Foreign Affairs

Foreign Affairs
United Nations
Photo Gallery
Advertise with Us
Contact Us






Masked gunmen kill 21 Shiites in Iraq

BAGHDAD, June 5: Masked gunmen stopped two minivans carrying students north of Baghdad Sunday, ordered the passengers off, separated Shiites from Sunni Arabs, and killed the 21 Shiites "in the name of Islam," a witness said.

In predominantly Shiite southern Basra, police hunting for militants stormed a Sunni Arab mosque early Sunday, just hours after a car bombing. The ensuing firefight killed nine.

The two attacks dealt a blow to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's pledge to curb sectarian violence. He again failed to reach consensus Sunday among Iraq's ethnic and sectarian parties on candidates for interior and defense minister - posts he must fill to implement his ambitious plan to take control of Iraq's security from US-led forces within 18 months.

Violence linked to Shiite and Sunni Arab animosity has grown increasingly worse since February 22, when bombs ravaged the golden dome of a revered Shiite mosque in predominantly Sunni Arab Samarra.

Sectarian tensions have run particularly high in Baghdad, Basra and Diyala province, a mixed Sunni Arab-Shiite region. And Sunday's attacks came just days after terrorist mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi renewed his call for Sunni Arabs to take up arms against Shiites, whom he often vilifies as infidels.

On Monday, gunmen in a car killed two Sunni brothers as they were driving to college in the religiously mixed neighborhood of Sadiyah in southwestern Baghdad, police Lt. Maitham Abdul Razzaq said. The victims, Ahmed and Arkan Sarhan, were in their early 20s. Iraqi police also found the blindfolded and bound body of a man who had been shot in the head and chest elsewhere in the capital, Razzaq said.

In the minibus ambush Sunday, a car and an SUV stopped the vehicles near the town of Qara Tappah, about 75 miles northeast of Baghdad and near Diyala province, electrician Haqi Ismail said. Ismail said he had been driving his pickup truck behind the vans and was stopped, too. About 15 masked men wearing traditional robes known as a dishdashas forced everyone out of the vehicles, he said.

"They asked us to show our IDs, and then instructed us to stand in a line, separating the Sunni from the Shiite due to the IDs and also due to the faces," said Ismail, a Shiite Kurd. He said the gunmen ordered the Shiites to lie down and before they opened fire and one shouted, "On behalf of Islam, today we will dig a mass grave for you. You are traitors." Ismail said he was injured but did not move. "One of the gunmen kicked me to be sure that I was dead," he said, speaking from his hospital bed in Sulaimaniyah, north of Qara Tappah.

Two of the victims were high school students, ages 17 and 18, and nine were students at al-Yarmouk University in Baqouba, ages 21-22, said Qara Tappah's mayor, Serwan Shokir. The rest were men in their mid-to-late 30s, who worked as laborers or for the power company, the mayor said.

The Basra violence - the car bomb Saturday and mosque raid early Sunday - came days after al-Maliki declared a state of emergency in the city, vowing to crack down with an "iron fist" on gangs fighting for power.

Basra police surrounded the al-Arab mosque just after midnight Saturday, tipped off that militants holed up inside had opened fire. Also, Iraqi forces had found two vehicles packed with explosives near the mosque, similar to the car bomb used to attack a crowded market, killing 28 people and wounding 62. Police and gunmen exchanged fire, killing nine people. Police they arrested six terror suspects, adding that part of the mosque was damaged and burned. A hard-line Sunni organization in Basra, the influential Sunni Arab Association of Muslim Scholars, said the nine people killed had come to the mosque to protect it.

Canada nabs 17 terror suspects in Toronto

TORONTO, June 3: Canadian police foiled a homegrown terrorist attack by arresting 17 suspects, apparently inspired by al-Qaida, who obtained three times the amount of an explosive ingredient used in the Oklahoma City bombing, officials said Saturday.

The FBI said the Canadian suspects may have had "limited contact" with two men recently arrested on terrorism charges in Georgia. About 400 regional police and federal agents participated in the arrests Friday and early Saturday.

"These individuals were allegedly intent on committing acts of terrorism against their own country and their own people," Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in a statement. "As we have said on many occasions, Canada is not immune to the threat of terrorism."

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police arrested 12 adult suspects, ages 43 to 19, and five suspects younger than 18 on terrorism charges including plotting attacks with explosives on Canadian targets. The suspects were either citizens or residents of Canada and had trained together, police said.

The group acquired three tons of ammonium nitrate - three times the amount used to blow up the Murrah Federal Building on April 19, 1995, in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people and injured more than 800, said assistant Royal Canadian Mounted Police commissioner Mike McDonell. The fertilizer can be mixed with fuel oil or other ingredients to make a bomb.

"This group posed a real and serious threat," McDonell said. "It had the capacity and intent to carry out these attacks." Luc Portelance, assistant director of operations with Canada's spy agency, CSIS, said the suspects "appeared to have become adherents of a violent ideology inspired by al-Qaida" but that investigators have yet to prove a link to the terror network. Five of the suspects were led in handcuffs Saturday to the Ontario Court of Justice, which was surrounded by snipers and bomb-sniffing dogs. A judge told the men not to communicate with one another and set their first bail hearing for Tuesday.

Alvin Chand, a brother of suspect Steven Vikash Chand, said outside the courthouse that his brother was innocent and authorities "just want to show they're doing something."
"He's not a terrorist, come on. He's a Canadian citizen," Chand said. "The people that were arrested are good people, they go to the mosque, they go to school, go to college."

