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Voice of America, 99-11-25

Voice of America: Selected Articles Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Voice of America <gopher://>





    INTRO: A Turkish appeals court has upheld the death sentence handed down to Kurdish rebel chief Abdullah Ocalan. Amberin Zaman in Ankara reports the verdict was welcomed by relatives of Turkish soldiers killed in the 15-year separatist campaign carried out by Ocalan and his outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or P-K-K.

    TEXT: Hundreds of family members of Turkish soldiers killed in the Kurds' struggle for self-rule broke into cheers when news of the court's verdict came through. But for many, the joy was quickly tempered by widespread predictions that even though the death sentence against Ocalan was upheld, it is not likely to be carried out any time soon - if at all.

    /// OPT ///

    Soon after the verdict was announced, about 30 mothers of slain soldiers raided the offices of the Human Rights Association. The organization has frequently been criticized for publicizing the plight of the Kurds but rarely that of P-K-K victims. /// END OPT /// Observers say there is a growing recognition among many Turks that executing Ocalan runs counter to their nation's interests. Turkey hopes to be officially declared a candidate for membership in the European Union when E-U leaders meet in Helsinki next month. The European Union has been unequivocal in its opposition to the death penalty, which remains on the books in Turkey even though there have been no executions over the past 15 years. European leaders renewed warnings following Thursday's verdict that if Turkey executes Ocalan, its chances of becoming a full E-U member will vanish completely. Ocalan's defense team says it will take his case to the European Court of Human Rights, seeking a ruling to halt the execution. The European court is the legal arm of the Council of Europe, of which Turkey is a founding member. And Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit has said the country would be obliged to take the European court's demands into consideration. There also are signs that Turkey may soon consider abolishing the death penalty. The country's justice minister and human rights minister have made such a recommendation. (Signed)
    NEB/AZ/JWH/JP 25-Nov-1999 09:56 AM EDT (25-Nov-1999 1456 UTC)
    Source: Voice of America


    // Re-issuing to correct last sentence of next to last graf - deleting reference to Mexico's trade with Europe //

    INTRO: Mexican officials and private sector representatives are expressing joy over the free trade agreement reached with the European Union in Brussels on Wednesday. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Mexico City, the agreement, which has yet to be ratified by the Mexican senate, would lessen the country's dependence on trade with the United States.

    TEXT: After months of negotiations, Mexico now has a trade agreement with the European Union that, to some extent, mirrors the North American Free Trade Agreement, known as NAFTA. That agreement, between Mexico, Canada and the United States, was reached in 1994 and has resulted in a huge increase in trade among the three countries. Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo says the agreement with Europe puts Mexico in a favorable trading position with the entire world.


    He says that with this trade accord with Europe, Mexico will enter the year 2000 in a fortified international position. He says that Mexico is the only country in the world that now has free trade agreements with six Latin American nations and the two largest economies of the world - North America and Europe. Currently, about 80 percent of Mexican exports go to the United States. This fact has made Mexican financial analysts worry about the effect on Mexico if there were an economic slowdown in its neighbor to the north. Alejandro Martinez of the Mexican Confederation of Industrial Chambers says the accord with Europe will open a large new market for Mexican goods.


    He says the expectation is that within four or five years, 20 percent of Mexico's industrial exports will go to the European community. Under the agreement, 82 percent of Mexico's industrial exports would be able to enter the European market duty free. Mexican tariffs on European goods would drop gradually in the coming years and be eliminated entirely by the year 2007. Mexico currently maintains tariffs as high as 20 percent on goods from Europe. But given Europe's distance from Mexico, some analysts see limited trade possibilities compared to what the nation already has with the United States. Much of what is counted as exports to the U-S market consists of products from assembly plants near the border called maquiladoras (mah kee lah dohr' ahs). In a VOA interview, Mexican historian and newspaper columnist Juan Maria Alponte, who has studied trade issues in North America and Europe, says the United States is likely to remain Mexico's biggest trading partner.


    He says the European trade agreement is good but that it is unlikely to effect the predominance of the United States in trade with Mexico. He says output from maquiladoras accounts for 45 percent of Mexican exports and that more than one million Mexicans work in these border plants.


    As for the Europeans, Mr. Almonte says, they, too, may see Mexico's proximity to the world's largest consumer market as the principal attraction of this new agreement, the first ever with a Latin American nation. The Mexico accord could permit some European nations to use Mexico as a bridge for introducing goods into the U-S market. Mr. Almonte says that for Mexico to truly take advantage of its trade agreement with Europe, it will need to undergo a certain change in culture. He says the country must become more open to the world and more ready to compete. As was the case with NAFTA, he says he expects resistance to the European trade accord from some labor unions and some politicians, but he sees no major political barrier. Mexico's current trade with Europe is only a small fraction of its trade with the United States and Canada. Exports to those two nations in the first eight months of this year were around eight billion dollars per month. If the Mexican senate and the European Community parliament approve the agreement, the process of reducing trade barriers will begin on July first of next year. The period set for fully implementing the accord will end in the year 2007. (Signed)
    NEB/GF/KL 25-Nov-1999 12:58 PM EDT (25-Nov-1999 1758 UTC)
    Source: Voice of America



    INTRO: Russian President Boris Yeltsin has called in his prime minister and other senior officials for talks expected to focus on the military offensive in Chechnya. V-O-A Correspondent Peter Heinlein in Moscow reports a human rights group is urging Russia to allow safe passage for civilians trying to escape the military campaign.

