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News Briefs One

Six Croats Charged with WarCrimes

The Washington Post

The U.N. criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia charged six leading Bosnian Croats Monday with war crimes for "the persecution on political, racial and religious grounds" of Muslims in central Bosnia in 1992 and 1993.

The latest indictments accused Dario Kordic, a political leader of the Croatian community in Bosnia, and Tihomir Blaskic, chief of staff of the Bosnian Croat militia, of crimes against humanity carried out on "such a large scale" that they "effectively destroyed or removed almost the entire Muslim civilian population in the Lasva valley."

Four other Bosnian Croats were accused of lesser charges involving breaches of the 1949 Geneva Conventions stipulating laws or customs of war. The Hague-based tribunal has now indicted 52 people for war crimes, most of them Bosnian Serbs. Only one suspect, Dusan Tadic, is now in custody and facing imminent trial.

The charges against Kordic and Blaskic -- two of the Bosnian Croats' most important political and military figures -- could present serious political problems for the Muslim-Croat federation that was established under U.S. auspices early last year as a bulwark against Serb expansionism.

Failure to arrest the Croats and send them to The Hague for trial could undermine a key aspect of the Bosnia peace accord being worked out in Dayton, Ohio, and offer the Serbs a pretext to continue refusing to cooperate with the tribunal. The leader of the Bosnian Serbs, Radovan Karadzic, and their military commander, Ratko Mladic, stand indicted for war crimes. Their extradition for trial has emerged as an issue in the Ohio talks.

Japanese Cabinet Minister Resigns Under Pressure from Korea

Los Angeles Times

The resignation of a Japanese Cabinet minister Monday defused a diplomatic row between South Korea and Japan that had threatened to disrupt the two nations' ties just days before a Pacific Rim summit.

South Korea had furiously demanded that Takami Eto, head of the Management and Coordination Agency, be fired or resign for commenting last month that Japan did some "good things" during its 1910-1945 colonial rule of Korea.

Eto is the latest of several politicians to provoke Korean anger by seeming to whitewash Japan's harsh 35-year rule of their country.

Korean officials had insisted that unless Eto left his post, they would cancel a summit meeting between South Korean President Kim Young Sam and Japanese Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama set for Saturday.

Eto, 70, who initially retracted his remarks but refused to resign, yielded to pressure Monday evening. "As a politician, I cannot help but feel a heavy responsibility" for the repercussions of his comments, he told a news conference.

FDA Revises Biotechnology Rules

The Washington Post

Vice President Al Gore has announced regulatory reforms to help biotechnology firms speed their drugs through the Food and Drug Administration's bureaucracy.

In announcing the rule changes, part of the continuing "Reinventing Government" initiative, Gore said last week that the United States is "the world's leader" in biotechnology, biotechnology drugs and drug safety, and that "this administration intends to keep it this way on all three scores."

Although the administration introduced several complex FDA proposals on Thursday, they are all designed to let the agency treat biotechnology products like other drugs.

Because biotechnology drugs come from living things, they fall under the regulations governing other "biologics" such as vaccines and blood for transfusion. Those regulations, historically, have been much tougher than the ones for regular pharmaceuticals. Some of the rules date from the turn of the century, when the consistency and safety of medications drawn from horse blood or urine was harder to ensure.

Lauding "maturation of the science" that allows biotech drugs to be treated like other pharmaceuticals without affecting safety, Food and Drug Administration Commissioner David A. Kessler said last week: "The concerns of several decades ago no longer hold."