FBI Special Agent Richard Kolko said in Washington there may have been a connection between the Canadian suspects and a Georgia Tech student and another American who had traveled to Canada to meet with Islamic extremists to discuss locations for a terrorist strike. Syed Haris Ahmed and Ehsanul Islam Sadequee, U.S. citizens who grew up in the Atlanta area, were arrested in March.

Officials at the news conference displayed purported bomb-making materials including a red cell phone wired to what appeared to be an explosives detonator inside a black toolbox. Also shown were a computer hard drive, camouflage uniforms, flashlights and walkie-talkies. A flimsy white door riddled with bullet holes was on display but no details about it were available.

According to a report Saturday in The Toronto Star citing unidentified police sources, the suspects attended a terrorist training camp north of Toronto and had plotted to attack the Canadian spy agency's downtown Toronto office, among other targets in Ontario province. Authorities refused to confirm those reports.

The suspects lived in either Toronto, Canada's financial capital and largest city, or the nearby cities of Mississauga or Kingston. Also at the court hearing was Aly Hindy, an imam of an Islamic center that houses a school and a mosque and has been monitored by security agencies for years. He said he knows nine of the suspects and that Muslims once again were being falsely accused.

"It's not terrorism. It could be some criminal activity with a few guys, that's all," said Hindy. "We are the ones always accused. Somebody fakes a document and they are an international terrorist forging documents for al-Qaida."

Galati, lawyer for two suspects from Mississauga, said his client Ahmad Ghany, 21, is a health sciences graduate from McMaster University in Hamilton. He was born in Canada, the son of a medical doctor who emigrated from Trinidad and Tobago.

Shareef Abdelhaleen, 30, is a computer programmer who emigrated from Egypt 20 years ago with his father, now an engineer with a nuclear utilities services company, the lawyer said.
The charges came under Canada's Anti-Terrorism Act, which was passed shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks - and after

Osama bin Laden named Canada as one of five "Christian" nations that should be terror targets. The other countries - the U.S., Britain, Spain and Australia - have all been targeted. Portelance, of Canada's spy agency, said it was the nation's largest counterterrorism operation since the adoption of the act and that more arrests were possible.

The adult suspects from Toronto are Chand, alias Abdul Shakur, 25; Fahim Ahmad, 21; Jahmaal James, 23; and Asin Mohamed Durrani, 19. Those from Mississauga are Ghany; Abdelhaleen; Zakaria Amara, 20; Asad Ansari, 21; Saad Khalid, 19; and Qayyum Abdul Jamal, 43. Mohammed Dirie, 22, and Yasim Abdi Mohamed, 24, are from Kingston

6 nations agree on Iran incentives

VIENNA, June 2: The U.S. and five other world powers have an offer they say Iran can't refuse - if it knows what's best for it. The six nations on Thursday came up with incentives they hope will persuade Tehran to stop suspect nuclear activities, but made it clear that Iran risks U.N. sanctions if it rejects the package.

"There are two paths ahead," British Foreign Secretary Margaret Becket said in announcing the proposals put together by the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China.

The package would be on the table for a proposed new round of bargaining with Tehran over what the West calls a rogue nuclear program that could produce a bomb. The US, in a major policy shift, agreed this week to join those talks under certain conditions. It would be the first major public negotiations between the adversaries in more than a quarter century.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met with the foreign ministers from the European nations that led talks with Iran that stalled last year. Also present were representatives of Russia and China, which have been Tehran's trading partners and might join in any future talks with Iran. Since Russia and China hold vetoes in the UN Security Council, the US needs their cooperation to seek sanctions or other harsh measures by that body.

"We are very satisfied by the results of today's meetings here in Vienna," U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns told reporters. "We consider them a step forward in our quest to deny Iran nuclear weapons capability."

A short statement issued by foreign ministers from the six powers and the European Union did not mention economic sanctions - the punishment or deterrent favored by the United States and that Iran has tried hard to avoid. The powers agreed privately, however, that Iran could face tough Security Council sanctions if it fails to give up the enrichment of uranium and other disputed nuclear activities, U.S. officials said.

Diplomats feared Iran would immediately reject any invitation to bargain if the threat of sanctions was explicit, officials involved in the discussions said on condition of anonymity because the seven-party negotiations were private. The foreign ministers' statement threatens unspecified "further steps" in the Security Council.

The group's statement also contained no details of the incentives to be offered to Iran in the coming days. Diplomats previously have said the package includes help developing legitimate nuclear power plants and various economic benefits.

Relentless violence kills 54 in Iraq

BAGHDAD, May 31: Car bombs targeting Shiite areas devastated a bustling outdoor market and an auto dealership Tuesday, part of a relentless onslaught that killed 54 people and prompted the United States to deploy more troops to combat insurgents in western Iraq.

The bombs also wounded 120 people, officials said. The death toll made Tuesday one of the bloodiest days in Iraq this month, and lawmakers still had not agreed on who should lead the nation's army and police forces.

Authorities also captured a suspected terrorist who allegedly confessed to beheading hundreds of people. The operation by Iraqi forces also netted documents, cell phones and computers containing information on other wanted terrorists and Islamic extremist groups.

The worst bombing hit the outdoor market as Iraqis were doing their evening shopping in Husseiniyah, about 60 miles north of Baghdad. At least 25 people were killed and 65 were wounded, Interior Ministry spokesman Lt. Col. Falah Al-Mohamedawi said.

Hours earlier, a car packed with explosives blew up at a dealership in the largely Shiite city of Hillah, about 60 miles south of Baghdad, killing at least 12 people and wounding 32, Capt. Muthana Khalid said.

A bomb hidden in a plastic bag also detonated outside a bakery in a religiously mixed neighborhood in eastern Baghdad, killing at least nine people and injuring 10, police Lt. Col. Falah al-Mohammedawi said.

