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News Briefs

January 25, 1996
Web posted at: 6:40 p.m. EST (2340 GMT)

Hungry N. Koreans said to barter clothing for food

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LONDON (CNN) -- Hungry North Koreans are bartering coats for food as famine grows worse in the Communist country, a U.N. official said Thursday.

Trevor Page, head of the World Food Program office in Pyongyang, said children had "wolfed down" special food enriched with vitamins and minerals when it was distributed earlier this month near the Chinese border.

Meanwhile, in South Korea Thursday, North Korean defectors gave dramatic accounts of a widening threat of famine, but their reports could not be independently confirmed. One defector said she saw starving prisoners eating mud.

The World Food Program said last week that several million people are at risk of starvation, including two and a half million women and children.

A disastrous harvest last summer was followed by severe floods -- all of which created a shortfall of some 1.2 million tons of grain.



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China to ban tobacco ads by 2000

BEIJING (CNN) -- China has mounted a campaign to ban tobacco advertising by the year 2000 and slow the growth of its cigarette-smoking population, health experts and Chinese media said Thursday. Thirty-five percent of Chinese over 15 -- or one quarter of the world's smokers -- smoke.

That rate is growing by 2 percent a year.

The nationwide campaign may bring higher taxes to raise funds for anti-smoking campaigns, the official China Daily said.



Cousteau's Calypso rescued in Singapore

Calypso

SINGAPORE (CNN) -- Jacques Cousteau's legendary research vessel Calypso, which sank after being hit by a barge, was dragged from the murky waters of Singapore Thursday.

The 66-foot fragile wooden ship was lifted to the surface by a 230-foot crane, patched, and pumped dry. It was then towed to a shipyard for repairs.

Calypso was featured in Cousteau's long-running television series about the world's oceans. It sank January 8 in the shipyard's shallow waters after it had arrived in Singapore after a research and filming mission in China and Vietnam in 1994. Its next mission was to China.

Cousteau had long planned to replace the Calypso and has been raising funds for Calypso II. He said last month he planned to equip the Calypso II with the latest technology, including a marine laboratory and a television studio, to help children explore the underwater world.

The $20 million craft will also use solar energy and house a helicopter and satellite transmission facilities.



U.S. spy gets Israeli citizenship

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A United States citizen has been granted Israeli citizenship in a bid to free him from jail.

Jonathan Pollard is a former U.S. Navy analyst convicted of treason in 1987 for passing military secrets to Israel.

Pollard, who has served 10 years of his life prison sentence in various prisons in the United States, hopes that the Israeli citizenship will improve his chances for an early release.

But a Justice Department spokesman said in November that the Israeli citizenship would not affect any application Pollard makes for parole or clemency.

Israel approved Pollard's request for citizenship in November, reversing an earlier rejection. Last month, Prime Minister Shimon Peres appealed to President Clinton to pardon Pollard, the latest of several Israeli requests for clemency.

Pollard, a Jew, was arrested outside the Israeli embassy in Washington in 1985 and convicted of espionage in 1986. He admitted giving Israel documents containing information on its Arab enemies.



Peres, Arafat discuss creation of state

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres met Wednesday in the Gaza Strip in their first summit since Saturday's Palestinian general elections, in which Arafat emerged victorious.

Arafat will steer the interim government through what could be as many as three years of final status negotiations with Israel. Those talks begin in May.

Arafat played down fears the Palestine National Council (PNC) might refuse to delete parts of the PLO charter calling for Israel's destruction.

Peres has warned the Palestine Liberation Organization that peace moves will be frozen if the charter is not amended within two months by the PNC, the Palestinian parliament-in-exile.

Meantime, Israeli and Syrian peace negotiators met again outside Washington Wednesday for their second round of talks.

A top Israeli policy adviser reportedly said that if no progress were made during this round, the two sides would not meet again until 1997 -- after Israeli elections.





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