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News Briefs I

China Signs Civil Rights Agreement

Los Angeles Times

China signed an important international agreement on civil and political rights Monday that guarantees protection against arbitrary arrest while securing freedom of thought, religion and expression.

The treaty provides for fair trials, prohibits torture, or cruel or degrading punishment, and recognizes that citizens have the right to life, liberty and a prompt appearance before a judge after seizure by authorities.

A number of experts hailed China's action as an important first step, but stressed the degree to which the treaty will be honored was still uncertain. The immediate impact in China is likely to be negligible.

"To realize human rights is the aspiration of all humanity," Beijing's U.N. Ambassador Qin Huasun said at a low-key ceremony. "It is also a goal that the Chinese government has been striving for.

"We believe that the universality of human rights should be respected and it can be even better reflected once it is combined with the specific conditions of various countries."

"As a member of the international community, China stands for dialogue on the question of human rights and on the basis of mutual respect," the ambassador added. "It is opposed to confrontation."

U.S. Embassy in Uganda Cited As Two-Time Target

The Washington Post

Ugandan officials say that an alleged plot to bomb the U.S. Embassy here last month was a second effort by terrorists who originally planned to strike the downtown Kampala compound the same day blasts shattered embassies in neighboring Kenya and Tanzania.

"According to the intelligence that we have, the attack on Kampala was supposed to be simultaneous with Nairobi and Dar es Salaam," said Amama Mbabazi, the Ugandan minister of state for foreign affairs. "Of course it didn't happen that way. And I think the main reason is they find it a lot more difficult to operate here than in Kenya and Tanzania. We've had terrorism ourselves."

A Clinton administration official termed the claim "very plausible," noting that the embassy in Uganda appears on a list of targets compiled by Osama bin Laden, the exiled Saudi millionaire accused of leading a terrorist network blamed for the Aug. 7 blasts that killed more than 250 people.

Boston Chicken Files for Bankruptcy

The Washington Post

Boston Chicken Inc., once a Wall Street darling and restaurant powerhouse that rose to fame selling roasted chicken, Monday filed for bankruptcy reorganization as it struggles to turn around sagging sales by closing 16 percent of its restaurants, eliminating debt and adding offerings to its menu.

The company, which two years ago changed the name of its restaurants to Boston Markets, has suffered from weak sales and profits as a result of increased competition, primarily from grocery chains offering ready-to-eat meals, industry analysts said. Declining sales made it more difficult for Boston Chicken, based in Golden, Colo., to continue expanding because it could no longer provide loans to franchisees in its aggressive move to open more restaurants.

"They've definitely faced tremendous pressure in terms of meeting their financial obligations," said Ralph Rush, a senior associate at Technomics Inc., a Chicago-based restaurant consulting firm. "Thus, very little time and investment was spent on helping improve per-store sales, which is the heart of the company's problems."

The chain, whose stock price soared when the company went public in 1993, said it will close 178 of its 1,143 restaurants. All of the employees will be transferred to other restaurants, officials said.