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EAST TIMOR: Too Big For APEC – Dili – Looted Food – ANZAC Prepares – Hercules – Sniffer Dogs – Editorial. OTHER NEWS: Ill Prisoners – Tauranga Inquest – Student Loans

EAST TIMOR AND APEC

EAST TIMOR TOO BIG FOR APEC : East Timor received no solace from a meeting of the world's most powerful Foreign Ministers in Auckland yesterday, with any peacekeeping force unlikely to arrive in the ravaged territory for at least three more weeks. At the closed-door meeting in the Auckland Town Hall, only Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Britain were willing to contribute troops to an international force.

EAST TIMOR – DILI: Ian Martin and his team of United Nations observers were hailed as the heroes of the Timor crisis yesterday when they refused to evacuate their posts and leave thousands of refugees to the savagery of rampaging militias. They were outraged when the United Nations decided they should pull out because killing and looting were continuing after Indonesia imposed martial law.

EAST TIMOR – LOOTED FOOD: Indonesian police keeping James Porteous in protective custody in a remote East Timor town wanted to make the right impression by offering him a treat. But the former Aucklander was aghast when they produced United Nations rations, which he could only conclude had been looted from burned-out quarters abandoned by UN staff.

EAST TIMOR – ANZAC PREPARES: The largest Anzac force assembled since Vietnam remains on high alert amid deepening gloom about whether Indonesia will reverse its refusal to allow peacemakers into East Timor. If Jakarta can be persuaded to let in a United Nations force, more than 2000 Australians and New Zealanders will land in a territory governed by militias bloodied by pillage and anarchy.

EAST TIMOR – HERCULES: Just hours after getting the call, a New Zealand air crew was on its way to Darwin for possible duty in Dili. The 10 crew members expected to land at the Tindall Australian Air Force base, near Darwin, about midnight.

APEC – SNIFFER DOGS: The United States Secret Service has hurried a pack of bomb sniffer dogs into New Zealand under the guise of guide dogs to get around quarantine laws. The exemption from the usual 30-day quarantine has outraged some local dog owners, who say the last-minute deal could expose New Zealand to rabies.

EDITORIAL: Free trade is not the most important item on the economic agenda of Apec, although it comes a close second. There is a subject even more important listed under the heading "strengthening markets." It is about how countries gear their internal economies. It is more important because, as the Asian crisis demonstrated recently, access to a country is of little value if its economy is in a tailspin. Most East Asian economies have pulled out of the dive they suffered in 1997-1998 but they, and those that trade with them, are still arguing about why it happened and what might be done to make it less likely to happen again. Apec finance ministers grappled with those questions in Auckland this week and their conclusions were encouraging: they at least seem to have read the causes of the crisis correctly.

OTHER NEWS

MENTALLY ILL PRISONERS: More than 100 seriously mentally ill prisoners should be in hospital, not jail, according to a report kept from the public for 10 months. The report, finally released yesterday, said an alarming number of severe cases were slipping through the prison system, and that nearly 60 per cent of inmates had at least one personality disorder.

TAURANGA INQUEST: Breathing problems during a minor operation may have caused a teenager's death, an inquest in Tauranga heard yesterday. In a High Court trial last year which ended with the acquittal on a manslaughter charge of Tauranga Hospital anaesthetist Dr Margaret Hugel, the focus was on a filter blockage in the anaesthetic equipment.

STUDENT LOANS: The Alliance is promising to abolish interest payments on student loans for current and former students. But it is making no commitment to wipe out the whole $3 billion student debt, and will not say at this stage whether it will scrap student loans altogether.


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