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News Briefs II

U.S. Freezes Assets of 200 Linked To Colombian Cocaine Cartel

The Washington Post

The Treasury Department this week targeted nearly 200 individuals and corporations in Colombia that allegedly have ties to the Cali cocaine cartel and ordered banks to freeze any assets those persons or companies have in the United States, law enforcement sources confirmed Thursday night.

As part of ongoing enforcement of an October executive order by President Clinton, the department's Office of Foreign Assets Control earlier this week designated 138 individuals and 60 companies as narcotics traffickers and banned U.S. citizens and firms from doing any business with them. Treasury sources said they had no estimate on the amount of money involved in the freeze.

Treasury's action, which comes as relations continue to deteriorate in the aftermath of the Clinton administration decertification of Colombia's anti-drug efforts, represents the latest federal salvo at those associated with Colombia's multi-billion-dollar Cali cartel. The sanctioned persons and firms, which include Colombian drugstore supply companies, are alleged to have ties to Rodriguez Orejuela and the Herrera Buitrago family, top Cali cartel officials.

Last Oct. 22, President Clinton, in a keynote speech before the United Nations, announced similar sanctions involving about 80 people and businesses. This week's action more than triples the number of proscribed persons and companies.

Just last week, Clinton de-certified the anti-drug efforts of the Ernesto Samper administration, charging that the Samper government is infested with narcotics corruption. The U.S. action prompted Samper to order the National Police and army to review all bilateral agreements with Washington.

Harbury Files Lawsuit Against CIA over Husband's Death

The Washington Post

Jennifer Harbury, the woman who used hunger strikes to dramatize her demands for information about the mysterious disappearance and death of her Guatemalan husband, filed a $25 million lawsuit Thursday against several current and former CIA, State Department and national security officials.

In the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, Harbury claims that the government officials - including former CIA directors Robert M. Gates and R. James Woolsey and the current agency head, John M. Deutch - obstructed her efforts to save her husband by failing to tell her that he was still alive, and later deceived her further by keeping his death from her.

The 44-year-old Texas attorney didn't learn the truth until Rep. Robert G. Torricelli, D-N.J., a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, told her, breaking the traditional secrecy surrounding such matters.

It was then that she learned that her husband, Efrain Bamaca-Velasquez, a high-ranking commander in a left-wing Guatemalan guerrilla movement, had been wounded slightly and captured in battle in March 1992 - not killed and buried in a small town as she had been told. In fact, he was tortured for several months and later killed.

Tribunal Demands Access To Suspected Serb War Criminal

The Washington Post

The International War Crimes Tribunal and the State Department are demanding access to a former Bosnian Serb officer now under arrest in Belgrade who claims to have taken part in the mass execution of thousands of Muslims from a former United Nations "safe area" last summer, U.S. officials said Thursday.

The officer, Drazen Erdemovic, was detained by Yugoslav police Sunday after telling ABC News that he personally had killed between 70 and 100 Muslims attempting to flee from the town of Srebrenica. Sources at ABC said the network was attempting to arrange safe passage for Erdemovic and another Bosnian Serb officer out of Yugoslavia in cooperation with the U.S. embassy in Belgrade.

"I would shoot one after the other," ABC Thursday night quoted Erdemovic as saying. "After the first 10 were killed, a second group was brought up. They saw the corpses and started begging, Don't kill us. Our families will send you money.' Others would pray. Others simply cursed us."

If the ABC account can be confirmed, it would constitute dramatic first-hand evidence by a direct participant of one of the worst atrocities in Europe since World War II. More than 5,000 people are still missing after being ambushed by Bosnian Serb forces as they attempted to make the hazardous 50-mile trek through enemy territory from Srebrenica to the government-controlled town of Tuzla.

The Srebrenica massacres are being investigated by the International Court of Justice at The Hague, which issued a statement Thursday demanding access to Erdemovic. U.S. officials describe Erdemovic's arrest as a violation of the Dayton peace agreement, which commits Serb-led Yugoslavia to cooperation with the war crimes tribunal.

State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns said the United States supported the request of the war crimes tribunal for the extradition of Erdemovic and the other officer, Radoslav Kremnovic. Burns said statements made by Erdemovic suggested he participated in or witnessed the deaths of nearly 1,200 men.

According to ABC, Yugoslav police confiscated a filmed interview with Erdemovic that had been recorded by a freelance reporter on assignment for the news organization, Vanessa Vasic-Janekovic.

The detention of Eremovic follows several other moves by Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic to tighten his control over political dissent in the rump Yugoslavia. Last month, the Serb authorities closed down an independent radio station and also moved against the U.S.-based Soros Foundation, which has been channelling funds to the independent news media.

Rudy Perina, a deputy assistant secretary of state who helps supervise policy toward Yugoslavia and a former U.S. charge d'affaires in Belgrade, described the crackdown on dissenters as "a further impediment to normalization" of U.S.-Serbian relations.