Separately, mortar rounds fired by remote control from a car hit the third floor of the heavily guarded Interior Ministry and a nearby park, killing two government employees and wounding three other people.

A day earlier, 40 people were killed in various attacks, including a car bombing in Baghdad that killed two CBS News crewmen and seriously wounded network correspondent Kimberly Dozier. She underwent two emergency surgeries and was transferred to a U.S. military hospital in Germany, where she was reported to be in critical but stable condition.

CBS News reported that Dozier briefly regained consciousness on the flight to Germany. Vice President Sandy Genelius said Tuesday night that Dozier was expected to stay at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center for several days.

Before Tuesday, at least 4,066 Iraqis had been killed in war-related violence this year, and at least 4,469 had been wounded, based on Associated Press reports. Those may not be complete, however.

During May, at least 871 Iraqis have been killed, surpassing the 801 killed in April. The deadliest month this year for Iraqis was March, when 1,038 were killed and 1,155 were wounded.
The deadliest day for Iraqis this month was May 7, when at least 67 civilians were killed.

Amid the surge in violence, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki held another day of meetings aimed at getting Iraq's ethnic, sectarian and secular factions to agree on new interior and defense ministers. But the key security posts remained vacant 10 days after al-Maliki's national unity government took office.

The Interior Ministry, which controls the police forces, has been promised to the Shiites. Sunni Arabs are to get the defense ministry, overseeing the army. It is hoped the balance will enable al-Maliki to move ahead with a plan for Iraqis to take over all security duties over the next 18 months so U.S.-led troops can begin withdrawing.

Al-Maliki told the British Broadcasting Corp. his government had a better chance of suppressing the violence than his predecessors because it is the nation's first permanent government since Saddam Hussein fell. "Previous governments were either temporary or transitional. They did not receive full backing from the Iraqi people to deal with this issue," he told the BBC.

In the meantime, U.S. military commanders have moved about 1,500 combat troops from a reserve force in Kuwait into the volatile Anbar province to help authorities establish order in the insurgent hotbed stretching from Baghdad west to Syria.

India backs dialogue on Iran

NEW DELHI, May 31: Calling for a 'revitalisation' of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), India has stressed on a resolution of Iran's nuclear row within the ambit of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) through dialogue and consensus.

Participating in a debate on Iran's controversial nuclear programme at a meeting of the NAM foreign ministers in the Malaysian city of Putrajaya, the Minister of State for External Affairs, Mr Anand Sharma, said that despite a lack of clear consensus on the Iranian issue, New Delhi was keen that it should be resolved within the ambit of IAEA without any Security Council action.

Even as the issue was vigorously debated and an effort was made to find a consensus in the 114-nation grouping, NAM chairman and Malaysian Premier Abdullah Ahmad Badawi stressed that the movement would defend the basic right of all signatories of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to develop nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.

In his intervention at the general debate of the ministerial meeting of NAM, Mr Sharma called for rejuvenation of the grouping and reasserted the relevance of what was described as 'the largest peace movement in the world'.

'It is only through such action that the NAM can be revitalised and can thereby contribute in practice to a more just international order,' he said.

The foreign ministers' meet comes ahead of the 14th NAM summit in Havana in September this year.

Arguing for an expansion of the Security Council, Sharma said the 'General Assembly revitalisation does not mean leaving UN Security Council encroachment unchallenged and untouched'. Making a case for the 'reform of Bretton Woods Institutions and the World Trade Organization (WTO),' Sharma said: 'This is a political task requiring the solidarity in action of the NAM.'

The two-day NAM ministerial meeting concluded on Tuesday evening with the delegates adopting four documents -- the final document, the Putrajaya declaration, and two separate statements on Iran's nuclear issues and Palestine. In the final document, ministers of the NAM countries expressed their views on topics ranging from global, regional and sub-regional political issues to development and human rights.

Sections devoted to the issues of Palestine and West Sahara, which need further discussions and tuning-up, will be forwarded to the 14th conference of the heads of states of the NAM, said Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar at a press conference after the closing ceremony.

The Putrajaya declaration called on the member countries of the NAM to give high priority to human capital development, stressing the importance of formulating national policies in this area.

Foreign ministers expressed their 'deep concern over the intensifying hardships faced by the Palestinians' as a result of the aid freezing by some members of the international community and urged NAM countries to give urgent economic and financial assistance to the Palestinian people, said the statement.

On Iran's nuclear issue, the ministers encouraged Iran to 'urgently continue to cooperate actively and fully with the IAEA' in order to resolve the outstanding issue.

Meanwhile, the NAM ministers reaffirmed their stance that all nations should have 'basic and inalienable rights' to develop research, production and use atomic energy for peaceful purposes, by saying that any attacks or threat of attacks against peaceful nuclear facilities pose a great danger to man and environment.

About 90 members countries sent delegations, 74 of which at ministerial or deputy ministerial level, to attend the meeting in the Malaysian administrative centre of Putrajaya. With two new members, namely, Dominica and Antigua as well as Barbuda, accepted Monday, the 45-year-old movement now has 116 members. Egypt will host the 15th NAM Summit in the year 2009, said Syed at the news conference.

Terrorism should not be justified on any ground: India

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, May 30: Terming terrorism as a gross violation of human rights, India has said that NAM should ensure that the scourge is not condoned or justified on any grounds - political, religious, ethnic or any other.

"It should be recognised that terrorism is a fundamental and gross violation of human rights, in particular the most fundamental right the right to life," according to Mr Anand Sharma, Minister of State for External Affairs.

