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The world in brief

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 4, 2000

Case against Suharto's son hits obstacle

JAKARTA, Indonesia -- The youngest son of former President Suharto admitted Tuesday that he was guilty of corruption and asked for clemency to avoid serving an 18-month prison sentence.

In a meeting with prosecutors, the son, Hutomo Mandala Putra, known as Tommy Suharto, formally requested a presidential pardon. His lawyers said they did not expect President Abdurrahman Wahid, who has publicly denounced Tommy Suharto as a criminal, to grant it. But they said their client would remain free to pursue an appeal during the three months that the clemency application would take to be processed.

Last week, the Supreme Court reversed a lower court decision and found Tommy Suharto and a business partner guilty of corruption in a land deal that prosecutors said had cost the government $10.8-million but illegally enriched the two men, who were sentenced to 18 months in jail.

Tommy Suharto's clemency plea proved yet another obstacle to the government in its floundering pursuit of the family and friends of his father, Indonesia's former leader. The government suffered a major setback last week when a court pronounced the elder Suharto too ill to stand trial on charges that he had embezzled hundreds of millions from government charities.

Taiwan's prime minister resigns, citing health

HONG KONG -- In a move that rattled Taiwan's government, Prime Minister Tang Fei resigned Tuesday, citing poor health. Tang, who had been in the job for less than five months, announced his decision after meeting with President Chen Shui Bian.

Chen chose Tang, a former fighter pilot and member of the Nationalist Party, to act as a bridge to the Nationalists, whom Chen swept out of power in March.

But the Nationalists, who still control the Legislature, have stymied Chen's government.

"This symbolizes that Chen Shui Bian cannot hold together a coalition government," said Andrew Yang, secretary-general of the Chinese Council of Advanced Policy Studies. "He will now be under tremendous pressure."

Tanker spills oil in Indonesian waters

SINGAPORE -- A Panama-registered tanker ran aground between Indonesia and Singapore early Tuesday, spilling about 2-million gallons of crude oil.

The leakage appeared to have stopped by Tuesday afternoon, said Sam Norton, commercial director of the Singapore-based company Tanker Pacific, the ship's manager.

No injuries were reported among the 32 people aboard the Natuna Sea, which ran aground in Indonesian waters five miles southeast of Singapore.

A private salvage company placed an oil boom -- a floating device used to contain spills -- around the vessel, and sent two cleanup craft, Norton said.

Relief efforts continue in India, Bangladesh

CALCUTTA, India -- Air force helicopters in Bangladesh rushed Tuesday to flooded villages to try to rescue marooned villagers clinging to trees.

In signs of fraying patience, residents in one village attacked the car of an administrator because of delays in providing relief, a newspaper said.

Since Sept. 18, floods have killed more than 1,000, swept away millions of homes and left 20-million people marooned or homeless in India and neighboring Bangladesh. The death toll in Bangladesh has climbed past 50.

Air force helicopters in Bangladesh joined army and navy boats to deliver relief goods and rescue marooned villagers.

Nearly 400,000 people have taken shelter in emergency relief camps set up on mud embankments or highways.

British university to have professor of airline food

LONDON -- Coffee? Tea? Lecture?

Adding academic status as the latest in-flight option, the University of Surrey is appointing what it says will be the first professor of airline food.

The International Flight Catering Association donated $750,000 to sponsor the professorship, to promote study of airline catering at undergraduate and graduate levels. The closing date for applications is Tuesday.

The university, based in Guildford, 20 miles west of Gatwick airport, already provides courses on in-flight catering. Airline food is a $15-billion a year industry, employing 100,000 people worldwide, the university said.

The nature of the courses would depend on who was chosen for the professorship, said professor David Airey, head of the school of management studies for the service sector. A food scientist, for instance, might concentrate on promoting freshness.

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