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Taiwan: China is spreading false rumors

Taiwan on Saturday accused China of spreading rumors of military confrontation on the Internet and increasing military flights to rattle the island's financial markets.

The Defense Ministry said a Chinese-language Web site registered in the United States but apparently controlled by China posted a false news report Friday that a Taiwanese F-5E fighter jet was downed by a Chinese SU-27.

The report sent Taiwan's stock market index down nearly 2 percent Friday. The Taiwan dollar also went down in an early session but rallied after the Central Bank warned foreign exchange traders not to spread unverified rumors.

"Simply flying the jets over our waterway does not pose a threat to our security," Defense Minister Tang Fei told the state radio. "But we must be wary of the rumors that they spread to sway our public confidence."

Tang said China ceased the flights Friday but renewed them Saturday, indicating its military is not showing restraint despite Washington's call for the two sides to ease tension.

Taiwan's financial markets have been rattled by rumors since Taiwanese President Lee Teng Hui made a bold claim four weeks ago that Taiwan and China operate on a "state-to-state" basis.

China, which claims Taiwan as a renegade province, saw the claim as a step toward independence.

Sierra Leone president

asks for international help

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone _ President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah urged international groups to provide food and medicine to rebel-allied soldiers, who are holding about 30 hostages in a bid for the aid.

Kabbah told journalists that foreign relief organizations should review policies of refusing assistance to armed groups "in this exceptional case."

He said Sierra Leone was hobbled by a recent civil war and doesn't have the resources to help the rebels or their allies _ the soldiers who remain loyal to Sierra Leone's ousted military junta.

"This incident is a clear reflection of the need for international assistance to Sierra Leone since the reason stated for the abduction is the inability of the government to provide food and other relief materials," Kabbah said.

The kidnappers are demanding food and other aid as a key condition for the release of the U.N. employees, aid workers, West African intervention force soldiers and journalists who were kidnapped Wednesday in the Okra Hills, outside Freetown.

Another demand of the kidnappers was met Saturday when rebels released former junta leader Johnny Paul Koroma, a U.N. official told the Associated Press on condition of anonymity. His release could not be independently confirmed.

Black man takes over

S. Africa's central bank

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa _ A black man assumed control of South Africa's all-important central bank, moving forward the country's transformation from a white-dominated land to a multiracial society.

Tito Mboweni, a former labor minister, becomes Reserve Bank governor while most of South Africa's majority blacks remain mired in poverty five years after apartheid collapsed.

The bank is under pressure to take major measures to spur economic growth, such as printing more money and extending more loans to small businesses.

But the 40-year-old Mboweni promises instead to pursue stability, saying his flashy clothes will be the only jarring thing that will mark his ascendancy.

"Don't expect any earth-shattering things," Mboweni told reporters. "But there will be a shock when I come in to the bank in a yellow shirt and tie."

Elsewhere . . .

SOUTH KOREAN DISSIDENTS: Flouting government threats, five South Korean dissidents traveled to North Korea to promote unification of the two Koreas and were given a hero's welcome by a large crowd, said the North's official Korean Central News Agency. Ra Chang Sun, vice chairman of his country's chapter of the National Alliance for the Country's Reunification, made the trip with four other South Koreans to attend a festival marking the Aug. 15 anniversary of Korea's 1945 liberation from Japanese colonial rule. South Korea said it will arrest the dissidents if they return home.

CLASHES IN CONGO: Ugandan soldiers clashed with Congolese rebels in a northern Congo River port, forcing two nearby airports to close and sending panicked residents into hiding from stray bullets and mortar shells. At least seven Ugandan soldiers were reported killed in fighting outside Kisangani's three central hotels. The Ugandans apparently were trying to force a group of rebels to allow Ernest Wamba dia Wamba, a leader of a splinter rebel group backed by Uganda, to pass through town, witnesses said.

MEXICAN POLITICS: Mexico's main leftist opposition party inaugurated Sen. Amalia Garcia as its national committee chairwoman, making her the first female politician to head a major political party in Mexico. Garcia won 55.5 percent of the vote in the Democratic Revolution Party's July 25 election.

VIOLENCE IN INDONESIA: Hundreds of students protesting Indonesia's handling of ethnic violence clashed with police during President B.J. Habibie's visit to West Java province, witnesses said. Several students were injured when officers used batons to stop demonstrators from forcing their way into a school where Habibie was attending a graduation.

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