Intervening during a general debate at the Non-Aligned Movement Ministerial meeting in Putrajaya, Malaysia, Mr Sharma said it should be ensured that the global fight against terrorism is not restricted to a group or a region and that it is comprehensive and sustained.

The two-day NAM Ministerial Meeting is being held as a precursor to the NAM summit to be hosted by Cuba later this year. Malaysia is the current NAM chairman. "The fight must be directed not only against the terrorists, but also against those who sponsor, abet or support them," he said.

Mr Sharma said that there was an urgent need for terrorism to be accorded high priority on the international agenda and for the members of the Movement to be at the forefront of combating this menace. "We should equip outselves to better address this threat. The Movement should ensure that terrorism is not condoned or justified on any ground whatsoever: political, religious, ethnic or any other."

Meanwhile, Dominica and Antigua and Barbuda have been admitted as full members of the Non-Aligned Movement, taking the number of countries in the grouping to 116. Dominica's head of delegation Crispin S Gregoire said the acceptance into NAM was a great honour for it. "Even though we are only a small country, we have been in the United Nations since 1978, after our independence from Great Britain. Today, we join the world community, the committee of developing nations, which is a great honour for our country," he said.

He said Dominica, the largest and most mountainous of the Windward Islands in the Caribbean archipelago, submitted its application a few months ago to Malaysia, the Chair of the NAM.
The matter was later discussed in New York and unanimously adopted and Monday's announcement was the formalisation of Dominica's entry as a full member of the grouping.
Antigua and Barbuda also welcomed its acceptance into the grouping. The country is located between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, with a population of 69,000.

I learnt about Kargil invasion from Vajpayee: Nawaz Sharif

LONDON, May 29: Squarely blaming Gen Musharraf for the "misadventure" for which he would like the military ruler to be tried, former Pak Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif disclosed that it was from an urgent call from Vajpayee that he first learnt about the invasion of Kargil by Pakistani troops.

"Mr Prime Minister, what is happening" in Kargil, an indignant Vajpayee asked him over telephone in May 1999, according to the 56-year-old Pakistani leader who said that he had got to know about the Kargil operation only then.

While speaking to the news agency in London, Nawaz Sharif who is living abroad in exile for over six years said, almost all Pakistani Corps Commanders were also unaware of the "ill-conceived, ill-planned and ill-executed misadventure" of Musharraf and "just two or three of his cronies."

The recent revelation came days after he and another former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto came together and pledged to topple Musharraf. Through the Kargil operation Musharraf, the then Chief of the Army Staff, had "sabotaged" the understanding reached by him with Vajpayee at Lahore to resolve all Indo-Pak problems including Kashmir, Sharif said.

Earlier a 36-point Charter of Democracy signed on 14th May by Sharif and Bhutto for restoration of democracy in Pakistan includes a proposal to set up a Commission to fix responsibility for Kargil and identify causes that led to it.

Those involved would have to be brought to book, Sharif asserted, after saying that a high-level Commission, "something higher than a Judicial Commission" would be set up by a democratic government to go into the Kargil episode.

Does that mean that Musharraf could face trial? "It is very clear. The clause (in the Charter) says that the Commission will fix responsibility and then (those found guilty) would conceivably face trial", the former Pakistani Prime Minister said.

Sharif cannot forgive Musharraf for Kargil because that had brought India and Pakistan very close to a war. "The Indians could have done anything at that time because they were attacked without any rhyme or reason", he said.

Recalling his frantic 4th July 1999 meeting with President Bill Clinton in Washington, Sharif said he had sought the US leader's good offices to resolve the matter amicably. However he refused to say whether Musharraf had pleaded with him to rush to Washington as Indians were beating back the Pakistani intruders. Further Sharif sees Musharraf as a "very impulsive man, erratic in his behaviour and not a very stable person".

Voicing his disgruntle over the current relations between the two countries, Sharif said, "India should not be doing business with any usurper or a military dictator... India should condemn such (military) takeovers whether in Pakistan or elsewhere."

By inviting Musharraf to the Agra Summit India had conferred legitimacy on the General. "To me it amounted to recognising a military dictator although his rule is still unconstitutional, unlawful and immoral. Why should you talk to a man like that", the Pakistani leader asked.

Nonetheless is he happy with the Indo-Pak peace process? "Well, the foundation of all these were laid when I was the Prime Minister. Mr Vajpayee was very kind to visit Pakistan and the foundation was laid then by us. Things started moving then. But, of course, the Kargil episode came in between", he replied.

A very good opportunity for resolving Indo-Pak issues was thus missed, rues Sharif, describing the Lahore Declaration signed by Vajpayee and him as a "tremendous opportunity" which was sabotaged by Musharraf's Kargil misadventure.

Asked if the General had done so because he did not support the Lahore Declaration, Sharif replied, "No. I think Musharraf and his cronies had some obsession about it (Kargil) for a long time".

Dismissing the Musharraf's solutions to the Kashmir issue as "wild ideas" such as demilitarization and joint control Sharif said "Solutions are not given in Television interviews. Musharraf does not know what diplomacy means."

Such ideas, he emphasized, are first discussed at proper forums. "You do not give wild ideas in the Press and say that you have given solutions and the other side is not responding", he said, adding that Musharraf was "immature". Sharif, who claims Kashmiri ancestry, said that while the Indo-Pak Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) were welcome, Kashmir also had to be resolved, to the satisfaction of India.

Further Benazir Bhutto, Chairperson of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Sharif, leader of the Pakistan Muslim League (N), have both announced that they will go to Pakistan to participate in the next year's National Assembly elections to which Musharraf responded by declaring that they would be arrested and tried.

Rejecting these as "empty threats", Sharif said that they were not deterred or worried by what the General had stated. He described Musharraf as a "traitor" who had subverted the Constitution.

