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| TUESDAY NOVEMBER 3 2009
news without borders
Land abuse by developers halves Hongkong’s iconic Victoria Harbour
HONGKONG: Hongkong’s iconic Victoria Harbour has halved in width over the past 13 years because of reclamation work in the high-rise city of seven million, a report said yesterday. The gap between Kowloon and Hongkong island used to be 2,300m before reclamation work began in the 1990s but has now shrunk to just 910m, the South China Morning Post reported. Eighty hectares of harbour was reclaimed from 1996 to 2004, and a further 12.7ha are to disappear in a reclamation project in the Wan Chai and Central area between 2010 and 2016, the newspaper said. The width of the harbour, Hongkong’s best-known landmark, is measured from Johnson Road in Wan Chai on Hongkong Island to Chatham Road in Tsim Sha Tsui in Kowloon on the opposite shore. The government has been criticised for allowing too much reclamation of the harbour to accommodate high-rise ofﬁce and housing blocks. It has also been attacked for allowing development up to the water’s edge and not attempting to create walkways and recreation areas along the harbour front. The Society for the Protection of the Harbour said: “In most countries, city planning is for people’s well-being, but in Hongkong city planning is for money-making.” – dpa
Smoke scare for Taiwan president in plane
TAIPEI: Smoke poured from an aircraft carrying Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou after a domestic ﬂight, but the president was taken off the plane and no one was hurt, military ofﬁcials said yesterday. Smoke began billowing from the Fokker 50 prop-jet aircraft late on Sunday as its brakes overheated after a short ﬂight from the capital Taipei to Taichung. Ma was escorted off the plane in good time, his spokesman said, but he called for a full safety check on the aircraft, which had passed an inspection in July. Military officials responsible for the plane said they suspected a simple mechanical failure. – Reuters
off northwest Australia during a rescue attempt by a passing merchant ship and ﬁshing vessel. Defence chief Angus Houston said the unidentiﬁed boat capsized and then sank after the LNG Pioneer and Taiwanese ﬁshing craft responded to pleas for help in a remote area off Australia’s Cocos Islands in the Indian Ocean. It was not conﬁrmed whether the boat was one of dozens of people-smuggling vessels that have headed to Australia this year carrying more than 1,700 asylumseekers, many of them from Sri Lanka and Afghanistan. Some 17 people were rescued in life-rafts thrown out by the LNG Pioneer, which was sailing to Western Australia when it diverted course to help the stricken boat. The boat started taking on water late Sunday and issued a distress call, ofﬁcials said, warning that ﬁnding more survivors would be difﬁcult. – AFP
Karzai gets new term, run-off cancelled
Put people ﬁrst in town planning pg 13
KABUL: Afghanistan’s election commission declared Hamid Karzai elected as president yesterday after it called off a run-off following the withdrawal of his only rival. The run-off, called after the ﬁrst round in August was marred by widespread fraud, was to have been held on Nov 7. “The Independent Election Commission declares the esteemed Hamid Karzai as the president ... because he was the winner of the ﬁrst round and the only candidate in the second round,” the commission’s chief Azizullah Ludin told a news conference. Ludin told a packed media conference the decision was made to spare the Afghan people the expense and risk of another election and because a one-candidate race would raise questions about the legitimacy of the presidency. Former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah withdrew from the race over the weekend, citing doubts about the credibility of the election process. “Karzai has lost his legitimacy, he is a very weak president and he cannot govern without reaching out to Dr Abdullah,” said Kabul-based political analyst Haroun Mir. “So the ball is in Dr Abdullah’s court right now.” Karzai’s camp on Sunday had ruled out a coalition with Abdullah, but he has been under intense pressure from various quarters to bring Abdullah into the government. Earlier, UN chief Ban Ki-moon made a visit to Kabul that had not been announced in advance, as diplomatic efforts gathered pace to resolve the prolonged political crisis. “We continue to stand by the people of Afghanistan in their quest for prosperity and peace,” Ban said. The withdrawal of Abdullah from the run-off had cast doubts over the legitimacy of the next government, already under a cloud following the Aug 20 election marred by allegations of fraud in favour of Karzai. A weakened Afghan government under Karzai would be a blow for US President Barack Obama as he considers whether to send up to 40,000 more troops to ﬁght a resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan. A spokesman for Karzai’s campaign said the president will issue a statement about the election commission announcement later. Abdullah had left the door open for future discussions but said no deals had been struck in return for his withdrawal, seen by diplomats as one way to spare the country more uncertainty that discredits the government and can only aid the insurgency. Ban ki-Moon met both Karzai and Abdullah, ofﬁcials said. A UN statement said the meetings were “to assure them and the Afghan people of the continuing support of the United Nations doubts over the credibility of his government”. – Reuters
Abdullah ... leaves the door open for future discussions.
