February 18, 1996
Web posted at: 9:45 p.m. EST (0245 GMT)
TOKYO (CNN) -- Japan's neglectful road inspections are to blame for the nation's worst tunnel accident in which 20 people died, Japanese newspapers said Sunday.
"We are always eager to build new roads and railways, but how seriously are we spending our time and money to inspect and repair what we built?" the Nihon Keizan Shimbun questioned in an editorial.
Hokkaido police will look into the possibility of professional negligence, Kyodo News said Sunday. Kyodo News revealed earlier in the week that a similar boulder had fallen from a mountainside in the area 18 months ago. The report suggests that local authorities ignored warning signs of rock instability in the area.
On Saturday, one week after a massive rock crushed the tunnel in northern Japan, 50 soldiers retrieved the badly crushed wreckage of a commuter bus in which the driver and 18 passengers were found. Another body was retrieved from a car.
According to the Construction Ministry, there are 74,000 other Japanese sites where similar disasters could occur.
TEHRAN, Iran (CNN) -- Iran's foreign minister says his country will not remove its death sentence for British writer Salman Rushdie for alleged blasphemy but won't do anything to enforce the policy, either.
"In its negotiations with European countries ... the (Iranian) foreign ministry has stressed the validity of Imam Khomeini's fatwa and the impossibility of its withdrawal," Ali Akbar Velayati told the English-language daily Iran News Sunday
The European Union has called on Iran to abide by international law and drop the death sentence .
Iran's late leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued the fatwa, or religious edict, in February 1989, condemning Rushdie to death for alleged blasphemy against Islam in his novel.
WARSAW, Poland (CNN) -- Poles voted on Sunday in a referendum on privatization of state assets that pits the ideas of the Solidarity trade union against those of ex-Communist rulers. Solidarity says all 4,000 remaining companies plus buildings and other assets in state hands should be assessed and shared with all Poles in the form of free coupons that could be used to obtain land, pensions, homes or shares. Poland's 28 million voters admitted they were confused about the referendum questions, which also deal with wages and the creation of retirement funds. Only 48 percent were expected to vote. A voter turnout of more than 50 percent would make the referendum legally binding. Voting results will be known late Monday or early Tuesday.
BEIJING, China (CNN) -- China ushered in its Lunar New Year or Year of the Rat Sunday, but snow storms stranded thousands of holiday travelers.
More than 1,300 people were stuck at Shanghai airport on the eve of the country's biggest holiday, also known as Spring Festival.
In Beijing, residents gathered in Longtan Park to watch New Year dance shows. Families also flocked to Tiananmen Square to celebrate the festivities.
There were reports Saturday that paramount leader Deng Xiaoping, 91, conveyed Lunar New Year greetings to the Chinese people via President and Communist Party Chief Jiang Zemin.
The Xinhua news agency said Jiang and other leaders had called on Deng and other top Communist Party veterans to offer greetings for the Year of the Rat.
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