Asked about the reports that the General might get himself re-elected as the President by the current National Assembly, Sharif said that he was not eligible to contest because he was still wearing the Army uniform. If he made any such move it would be gross violation of the Constitution and political parties would launch "a very effective movement" against him.

India, Pak fail to make breakthrough on Siachen

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, May 24: India and Pakistan have failed to reach any agreement on demilitarisation of the Siachen Glacier as 'differences' continued to persist on authentication of positions held by the armed forces of the two sides on the world's highest battlefield at 22,000 ft.

"There has been no breakthrough. We have agreed to continue talking," Mr Pranab Mukherjee, Defence Minister, told newsmen on the sidelines of a national seminar on "Enhancing combat potential through indigenisation and modernisation".

India and Pakistan on Tuesday began two days of Defence Secretary level talks on demilitarisation of Siachen Glacier, where the Indian and Pakistani armed forces have been observing a ceasefire since 2003.

The Pakistani side "is not agreeing to the proposal for authentication of positions (held by the Indian and Pakistani forces) for quite some time and this is the area of difference which can continue...In this round of discussions, we could not make a breakthrough," said Mr Mukherjee.

The Indian side made it clear to their Pakistani counterparts that New Delhi could not "risk disengagement" unless there is acceptance of "the principle of mutual authentication".
Islamabad again expressed its unease with authentication of ground positions on the Siachen glacier, as it believes such an exercise would legitimise New Delhi's occupation of the strategic glacier in 1984.

Both sides have, however, agreed that they will stay engaged to end their over-two-decades-old conflict over the 76-km long glacier. It was not just modalities of withdrawal, there has so far been no mutual acceptance of the process of disengagement itself.

There are also differences over how both sides will affect their troop withdrawals, with both countries weighing what is strategically most advantageous to them. New Delhi has emphasised that ease of access should be considered while determining positions to withdraw troops from, particularly in the Saltoro range area. India also underlined the need for "well-laid out procedures for an effective and comprehensive" surveillance and monitoring mechanism that must accompany the disengagement process.

The Indian side for the 10th round of talks was led by Mr Shekhar Dutt, Defence Secretary and included Mr Shivshankar Menon, Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan; Mr Akhil Kumar Jain, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Defence; Lt Gen Madan Gopal, Director General Military Operations, Army Headquarters; Lt Gen Mohan Pandey, Director General Military Operations (designate), Army Headquarters; Mr Bimal Julka, Joint Secretary (G), Ministry of Defence; Mr Dilip Sinha, Joint Secretary (PAI), Ministry of External Affairs; Mr Debnath Shaw, Joint Secretary (Planning and International Cooperation), Ministry of Defence, Major Gen Mukesh Sabharwal, Additional Director General Military Operations (A), Army Headquarters; Maj Gen MJS Virk, Additional Director General Military Survey, Army Headquarters and Brig Rajinder Singh, Military Attache to Indian High Commissioner at Islamabad.

The Pakistani side was be led by Lt Gen (Retd) Tariq Waseem Ghazi, Secretary Defence; Mr Aziz Ahmad Khan, High Commissioner of Pakistan in India; Maj Gen (Retd) Muhammad Ashraf Chaudhry, Additional Secretary Defence, Maj Gen Bilal Umar Khan, Joint Staff Officer Headquarters; Maj Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha, DGMO; Mr. Afrasiab, Deputy High Commissioner, Pakistan High Commission; Brig Javed Sultan Khan, Defence Attache, Pakistan High Commission; Brig Nasir Khan Janjua, DMO, Maj (Retd) Syed Haider Mehdi Jamal, Deputy Surveyor General Mr. Zaheer A Janjua, Director (India), Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Mr M Syrus Sajjad Qazi, First Secretary, Pak High Commission, Maj Ejaz Ahmed, Staff Officer to Secretary Defence and Mr Muhammad Khalid Jamali, First Secretary, Pak High Commission.

Bin Laden claims lead role in 9/11 attacks

AMMAN, May 24: Al-Qaeda terrorist network leader Osama bin Laden said in an audiotape broadcast by the Al Jazeera satellite channel that he himself had assigned 19 people for the September 11, 2001, attacks in the US.

"In fact, brother Zacarias Moussaoui has no connection whatever with the September 11 operation," Osama bin Laden said in the audiotape that Al Jazeera Tuesday reported was posted on a website. "I am the man responsible for the recruitment of the 19 people who carried out the attacks, and I did not assign any task to Moussaoui," he added.

Moussaoui was recently sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole, sparing him the death penalty by a US jury. Osama bin Laden contended that Moussaoui's confession to having a role in the September 11 attacks was "null and void, because it was extracted under pressure".

"Moussaoui was arrested two weeks before the September events, and if he knew anything about (the operation), we should have told (9/11 ringleader) Mohammed Atta and his brothers to leave the US at once," the Al-Qaeda chief said.

Bombings Near Baghdad Airport Kill 14

BAGHDAD, May 15: A pair of suicide car bombers killed 14 people Sunday in the biggest insurgent assault in months on the main road to Baghdad's airport, and other attacks killed a dozen more Iraqis and two American soldiers elsewhere in the capital.

A weekend of stepped-up violence across Iraq, which included six attacks on small Shiite Muslim shrines and the bombing deaths of two British soldiers near recently restive Basra late Saturday, came as politicians again failed to agree on a new Cabinet.

There had been hope that Prime Minister-designate Nouri al-Maliki would fill at least some Cabinet posts when parliament convened Sunday in Baghdad's heavily guarded Green Zone, perhaps even taking on for himself contentious roles such as the interior and defense ministries.