    TEXT: The U-S based group, Human Rights Watch, says refugees reaching the Chechen border are telling of Russian bomb attacks on villages used by civilians hiding from air and artillery strikes on bigger towns and cities. The witnesses report warplanes attacked the village of Goyty, just south of the Chechen capital, Grozny, where more than 10-thousand civilians were sheltering. When frightened people started to flee in panic, artillery shells rained down on the main road out of the village. More than 200-thousand Chechens have already fled to the neighboring Ingushetia region, where they face rapidly deteriorating conditions. Hundreds of thousands more are believed hiding inside the republic, hoping to avoid the Russian military onslaught. President Yeltsin Thursday summoned Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and other senior officials for talks at the Kremlin as troops kept up the air and artillery assaults and Chechen fighters vowed to defend the capital. The heaviest Russian attacks were around the strategic southern town, Urus-Martan, where some skirmishes were reported on the ground. In a television interview, Prime Minister Putin offered a conditional amnesty to rebel fighters who put down their weapons. Mr. Putin, whose tough leadership of the war effort has made him Russia's most popular politician, promised not to prosecute those whose "hands are not stained with the blood of Russian citizens."

    /// Opt ///

    In another development, ten Russian soldiers were killed in the northern Caucasus region Thursday when the truck carrying them overturned on an icy road and plunged into a river. Thirteen others were injured, some critically. The accident occurred in the North Ossetia region, where the headquarters of the Russian military effort in Chechnya is located.

    /// End opt ///

    NEB/PFH/GE/JP 25-Nov-1999 07:23 AM EDT (25-Nov-1999 1223 UTC)
    Source: Voice of America



    /// EDS: THIS REPORT UPDATES CR 2-256531 ///

    INTRO: A human rights group is charging Russia with bombing a Chechen village used as a safe haven by civilians fleeing the current military offensive. V- O-A's Peter Heinlein in Moscow reports Russian troops are being slowed by bad weather and stiffening rebel defenses as they advance toward the Chechen capital, Grozny.

    TEXT: The U-S based group Human Rights Watch says refugees reaching the Chechen border are telling of air strikes on a village where thousands of civilians had taken shelter to escape Russian attacks in other areas. Human Rights Watch Moscow spokesman Malcolm Hawkes says warplanes first bombed the village of Goyty, just south of the Chechen capital, Grozny last Sunday. He says that then, when frightened people started to flee in panic, they were met with artillery fire.

    /// HAWKES ACT ONE ///

    It is a cause for extreme concern because the rumors had spread amongst the Chechen population, Goyty was what we've called a safe haven. It was a town that had not been targeted by Russian forces.

    /// END ACT ///

    More than 200-thousand Chechens have already fled to the neighboring Ingushetia region, where they face rapidly deteriorating conditions as cold weather sets in.

    /// OPT ///

    There are no firm figures on how many more civilians are hiding in what they hope are safe-haven villages inside Chechnya. But Malcolm Hawkes of Human Rights Watch says there are indications more than half the republic's population is displaced.

    /// OPT // HAWKES ACT TWO ///

    According to one school teacher that we interviewed that fled from the region, he maintained that the town of Goyty had a population of around 15 (thousand) to 20- thousand, that has risen to over 100-thousand. It's impossible to check that, but I think it's indicative that in Chechnya, as people have fled the bombardment, that these little pockets have become very highly concentrated areas of population.

    /// END ACT // END OPT ///

    Rain and fog were reported limiting Russia's air strike capability Thursday. The state-run ITAR-Tass news agency quoted the army's western commander as saying troops were using the opportunity to regroup. The Associated Press quoted a young Chechen man in Grozny as saying he was using the heavy clouds as a cover to take food to his family in the town of Urus- Martan, 20 kilometers to the southwest. Urus-Martan has been the main target of Russian air and artillery attacks during the past week, as federal troops steadily move to encircle the capital. The town lies near the main route south from Grozny to the border with neighboring Georgia. With approaches from the east, west, and north already sealed, Urus-Martan would be a significant prize for the federal forces. But several thousand Chechen defenders are believed to be in the city, and Russian army commanders have so far ruled out a ground assault for fear of suffering heavy casualties. (Signed)
    NEB/PFH/JWH/KL 25-Nov-1999 11:16 AM EDT (25-Nov-1999 1616 UTC)
    Source: Voice of America
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