the middle east

Netanyahu to Head Israeli Finance Ministry

JERUSALEM -- Binyamin Netanyahu, ousted as Israel's foreign minister, accepted Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's offer to become finance minister yesterday, reversing his earlier decision to reject the job.

Netanyahu, prime minister from 1996 to 1999, will be charged with turning around Israel's economy, battered by both a global slowdown and nearly 21/2 years of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

He replaces Silvan Shalom, a Sharon ally who was named Wednesday to take over as foreign minister. The move was widely seen as a bid to sideline Netanyahu, Sharon's main rival for leadership of the Likud Party.

Netanyahu, who has pressed Sharon to take an even harder line against the Palestinian uprising, had originally been expected to remain foreign minister in the coalition the prime minister is forming following Likud's election victory in January.

Sharon instead offered him the chance to head the Finance Ministry -- a step down in the cabinet hierarchy -- and the prime minister's office said Netanyahu at first turned it down.



Former Bosnian Serb Leader Sentenced

THE HAGUE -- Biljana Plavsic, the former Bosnian Serb leader who expressed remorse for the violence committed against non-Serbs during the Bosnian war, was sentenced to 11 years in prison.

Judge Richard May said that Plavsic participated in crimes of "utmost gravity" during the 1992-95 war in Bosnia and that "undue lenience would be misplaced."

But the court gave her credit for pleading guilty and helping to bring peace and reconciliation after the war.

Plavsic, 72, is the highest-ranking politician from the former Yugoslavia to be sentenced by the court. Former Yugoslav president Slobodon Milosevic is on trial before the same tribunal of three judges, but that case is expected to continue for another year.

The court said it took into account Plavsic's age and the testimony by former secretary of state Madeleine K. Albright and others who said she had played an important role in carrying out the 1995 peace agreement.

Associated Press


Chinese Court Upholds Dissident's Life Term

BEIJING -- A Chinese appeals court upheld a life prison term for U.S.-based dissident Wang Bingzhang on spying and terrorism charges, his defense lawyer said today.

The ruling by the Guangdong Provincial High People's Court ends the appeals process for Wang, and no further legal challenges to his Feb. 9 conviction are allowed, said his lawyer, Wen Chao.

A woman who answered the phone at the press office of the court refused to confirm whether a ruling was issued.

Wang, 55, was visiting Hanoi with two other dissidents when they were reported missing in June. He was arrested July 3 after police said they found him in a temple in southern China while they were investigating a kidnapping case. Pro-democracy activists suggest he was abducted in Vietnam by Chinese agents after meeting with Chinese labor activists in Hanoi.

Authorities say Wang ordered an unspecified assassination in 1999 and plotted to blow up China's embassy in Thailand and roads and bridges on the Chinese mainland. It was the first time the government publicly accused Wang of links to specific terrorist acts. Thai officials said they knew of no such plot.

Associated Press