Al-Maliki's mandate to form a Cabinet expires May 22. Should he fail to do so, President Jalal Talabani would have 15 days to name a new nominee to try to form a Cabinet. The constitution is unclear on whether he could pick al-Maliki again. Lawmakers have struggled since December 15 parliamentary elections to put together a national unity government, which many Iraqis and the U.S. government hope will lessen sectarian tensions and undermine support for the Sunni Arab-dominated insurgency.

The negotiations have bogged down in squabbles over the allocation of key Cabinet jobs, unable to bridge sectarian and political divisions. As the 275-member parliament convened, a party loyal to firebrand Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr threatened to propose its own Cabinet list if other groups did not scale back their demands for roles in the new government.

Legislator Bahaa al-Araji of the United Iraqi Alliance denounced what he called U.S. meddling in the talks and set a deadline of two days to settle the matter. But the Shiite bloc has only 130 parliament members, which isn't enough votes to seat a Cabinet. A coalition of three Sunni Arab parties holding 44 seats warned that it would withdraw from the political process if it did not get at least one key post such as the Defense Ministry.

That threat came several days after Shiite party with 15 lawmakers pulled out of the Cabinet talks because it was not given the Oil Ministry.

Iraq unity talks set back; 4 Marines die

BAGHDAD, April 17: Efforts to form a unity government suffered a new setback Sunday when Iraqi leaders postponed a parliament session after failing to agree on a prime minister. Bombs targeted Shiites near a mosque and on a bus as attacks nationwide killed at least 35 people.Four more Marines were reported killed in fighting west of Baghdad, bringing the U.S. death toll for this month to 47 - compared with 31 for all of March.

US officials believe the best way to stem the violence is for the Iraqis to establish a government comprising Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds, paving the way for the United States to start withdrawing its 133,000 troops. But progress has stalled over Sunni and Kurdish opposition to the Shiite choice of Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari to head the new government. With al-Jaafari refusing to step aside, acting speaker Adnan Pachachi called a parliament session for Monday, hoping the full legislature could agree on a new leadership after the politicians failed.

On the eve of the session, Pachachi announced a delay of "a few days" to give the religiously and ethnically based parties more time to agree on the new prime minister, president and five other top posts that require parliamentary approval. Before the announcement, Shiite official Hussain al-Shahristani told Sunni and Kurdish leaders that his bloc, which controls 130 of the 275 parliament seats, would decide what to do about al-Jaafari "within the coming two days," Kurdish lawmaker Mahmoud Othman said. Majority Shiites have been giving similar assurances for the past two weeks, and it was unclear how soon the issue could be settled.

Voters chose the new parliament on Dec. 15, but the legislature met briefly only once last month. The bitter fight over al-Jaafari has heightened friction among the rival parties, raising the specter of deadlock over other top jobs. Pressure has been mounting on the Shiites to replace al-Jaafari, whom critics accuse of failing to curb sectarian tension that has soared since the Feb. 22 bombing of a Shiite shrine in Samarra, which triggered a wave of reprisal attacks against Sunnis.

Shiite politicians not affiliated with major parties have proposed that al-Jaafari step aside in favor of another candidate from his Dawa party. However, Dawa leaders complained of interference by outsiders and insisted they should decide al-Jaafari's fate, according to several Shiite officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because the negotiations were at a sensitive stage.

Nepal unrest leaves eight million students in the lurch

KATHMANDU, April 17: Nearly eight million students are being held to ransom by a raging turmoil in Nepal that has shut down the kingdom - and 40,000 schools nationwide -for the last 12 days.

Though the new school session in Nepal started Sunday, nearly 10,000 private and 30,000 government schools across the nation have remained closed. The anti-government protests that erupted on April 6 continue, shutting down transport, closing shops and markets and disrupting essential supplies.

"The situation is extremely volatile," said Umesh Chandra Shrestha, president of PABSON (Private Association of Boarding Schools of Nepal). "There is no transport and there are no supplies. We have decided not to open schools and high schools till things return to normal."

Besides the schools affiliated to the Nepali school board, the strike has also affected foreign schools following a different curriculum. These include India's Kendriya Vidyalaya, and the British, American and French schools in Kathmandu.

Though Unicef last week issued an appeal, asking that students be enabled to go to school unhindered, it has fallen on deaf ears. Shrestha said he did not think normalcy would return soon. "It would take another 8 to 10 days," he said. "Either King Gyanendra would have to take stronger measures or bend and begin talks with the opposition parties."

Though the feud between Nepal's royal family and political parties goes back to the 1950s, things took the worst turn ever after King Gyanendra assumed absolute power last year, sacking prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, jailing opposition leaders and imposing a state of emergency with the suspension of civil rights.

Seven major parties allied to fight for the restoration of democracy. The battle gained momentum this month when they began a nationwide shutdown from April 6 with the ""moral support" of the Maoist insurgents, the third key political force in the kingdom.

The parties have vowed to continue their shutdown till the king steps down as chairman of the council of ministers, a position not found in the constitution. "The king has to dissolve his cabinet first," said Gopal Man Shrestha, senior leader of Deuba's Nepali Congress-Democratic party.

"Then either the House of Representatives (the lower house of parliament) has to be restored or an interim government formed. Only then will we consider withdrawing our agitation." Dozens of schooldays are lost in Nepal due to strikes and violence by Maoist guerrillas, who frequently force students to attend their indoctrination programmes and try to recruit them.

Even when the opposition agitation ends, a second threat hangs over Nepal's schools. The Maoists have warned they would oppose the "nationalistic curriculum" being mulled by the royalist government. They allege it is a bid to brainwash youngsters into obeying the royal family blindly and want to implement their own "people's education". However, critics say that is a disguised recruitment bid.