Two charged over Thai king’s health rumours
BANGKOK: Two people have been charged in Thailand with spreading false information about the health of the king. A man and a woman, both Thai, were charged under a computer law, accused of damaging national security by posting false information on the Internet, said police colonel Achayon Kraithong yesterday. King Bhumibol Adulyadej, 81, the world’s longest-reigning monarch, has been in hospital since mid-September with a lung infection and fever. The Thai bourse plunged 8.22% at one point on Oct 15 over the rumours about the king, revered as a demi-god by many Thais and who is seen as a stabilising force in the nation. – AFP
HK police hunt high-rise acid attacker
HONGKONG: Police yesterday stepped up their hunt for a mystery attacker who throws bottles of acid on to passing crowds from high-rise buildings. In the latest of a series of attacks, a man in his late 40s was injured by a bottle of corrosive liquid thrown from a building in the urban Sai Wan Ho district late Sunday. He was taken to hospital but was not badly hurt. Two days earlier, another bottle of acid was thrown from a building in the city’s Shamshuipo district after dozens of shoppers were injured in similar incidents over the past 11 months. In one single attack in June, 24 people including a 4-year-old girl were hurt when a corrosive liquid was thrown from a high-rise building in the Mongkok area. The incidents have triggered widespread fear in the high-rise city. Rewards totaling almost US$40,000 (RM140,000) have been offered by police following earlier attacks but have failed to lead to any arrests or signiﬁcant breakthroughs. – dpa
Many feared dead as boat sinks off Australia
SYDNEY: More than 20 people were feared dead yesterday after a boat carrying about 40 sank in rough seas far
N. Korea wants face-to-face talks with Washington
SEOUL: North Korea called yesterday for direct talks with its long-time foe, the United States, and gave the clearest signal so far it was ready to return to nuclear disarmament talks it has boycotted for almost a year. The comments follow last week’s rare visit by a North Korean official to the United States and what has been a “charm” offensive by the ostracised state which some analysts say is looking increasingly desperate for ﬁnance and aid. “The conclusion we have reached is that the direct parties, which are the North and the United States, must ﬁrst sit down and ﬁnd a rational solution,” a foreign ministry spokesman was quoted as saying by the ofﬁcial KCNA news agency. “Now that we have shown the generosity of stating the position that we would be willing to talk to the United States and hold multilateral talks including the six-way talks, it is time for the United States to make a decision.” The comments were the strongest so far on the secretive state’s willingness to return to talks it walked out last December. Last month, leader Kim Jong-il said he would consider rejoining the talks with China, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the United States, provided it had direct discussions with Washington. US academics and former officials said on Friday after meeting Pyongyang’s second ranking nuclear envoy that the North appeared to be more open to resuming the six-way talks on its nuclear programme. North Korea’s Ri Gun met the US special envoy to disarmament talks in the past week in rare contacts in the United States, viewed as prelude to a visit to Pyongyang by senior US ofﬁcials. Pyongyang has demanded direct talks with Washington as the best way to resolve hostility it argues has given it no option but to build an atomic arsenal. However, the United States has said there would be no negotiations outside the six-way forum. A well-placed diplomatic source in Seoul said it was not clear whether there has been a fundamental shift in the North’s position to abandon its nuclear programme if the price is right. “North Korea’s ﬁnancial plight likely has led to its charm offensive but we don’t know if that means it is ready to make major concessions on its nuclear arms plans, he said. Destitute North Korea has been reaching out to its traditional foes after being hit by UN sanctions to punish it for its second nuclear test in May. The sanctions were aimed at cutting into its vital revenue source of overseas arms sales. – Reuters
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