December 20, 2005 in Nation/World

Aussie poll finds racist undercurrent

Compiled from wire reports The Spokesman-Review
 

Sydney, Australia Three-quarters of Australians believe there is a racist undercurrent in their society, according to a poll published today in response to race riots that erupted last week in Sydney.

The ACNielsen poll in the Sydney Morning Herald found that 75 percent of Australians believed there was racism in their society, but 80 percent support multiculturalism – a result Prime Minister John Howard said proved the country is not inherently racist.

If that number of people “is tolerant and supportive of ethnic and racial difference, then you can’t simultaneously have underlying racism,” Howard told television’s Nine Network.

The poll of 1,423 people had a margin of error of 2.6 percentage points.

The Cronulla riot, by 5,000 white youths, many of them drunk, was sparked by an attack a week earlier on two volunteer lifesavers by a group of men described by witnesses as being of Lebanese descent.

The Cronulla riot triggered two nights of retaliatory attacks by gangs of youths of Middle Eastern descent.

Howard said in the immediate aftermath of the Cronulla riot that he did not believe it demonstrated a racist streak in Australians.

U.S. soldiers sentenced in abuse of detainees

Baghdad, Iraq Five soldiers from an elite U.S. Army unit have been sentenced to up to six months confinement in cases concerning the abuse of detainees in Iraq, the U.S. military said Monday.

The five, all from the 75th Ranger Regiment, pleaded guilty during courts-martial this month and received sentences ranging from 30-day to six-month confinements and reduction in rank, the U.S. military said in a statement. Two of them will also be dishonorably discharged from the Army after serving their time.

It did not identify any of the soldiers. The statement said the charges were brought after an investigation into allegations of abuse on Sept. 7, but did not provide any details of the nature of the abuse or where it took place.

All five pleaded guilty to dereliction of duty, while four pleaded guilty to charges of assault and battery and two pleaded guilty to maltreatment, the military said.

Boat capsizes, killing Africans seeking haven

Nouakchott, Mauritania A boat carrying Africans illegally trying to reach Spain’s Canary Islands capsized off Mauritania’s coast, killing at least four and leaving 26 others missing and presumed dead, officials said Monday.

Rescue workers saved 14 people from Saturday’s wreck several miles off the shore of this West African nation, said Madine Ba, the official in charge of maritime affairs in the northern city of Nouadhibou.

The boat left the coast near the city carrying 44 citizens of Senegal, Mali, Nigeria, Guinea and Guinea-Bissau, he said.

The Canary Islands are about 600 miles north of Nouadhibou in the Atlantic Ocean. Heavy winds were blowing Saturday in the area, Ba said.

African immigrants looking to enter Europe without proper documentation often seek to sneak into the Spanish islands or an enclave north across the Sahara Desert, in Morocco. Many die each year trying.

Chilean Court upholds Pinochet indictment

Santiago, Chile Gen. Augusto Pinochet’s legal woes deepened Monday when an appeals court upheld his indictment in the disappearance of three dissidents in the early years of his 1973-90 dictatorship.

In all, Pinochet had been indicted in nine cases stemming from the 1975 offensive known as Operation Colombo, which resulted in the killing and disappearance of 119 dissidents.

Pinochet’s regime had claimed the dissidents were killed in clashes between rival opposition groups.

The 90-year-old retired general remains under house arrest at his mansion in a Santiago suburb.

His lawyers are expected to appeal to the Supreme Court, arguing Pinochet’s deteriorated health makes him unfit to stand trial. Four previous attempts to try him have failed because of his health problems.


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