India, US push for democracy in Nepal

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, April 13: Deeply concerned at the steady escalation of violence and unrest in Nepal, India and the United States have condemned repressive measures against protesters and asked King Gyanendra to restore democracy immediately and begin a dialogue with Nepal's Constitutional political parties.

In a clear indication that New Delhi is fast running out of patience with the king's diversionary tactics, a spokesman of the Ministry of External Affairs, Mr Navtej Sarna said: "The resort to repressive measures by the government in Nepal can only undermine prospects for this process of (dialogue and reconciliation). We are deeply concerned over the turn of events which have undermined political stability and have also seriously affected the economy of Nepal.

The spokesman hoped that in view of the seriousness of the situation "a genuine effort will be made by His Majesty's Government of Nepal to initiate a dialogue with the political parties at the earliest."

A spokesman of the US Department of State, Sean Mccormack, called upon the King to restore democracy immediately and to begin a dialogue with Nepal's Constitutional political parties. "It is time the King recognizes that this is the best way to deal with the Maoist insurgency and to return peace and prosperity to Nepal."

Mccormack said "As a friend of Nepal, we must state that King Gyanendra's decision fourteen months ago to impose direct palace rule in Nepal has failed in every regard. The demonstrations, deaths, arrests, and Maoist attacks in the past few days have shown there is more insecurity, not less. The King's continuing failure to bring the parties back into a process to restore democracy has compounded the problem."

Underlining the point that a "purely military solution" to the current political crisis is not feasible, New Delhi asked all parties concerned to "seek a political solution which is based on the principle of multi-party democracy".

India also disapproved the violent methods used by the Maoists and asked them to work for a "political solution" to the crisis. "The Maoist movement must abandon the use of violence as a political instrument and commit itself to the principles of democracy thereby creating conditions for joining the political mainstream," Mr Sarna said in response to another question on the Maoist violence.

Whatever backing the Nepalese monarchy may have enjoyed in the past in India is fast dwindling. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and even the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, which were known to oppose any drastic action against the King on the ground that the Nepalese King is the world's only Hindu monarch, are now having a rethink.

Writing in the latest edition of the RSS mouthpiece The Organiser, Mr Brajesh Mishra, the former Indian national security adviser, said: "You're digging the grave of the monarchy. You need to step back for the sake of your heirs and for the sake of your country."

In a sign that across-the-party consensus is emerging in the country on taking decisive action in Nepal, the Communist Party of India-Marxist leader, Mr Sitaram Yechury, met the Prime Minister, Dr Manhohan Singh, on Tuesday and urged him to use the government's "good offices to ensure the early restoration of democracy in Nepal".

Karzai inaugurates 'Festival of Afghanistan'

NEW DELHI, April 11: Exquisite Afghan handicrafts, stones and woodwork can be seen and the cuisine of the country tasted here for six days, thanks to the first ever Afghan festival which is being held here. 'The Festival of Afghanistan', showcasing the culture, cuisine and handicrafts of the country, was inaugurated by Afghan President Hamid Karzai here on Tuesday.

The festival brings together under one roof specials like Kandari and Ghazni stones, Aisha Aziz's Afghan stones, silk Chapans (Afghan jackets), clothings by Sara Afghan, Hanifa and Nasima's silk scarves and pottery. Images of centuries old Bamiyan Buddha, destroyed by the Taliban regime in 2001, have also been showcased at the festival as a reminder of the change in the Afghan government's culture policy.

Among the delicacies on display are the famed baked pastry and confectionaries. Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, Charge'd Affairs of Afghan Embassy Abdul Hai Khurasani, Indian Council for Cultural Relations Chairperson Karan Singh, Minister in Waiting Suresh Pachauri and a number of Afghans living here were present on the occasion. A troupe of Afghan dancers performed the national dance of the country as part of the festival. Afghanistan's Deputy Minister for Information, Culture and Tourism Nasrullah Stanekzai welcomed the Afghan artists and guests.

Meanwhile, the Afghan President said even if the Kashmir problem is not solved, India and Pakistan should address other issues for the betterment of the region. Afghanistan wanted India and Pakistan to sort out their problems. "Even if the (Kashmir) problem is not solved, they should address other issues in a manner that will benefit the people of the region," Karzai said at a breakfast meeting with editors here.

When pointed out that Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf has linked giving transit facility to India for transporting goods to Afghanistan with resolution of the Kashmir problem, he evaded a direct reply saying it was an issue between India and Pakistan. "People of Afghanistan desire that the two countries get over their problems."

India has rejected linkage of resolution of the Kashmir problem with progress on other outstanding issues with Pakistan. The Afghan President, who is on a three-day visit to India, favoured a tripolar structure involving India and Pakistan for economic betterment and quicker progress of the region.

"The tripolar structure of cooperation among India, Pakistan and Afghanistan would release the best energy of this region and bring quicker progress and economic betterment to it," he said. Karzai said he had discussed this issue during talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who "too is of the same view".

"It is something that we really need. We should not see this as political one," Karzai said. Asked about Pakistan's response to the proposal, Karzai said it also "understands it very well".

About the transit problem faced by India in reaching goods to Afghanistan via Pakistan, Karzai said he would pursue the matter with Islamabad. Asked if Pakistan is doing enough to combat terrorism, he said it was working together with the rest of the international community in this regard.

He also praised Pakistan for making efforts to flush out Taliban elements from the restive Waziristan tribal region bordering Afghanistan. "What we want is more effective fight on all sides. All the partners should carry more effective fight against terrorism...With more coordination and more exchange of information, we will be making much more progress," he said.

