages have found a surprising culprit a gene that speeds up the body"s breakdown of the male sex hormone.

Many believe that the age of puberty is creeping downward. The most widely held explanation for this is growing childhood obesity, along with rich diets and lack of physical activity.

However, genes almost certainly play a role in the age of puberty, and many assumed that the most likely players in this scenario would be ones that control the body"s production and use of estrogen. Research released yesterday at a meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research suggests a more complicated interplay of hormones, since the body"s supply of testosterone, the male hormone, seems to be a key influence on the timing of puberty.