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News Briefs

Energy Industry Alerted to Possible Attack on Natural Gas Supplies
NEWSDAY -- washington

According to an unverified intelligence report, Osama bin Laden has ordered retaliatory attacks on U.S. natural gas supplies should he or the Taliban’s leader be killed or captured, Attorney General John Ashcroft said Monday.

The U.S. oil and natural gas industry confirmed Monday that it went on a higher stage of alert within the past two weeks after the FBI advised the American Petroleum Institute and other national industry groups of the vague, alleged threat.

On Nov. 17, the FBI sent e-mails to its 56 field offices across the country - but not to state and local law enforcement officials - about the alleged threat, which is being taken seriously although the agency has not determined whether it is credible, Justice officials said.

The notice warned that bin Laden may have approved plans to attack natural gas supplies in the event he or Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar were captured or killed. The FBI said the information “was from a source of undetermined reliability.”

Asked about the notice Monday, Ashcroft said, “Frankly, those are the kinds of reports which we take seriously ... and we work to elevate our security to alert the interested industry groups, to alert law enforcement.”

Russian Court Dissolves Last Independent TV in Russia

A Moscow court ordered the dissolution of TV-6, the last major independent television station in Russia, a decision that could wipe out the only broadcast voice consistently willing to air criticism of President Vladimir Putin’s government.

The court ruled that the station, owned largely by exiled media and automobile magnate Boris Berezovsky, was financially unsound. It agreed with a suit filed by a minority shareholder, Lukoil petroleum company, to liquidate the firm.

The station was a refuge for journalists from another independent station, NTV, whose owner, Vladimir Gusinsky, was forced out last spring by Gazprom, the natural gas giant that is a major NTV shareholder. Gusinsky fled to Spain to escape corruption charges lodged by Putin’s government. In effect, two independent broadcast voices have been brought to heel this year.

Although the court ruled on on narrow economic grounds -- the station is in debt -- TV-6 employees said they suspected political maneuvering. Gazprom is partly owned by the government and Lukoil, Russia’s largest oil company, deals closely with the Kremlin on important issues of export quotas and taxes. Lukoil officials declined to comment on the suit.