The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current, February 17, 1998, Page 2, Image 2

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    OTTAWA (AP) - In what the
chief justice calls Canada’s most
important legal case ever, the
Supreme Court opened hearings
Monday on whether Quebec has the
right to secede unilaterally and
declare independence.
“It’s obviously the most impor
tant case ... because it goes to the
very existence of die composition of
our country,” said Chief Justice
Antonio Lanier.
Weeklong oral arguments, tele
vised live on two all-news channels,
began with the federal government^
lawyer, Yves Fortier, arguing that the
high court did in fact have the
authority to rule on the matter.
Quebec separatists say die secession
question should be settled by voters,
not judges.
The court is expected to issue its
ruling within six months. If it rules
that Quebec cannot secede without
the rest of Canada’s consent, there
could be a backlash in the mostly
French-speaking province that
would intensify the already strong
drive for independence:
It will plunge us into a kind of
political crisis,” Quebec’s separatist
premier, Lucien Bouchard, said of a
ruling restricting the province’s
fe<^te^^owmtneBt of Prime
Minister Jean Chretien, a Quebecker
who opposes secession. Ever since
the separatists’ near-victory in a
1995 referendum on independence,
Chretien has been struggling to
thwart their ambitions.
Last year, hoping to persuade
Quebeckers that secession could not
be quick and painless, Chretien’s
government asked the Supreme
Court to rule on three questions:
■ Can Quebec unilaterally
secede under Canada’s
■ Does international law give
the province the right to secede?
■ If international and domestic
law conflict, which takes prece
Chretien says he would not
oppose independence for Quebec
under certain circumstances - if a
decisive majority of Quebeckers
voted for secession, if other
provinces consented, and if Quebec
negotiated in good faith on the
details of a breakaway.
What the federal government
opposes is the prospect of Quebec
seceding without negotiations, or on
the basis of a narrow victory in a ref
erendum involving an ambiguously
worded question.
Separatists contend that only
Quebeckers can decide their own
“The last word belongs to
Quebec democracy, the Quebec
people,” Bouchard said last week.
“And what’s this word? It’s the word
‘Yes,’ pronounced in the next refer
Bouchard was alluding to his
plans to hold another vote on seces
sion, probably next year if his Parti
Quebecois wins a second term in
power in a yet-to-be-scheduled
provincial election.
Bouchard’s disdain of the court
case is widely shared in Quebec.
Even Quebec federalists who
oppose secession say the issue
should be settled by voters, not
Three of the nine Supreme Court
justices are from Quebec, but all
were appointed by federalist prime
Though Bouchard’s government
is boycotting the hearings, it will be
represented hy a court-appointed *
lawyer, separatist Andre Joli-Cdeur.
He intends tq suggest that the
Supreme Court should refuse to
answer the federal government’s
questions on the grounds that these
are matters for politicians to resolve.
Chretien has been annoyed by
separatist arguments that the court
hearings somehow circumvent
democracy, noting that Quebeckers
voted on secession in 1980 and 1995
and opted each time to stay in
An intriguing subplot in the
court case involves Quebec’s aborig
inals, who claim jurisdiction over &
northern two-thirds of the province.
Cree and Inuit leaders have inter
vened to argue that they would be
entitled to remain part of Canada if
the province declared independence.
About 83 percent of Quebec Is 7
million people are French-speaking;
the rest include long-established
English-speaking Canadians and
more recent immigrants from other
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'j-j "'U.r'** \ ■ ‘ , ■ •
■ Surveyors work to map
eight presidential sites that
Saddam had declared off
limits to inspectors.
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - Iraq
welcomed a U.N. team mapping
presidential compounds Monday,
but warned that its citizens would
defend the symbols of Iraqi sover
eignty with their lives.
Iraq’s foreign minister cau
tioned Kuwait against allowing
U.S. and British forces to attack
Iraq from Kuwaiti soil.
Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf,
speaking to reporters Monday in
Beirut, said he was not threatening
Kuwait. He did not say what
Baghdad would do if Kuwait
ignored the warning, but said, “We
hope they won’t commit this dead
ly mistake.”
“Those who open their territory
for the Americans, to shed the
blood of the Iraqi children and
women, will bear the consequences
of their crime,” al-Sahhaf said.
Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990,
setting the stage for the Persian
Gulf War. While Kuwait has not
said it would allow an attack to be
launched from its territory, it has
allowed the United States and
Britain to station warplanes at its
A Kuwaiti envoy downplayed
the Iraqi warning.
Kuwait’s planning minister, Ali
al-Zumaih, who also was visiting
Beirut, said the threat was “charac
teristic of the Iraqi regime.”
U.N. surveyors resumed work
in Baghdad early Monday, outlin
ing the eight sites that Iraqi
President Saddam Hussein has
declared off-limits to U.N. inspec
tors who are trying to verify that all
weapons of mass destruction have
been destroyed.
U.N. officials hope to use the
maps to determine which areas of
the sprawling compounds are legit
imate targets for inspections and
which areas should remain closed.
