News in Brief: headlines from around the world

Published February 16, 2005

JERUSALEM

Sharon continues with withdrawal plans

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said yesterday he has already begun coordinating a Gaza withdrawal with the Palestinians and will not be deterred by increasingly belligerent opposition at home, including threats against him and his Cabinet ministers.

In the West Bank, Israeli troops killed two armed Palestinians who the army said approached a West Bank settlement. The two belonged to the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a violent group with ties to Palestinian Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement. Militants said gunmen were from a local Al-Aqsa cell financed by Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas who oppose a fledgling Israeli-Palestinian truce.

Al-Aqsa members indicated they would retaliate. They said the two men were guarding an abandoned Palestinian house near the settlement and were killed by Israeli troops without provocation.

Sharon, speaking at a carefully scripted news conference, said if Palestinian militants attack Israeli soldiers or settlers during the Gaza withdrawal, set to begin in July, Israel would respond harshly and may even call off the pullout.

Israel’s parliament was to hold a final vote on the Gaza withdrawal today, with the plan expected to win approval. Having lost the political battle, Jewish extremists have stepped up a campaign of intimidation against politicians who support the plan.

 

FLUXIN, China

Miners missing after explosion in China

Rescue crews yesterday were searching for a dozen coal miners missing nearly 800 feet underground after a gas explosion in China’s northeast killed 203 people in the deadliest mining disaster reported since communist rule began in 1949.

The explosion Monday afternoon at the Sunjiawan mine left 12 miners trapped underground and injured 22 others with carbon monoxide poisoning, burns and fractures, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

One trapped miner was rescued yesterday afternoon, nearly 24 hours after the blast, Xinhua said.

The cause of the blast was under investigation, Xinhua said. It said the disaster occurred 794 feet below the surface.

Late yesterday, a thick cordon of men in dark coats and helmets stood side by side, blocking the entrance to the mine, as cars full of paramilitary police patrolled the site. A line of vans waited to transport any injured to hospitals in Fuxin, a gritty soot-covered city where mining is the main industry.

 

WASHINGTON

Government sets up drug monitoring board

The government is setting up a monitoring board to keep checking on medicines once they’re on the market and to update doctors and patients on risks and benefits.

Plans for the board were announced yesterday on the eve of a congressional hearing on the safety of prescription pain killers like Vioxx and Celebrex that blossomed into a $5 billion-a-year business before risks from potential side effects came to light.

A medical journal questioned whether continued use of such products was justified.

Vioxx was pulled from the market in September after a study showed an increase in heart attacks and strokes among people using it. Other studies have also raised questions of heart problems with the similar drugs Celebrex and Bextra.

 

TOKYO, Japan

Pact to decrease emission of greenhouse gases

Two centuries after the dawn of the industrial age, the world today takes its first concerted step to roll back the emission of “greenhouse gases” believed linked to climate change with the enactment of the Kyoto global warming pact.

The agreement, negotiated in Japan’s ancient capital of Kyoto in 1997 and ratified by 140 nations, calls on 35 industrialized countries to rein in the release of carbon dioxide and five other gases from the burning of oil and coal and other processes.

Its impact, however, will be limited by the absence of the United States, the world’s leader in greenhouse gas emissions.

 

— Compiled from Daily wire reports