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20th December 1998

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Attack on Muslims on eve of Ramazan
Condemning the US-British attack on Iraq,
Moulavi Mubarak of Kollupitiya Mosque appealed
to the Muslims to pray for world peace during the
Friday sermons. He questioned the legitimacy of the
US attack and its double standards.
Pic by Lakshman Gunatilleke
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Who will fall first Clinton or Saddam?

The United States House of Representatives debate on President Bill Clinton's impeachment was rocked last night when Speaker-elect Bob Livingston announced he will resign from Congress and said Clinton should follow his example.

The stunning move came as US and British forces continued their bombardment of Iraq for the third day in an offensive that critics alleged is an attempt to divert attention from impeachment hearings.

With the House poised to impeach a president for only the second time in history, Mr. Livingston dramatically took the floor to announce his resignation over his admitted marital infidelities and called on Mr. Clinton to resign too.

"I can only challenge you in such fashion if I am willing to heed my own words," Mr. Livingston said after his call for Mr. Clinton to resign drew prolonged boos and catcalls from Democrats.

"I cannot do that job or be the kind of leader that I would like to be under current circumstances. So I must set the example that I hope President Clinton will follow. I will not stand for Speaker of the House on Jan. 6," he said.

The announcement from Mr. Livingston, who admitted on Thursday to extramarital affairs during his 33-year marriage, drew gasps and roars from House members, then sustained cheers from Republicans. Some Democrats immediately said they would call on Mr. Livingston to reconsider.

The announcement came just hours before the House was to vote on four articles of impeachment against Clinton stemming from the Monica Lewinsky affair.

Members took up the issue again yesterday morning after 13 hours of contentious debate on Friday that exposed a bitter chasm between the parties on Mr. Clinton's political fate.

Republicans were expected to win a party-line vote making Mr. Clinton the first president in 130 years to be impeached and face a Senate trial that could remove him from office.

The House continued with the debate after Mr. Livingston's announcement, with a Democratic request for a break being turned down by the presiding officer.

First Lady Hillary Rodham went to Capitol Hill to meet with Democratic lawmakers and rally their support. She told them Clinton has no intention of resigning, lawmakers said.

Meanwhile, Iraqis buried their dead yesterday as widening protests against US-led strikes turned violent with at least 100 Palestinians wounded by Israeli troops.

Cruise missiles and bombs blasted Iraq for a third consecutive night, but there was no word yesterday of any immediate end to raids as Iraq's Muslims began to observe Islam's holiest month of Ramadan.

A second US Carrier battle group joined the Fifth Fleet in the Gulf, a US Navy spokesman said. The 72,800-tonne Aircraft Carrier Carl Vinson carries about 60 warplanes. Meanwhile Iraq staged a funeral cortege procession through Baghdad for the 68 people, an official said had been killed in the bombardment by US and British forces.

Taxis carrying coffins draped in white drove slowly through the streets, stopping for half an hour outside a U.N. agency office where a crowd of about 400 chanted anti-US slogans.

"Baghdad mourns today for 68 martyrs who fell due to the criminal military action committed against our peaceful people," said Sultan al-Shawi, a member of Iraq's national assembly.

In the West Bank, hospitals said at least 100 Palestinians were wounded when thousands demonstrated near a Jewish settlement in Hebron for an end to the attacks on Iraq.

The protesters hurled stones and molotov cocktails at soldiers who responded with plastic-coated bullets and tear gas.

"The skies are raining stones," said a witness.

In Syria, Iraq's traditional Arab rival, thousands of stone-throwing demonstrators attacked the US embassy. American guards inside the Damascus compound fired tear gas and Syrian forces tried to stop protesters from storming the mission.

At the U.S. ambassador's residence, they tore up books, burned a U.S. flag and destroyed an embassy car. They attacked the British Council premises, smashing doors and windows.

In Jordan, nearly 2,000 students protested at the country's largest university, chanting slogans against the air raids.

In Baghdad, witnesses said the pan-Arab headquarters of Iraq's ruling Baath Party in Baghdad was hit by missiles in the latest pre-dawn assault, the most savage in three days.

In London, British Defence Secretary George Robertson said U.S. and British forces had attacked 100 separate targets and that Iraq's chemical and biological warfare capability had been severely damaged.

Barracks, headquarters and munitions of the Republican Guard, an armoured force the West says helps keep Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in power, had also been hit.

Mr. Robertson said a full assessment of the latest attacks was still awaited. He would not say when the attacks would end.

Iraq's press meanwhile stepped up its condemnation of the United States.

"Yes, you the people of a great civilisation we will fight and resist the aggression," the government newspaper al-Jumhouriya declared.

British media asked whether Clinton or Saddam would fall first.

IMF axe hangs over state agencies

By Chamintha Thilakarathna

A major world donor agency is insisting that the government should complete the privatisation of state ventures and restructure wage and pension systems before it releases further financial assistance.

The International Monetary Fund's Resident Representative, Anton Op de Bécké told The Sunday Times a government request for an ESAF (Enhanced Structural Adjustment Facility) loan was being considered.

"Though the government has completed its privatisation plans made in 1995, its plans for the next four to five years should be made known before we approve the loan," he said.

The IMF has recommended that the excess of staff in the state sector is a heavy burden and must be cut down. The IMF agreeing with recommendations made by the recent World Bank report, expects the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation, the National Insurance Corporation and parts of the Ceylon Electricity Board be privatised while the Paddy Marketing Board (PMB), Sri Lanka Central Transport Board (SLCTB), and the Cooperative Wholesale Establishment (CWE) face an outright closure.

Mr. Bécké said the IMF believed Sri Lanka could achieve more economic stability if it carried out the recommended policies.