The mission has been depicted
in Iraq as a sign that a diplomatic
solution was still possible. The
United States has threatened to
attack if Saddam does not open all
presidential sites to unrestricted
Iraq was not budging from its
insistence that die palaces are sym
bols of its sovereignty, and empha
sized that Iraqis would fight to the
death to defend diem.
“Volunteering to defend peo
ple’s palaces is a sublime moral
action against U.S. barbarism,” the
government newspaper al
Jumhuriya said in an editorial
Hundreds of thousands of sol
diers would face death to defend “a
symbolic location like a palace or a
museum,” the paper said.
^ Al-Sahhaf called for a direct
meeting between U.S. and Iraqi
officials to solve the crisis, the
English-language Jordanian Times
reporte4 today. Iraq has portrayed
the dispute over U.N. weapons
inspections as a conflict with the
United States, not the United
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi
Annan was to meet at the United
Nations later Monday with the
ambassadors of the five permanent
Security Council members to try to
speed a diplomatic solution.
Several hard-line Russian law
makers visiting Iraq plan to stay
there as a “human shield” against
possible U.S. strikes.
Ultranationalist Vladimir
Zhirinovsky, an outspoken sup
porter of Saddam who led die dele
gation, planned to return to
Moscow while others in the group
will stay in Baghdad, fellow law
maker Alexei Mitrofanov said in
Moscow Monday. .
| In other developments:
■ Israel’s military, which drew
up plans to kill Saddam in 1991, is
again considering proposals to
assassinate him, this time with a
precision bombing raid, The
Jerusalem Report magazine said
Monday. It said Washington is also
drawing up assassination plans.
■ The Palestinian Authority
arrested the leader of a pro-Iraq
party in the West Bank and banned
broadcast commentary on the Gulf
■ Australian Prime Minister
John Howard said Australian
forces, including elite commandos
of the Special Air Service unit, will
leave for the Persian Gulf today in
case they are needed for a strike on
■ French President Jacques
Chirac’s office said he would meet
today with Iraq’s foreign minister
in Paris to discuss the standoff.
■ In London, peace campaign
ers swarmed around an air base
that would direct British strikes
against Iraq, and the Times of
London said the government is
making emergency plans should
Iraqi agents retaliate in Britain.
Taipei plane crash kills
TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) - A China
Airlines jet trying to land in fog
crashed into a country neighbor
hood Monday, ripping the roofs off
houses before skidding into a rice
paddy and erupting in flames.
Authorities said all 196 aboard and
nine people on the ground were
Firefighters went house to
house in the blackened neighbor
hood, putting out the flames licking
doors and windows and searching
for survivors. Searchlights illumi
nated a life raft from the Airbus A
300, wrapped around a broken tree
stump. Seats from the plane were
scattered in the dirt, one with a
body trapped beneath it.
China Airlines said the dead
included the governor of Taiwan’s
Central Bank and other key finan
cial officials; four Americans; and
many Taiwanese families returning
from vacations in Bali. Victims on
the ground included a 2-month-old
Witnesses said the plane hit sev
eral hundreds yards short of the
runway at Chiang Kai-shek airport,
25 miles west of Taipei. It tore
through homes along a highway
before coming to rest in flames in
throughout the area. Authorities
sealed off the neighborhood, leav
ing families of passengers to con
gregate at hospitals and the airport.
Relatives broke into tears and fell
inti> each other’s arms as the extent
of die disaster hit diem; one woman
collapsed to the floor.
“They all went to Bali on a trip -
and they are all dead,” said one
woman, whose four children were
on the flight.
Rescue workers on the scene
said they had given up looking for
survivors, but the deputy director
general of Taiwan’s Civil
Aeronautics Administration, Chang
Kuo-cheng, said he still Imped to
find survivors among the 182 pas
sengers and 14 crew members.
Airport officials said two flight
data recorders were recovered and
were being analyzed to help deter
mine the cause of the cm&
■ twin-engine Airbus «»»
n while attempting tc
:ond approach at 8:09.
time at the airport’s northern run
wav. the Tainei-based China
Aeronautics Administration,
resigned to take moral responsibili
ty for the crash, which was the
worst in the airport’s history. It
came after Taiwan’s flagship carrier
embarked on an extensive safety
campaign that followed a crash in
Japan in 1994 that claimed 264
Among the passengers on flight
CI-676 were Sheu Yuan-dong, gov
ernor of Taiwan’s Central Bank, his
wife, and four other finance offi
cials returning from a conference in
Bali. They included Chen Huang,
head of the bank’s Department of
Foreign Exchange, and Chien Chi
min, head of the Department, of
Economic Research.
China Airlines released the
names but not the hometowns of the
four Americans aboard. The names
appeared to be those of three men
and a woman.
v lira, statement, Airbus Industrie
-dbased in Toulouse, France - said
the plane that crashed was deliv
ered to China Airlines from die pro
duction line in December 1990. By
die end of January, the aircraft had
accumulated approximately 20,070
flight hours in some 8,800 flights,
Airbus said.
In 1994, a China Airlines A300
600R exploded and burned during
an aborted landing in Nagoya,
Japan, killing 264 people.
The airline has had four other
crashes since 1986. After the 1994
Nagoya crash, it embarked on an
extensiveisafety program that