On whether the most wanted international terrorist Osama Bin Laden is in Pakistan, Karzai said Islamabad was looking for him. "If they find him there, I am sure they will hand him over in a manner that is in keeping with our fight against terrorism". He said intelligence about the al Qaeda fugitive was "working well" but contended that "so far, luck is not on our side".

About the Pakistan President being upset with him over reports from Kabul that Taliban and al Qaeda militants continued to operate from the Pakistani soil, he said "Musharraf and I have a very close relationship. We are friends and between friends at times there are moments when frank words are exchanged...I will give him a call within a few days."

Osama, Mullah Omar all in Pak: Afghan Foreign Minister

WASHINGTON, March 20: Afghanistan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah has claimed that Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, his deputy Ayman Zawahiri and Taliban leader Mullah Omar are "all together" and "in Pakistan".

In an interview to CNN, Abdullah said according to his country's intelligence, Laden was "outside Afghanistan and he might be in the same place where other members of Al-Qaeda have been arrested". He said Zawahiri too was with Laden, according to the Daily Times newspaper.

Asked if the Al-Qaeda leader was in Pakistan, the Afghanistan Foreign Minister replied that it was "more likely". On the whereabouts of Mullah Omar, Abdullah said all these "friends" would be found together. Security experts believe that Adullah's word about their being "together" could be taken literally only if he was hinting at a conclave of the fugitive terrorists that does take place from time to time.

Analysts pointed out that going by the way these militants operated, their being "together" would entail grave security risk to themselves. Analysts said Abdullah's statements appeared to be more a diplomatic offensive against Pakistan.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his Pakistani counterpart Pervez Musharraf have been engaged in an angry blame-game over who is responsible for skirmishes on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border and who is sheltering and arming the Taliban elements responsible for persistent internal turmoil in Afghanistan.

The assessment of the US state department, as also NATO that is doing peacekeeping in Afghanistan, is that the threat from the Taliban to the Karzai regime has been more serious than it has been in his last four years in office.

Abdullah called for greater cooperation between the two countries because they faced a common threat. Asked to comment on Musharraf's harsh remarks about Karzai in an earlier interview to CNN, the Afghan minister replied that Pakistan and Afghanistan have to work things out and added that there were Taliban bases inside Pakistan.

On whether that meant Pakistan was not doing enough to deal with the Taliban and other such elements in the tribal areas of Pakistan, he replied, "Yes of course they know about this." Asked "how bad" the relationship between the two countries was, the foreign minister said it was his hope that "we would put it behind us as soon as possible" and the two countries would deal with a common threat in a straightforward manner.

Iraq war enters 4th year with more deaths

BAGHDAD, March 20: As the Iraq war entered its fourth year, nearly 1,500 US and Iraqi soldiers on Sunday sought to root out insurgents from farming villages an hour's drive north of the capital, and at least 35 people died in insurgent and sectarian violence nationwide.

Iraqi politicians still had not formed a government more than three months after landmark elections for the country's first permanent post-invasion parliament, but they announced an agreement on naming a Security Council to deal with key matters while negotiations proceed.

The 133,000 American troops on the ground inside Iraq was nearly a third more than took part in the campaign to oust Saddam Hussein that began in the early hours of March 20, 2003.
At least 2,314 U.S. military personnel have died in the war, which is estimated to have cost $200 billion to $250 billion so far. President Bush says about 30,000 Iraqis have been killed, while others put the toll far higher.

Returning to the White House after a weekend at the presidential retreat in Camp David, Md., Bush offered an upbeat assessment. "We are implementing a strategy that will lead to victory in Iraq. And a victory in Iraq will make this country more secure and will help lay the foundation of peace for generations to come," he said.

Many politicians both inside and outside Iraq said the continuing violence could only be described as a civil war. "It is unfortunate that we are in civil war. We are losing each day as an average 50 to 60 people throughout the country, if not more," former interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi told British Broadcasting Corp. "If this is not civil war, then God knows what civil war is."

The Bush administration and U.S. military leaders disagreed. "Personally don't believe, one, that we're there now; two, that civil war is imminent; and, three, that it is inevitable that it will happen," Gen. George Casey, the U.S. commander in Iraq, said in an interview with Fox television.

In a sign of political progress, Iraq's top politicians emerged from the fourth in a series of US-brokered all-party meetings on forming a new government and reported they had established an advisory, 19-member Security Council.

The council, to be headed by President Jalal Talabani, was established as an interim measure as politicians struggle to agree on the makeup of a new government following the Dec. 15 parliamentary elections.


Castro turns 79 on the job, no plans to retire
Indian visa applicants to Canada can check status via SMS
Purported al-Qaida video threatens troops
India, Pak reach agreement over missile tests
Trapped Russian submariners rescued
Former British Foreign Secretary Cook dies
Qaeda's Zawahri warns Britain, US of more attacks
India relaxes visa regime for Pak nationals

India, Malaysia sign agreements to boost ties

Malaysian PM arrives on Sunday on 5-day visit to India
Egypt, Israel sign trade accord 25 years after peace treaty
No Indian to go to Iraq for polls
India, Israel set up Joint Study Group to boost trade ties
India, Israel review bilateral ties
India-China decide to set up a JSC
Arafat Buried in Chaotic Scenes in West Bank
Osama may sneak into India: FBI official
Indian spy planes picked Osama near NE Pak
China supports India's claim to UN SC seat





Aviation | Business | Defence | Foreign Affairs | Communication | Health | India | United Nations
India-US | India-France | Entertainment | Sports | Photo Gallery | Tourism | Advertise with Us | Contact Us

Best viewed at 800 x 600 resolution with IE 4.0 or higher
© Noyanika International, 2003-2009. All rights reserved.