Operation Thattha Bessa

How they got at Soththi Upali

By Chris Kamalendran

Aramabawalage Don Upali alias Soththi Upali Sri Lanka's most notorious underworld figure was taking an unusual ride by public transport as apparent ploy to evade any one of the many who were gunning for him.

He apparently felt the bus ride was safer than a private vehicle. But it turned out to be a fatal mistake for him.

Soththi Upali last Thursday got into the bus after a case linked to the Lalith Athulathmudali assassination. He was unarmed.

The gang followed him in two vehicles a three wheeler hired near Hyde Park Corner and a blue Dolphin van.

Initially two men boarded the three-wheeler, saying they wanted to go to Horana. One of the men carrying a cellular phone told the driver they had to follow a private bus which was heading towards Town Hall.

He told the three wheel driver that he wanted to follow the bus because h is father was travelling in it after a row with his mother and he wished to see where the father was going.

The young three-wheel driver swallowed the story and followed the bus., according to investigations by detectives. At the Town Hall junction one of the men got off while the other with the cellular phone continued. He regularly was receiving telephone calls and also made a few.

To avoid suspicion, the man was heard by the driver as saying "mother do not worry, father is traveling in the bus in front of me. I will note where he is getting down and we will be able to find out where he is living."

For most incoming calls the man got off and answered as he probably had to answer some questions about the modus operandi of the murder. He obviously did not want the driver to hear those.

The man had asked for the names of every main junction they passed. This was either to show he was not familiar with the area or actually the area was not known to him.

As the bus stopped at Bokundara junction the man had shouted out 'Thaththa bessa, Thaththa bessa' (father got off) and wanted the driver to break suddenly. It was not thathta, but Soththi Upali who got off.

Soththi Upali then crossed the road and walked to a shop. The man in the three wheeler then jumped off the vehicle, pulled out a weapon and opened fire on Soththi Upali at close range.

The three-wheeler driver only then realised that he was carrying a killer. Within seconds he turned his vehicle and desperately drove to the Piliyandala police station where he told the story.

At the Bokundara junction where Soththi Upali was shot high-drama was taking place. Immediately after the man from the three-wheeler had opened fire, the second back-up vehicle the Dolphin van arrived, according to investigations.

The men in the van carried the dying Soththi Upali into the vehicle and drove away.

About four kilometers away his body was dumped and the gang vanished.

The rival gang or killers knew that the most appropriate time to get at Soththi Upali was when he was returning from a court case as he would be unarmed.

On February 24, this year an attempt was made on his life while he was returning from courts in a van. One person was killed but Soththi Upali and his wife narrowly escaped.

Meanwhile a fresh wave of broad day light killings of underworld gang members in the Colombo city and suburbs has raised serious concern of a major upsurge in criminal violence.

In less than a week at least five underworld gang leaders have been killed by suspected rival groups, but until last morning police had not made little if any breakthrough.

Police said they believe that the underworld gangs have been reactivated in the last couple of weeks but they were unable to do much about it because priority was given to other to security considerations.

S. African MPs meet pro-LTTE groups

Members of the South African parliament who had toured Sri Lanka earlier this month to study the ethnic problem, met pro-LTTE groups in South Africa on Thursday as part of the exercise.

Dr. Kisten Rajoo, a member of the delegation, told The Sunday Times on the phone from South Africa, that it was a packed meeting and the pro-LTTE groups led by C. Chinnappan said that the parliamentary group should not arrive at any definitive conclusions before meeting the LTTE.

Dr. Rajoo said the MPs agreed with this view and added: "It is only fair that we meet the LTTE also to get an objective view of the matter."

"The Eelam groups were disappointed that we could not meet the LTTE while we were in Sri Lanka. We explained that we were guests of the Sri Lankan government and had to abide by its wishes," Dr. Rajoo said.

"The Eelam groups also urged us to press President Nelson Mandela to mediate and get the warring parties in Sri Lanka to sit around a negotiating table and talk about ending he war," Dr. Rajoo, who represents the Inkhata Freedom Party and is also Deputy Chairman of the National Assembly, said.

Asked if he proposed to meet the LTTE, Dr. Rajoo said the delegation was prepared to go anywhere to meet the Tigers. The delegation also hoped to meet President Mandela soon.

The MPs had themselves felt that it would not be fair to come to any firm conclusion about the nature of the Sri Lankan ethnic problem without meeting the Eelam Tamil goups also. The members of the delegation have planned to meet these groups before issuing a statement on the visit.

Equipment for Army turned into smokes

By Frederica Jansz

Twenty-nine boxes containing two million cigarettes from Dubai were addressed to the Army Commander and declared as communication equipment, Customs said.

One army man was arrested by Customs, after the massive 11 million rupeee fraud was detected while investigations are under way to find out for whom the cigarettes were brought. The army man arrested has allegedly confessed that he and others in the army were involved in smuggling the consignments for a businessman, presenting false declarations.

A file seized by Customs has evidence that at least five consignments addressed to the Army Commander have been smuggled in this year, declaring the goods as communication equipment, camouflage kits and spare parts for communication equipment.

Customs detectives have identified the two businessmen.

The consignments sent from Easa Salhia Al Gurg C/O Obaid, P.O. Box 16283 Dubai, are all addressed to the Army chief. On this detection Customs found that out of 29 packages the first consignment flown in on Qatar Airways flight on December 13 contained only 24 cartons of cigarettes.

The balance five packages came in on Friday, when the army man concerned called over at Customs warehouses to clear the items.

The detection was made when a Customs official asked to see the file he had. The Customs found that the documents were all photocopies and had been altered.

The case is also being probed by the Military Police .

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