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Major boost in Sino-India ties expected as Hu arrives

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, Nov 20: Chinese President Hu Jintao arrived here on Monday evening on a four-day state visit that is set to give fresh impetus to their growing economic and strategic relations.

Hu will hold talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday on a broad range of bilateral and global issues, including the decades-old border row, the proposed free trade area between the world's two fastest growing economies, nuclear energy cooperation and global issues like the UN reforms.

India and China will sign 10 agreements in diverse areas, including trade, education and health and add "more substance" to their strategic partnership in the context of a new evolving global order.
Immense significance is being attached to the Chinese presidential visit taking place after a gap of 10 years, as the two sides are keen to utilise the opportunity to add "substance" to their strategic partnership. The last Chinese President to visit India was Jiang Zemin in 1996.

Leading a high-level delegation on his maiden visit to India, Hu was received at the airport by External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Minister-in-waiting Kapil Sibal. The Chinese President will be accorded a ceremonial welcome in the forecourt of the Rashtrapati Bhavan on Tuesday. Incidentally, Hu is undertaking the visit when the two countries are celebrating the 'year of friendship'.

As Hu began his visit that will also take him to Agra and Mumbai, India said it does not want the Arunachal Pradesh border issue to come in the way of overall development of bilateral ties with China. New Delhi notes that one of the disputes -- Sikkim -- has already been resolved with China admitting it to be a part of India .

"We have the way of dealing with other issues like dispute over Arunachal Pradesh boundary. We have learnt over a time," official sources said.

In the meantime, relations in rest of the areas have to be carried forward, they said, underlining that the two countries would be able to find solutions as their ties had become "mature". With regard to Tibet, New Delhi says it recognises it as an "autonomous" part of China.

Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath said that much talked about free trade agreement (FTA) was not on the agenda during Hu's visit. "I will be meeting the Chinese trade and industry minister. They are coming with the Chinese president. We are likely to sign seven or eight trade agreements," Kamal Nath told newsmen, hours before Hu arrived. "We should, in fact, be looking at an economic cooperation agreement in the long run which will be much wider in scope."

The commerce minister expressed satisfaction over the pace of growth of trade between the two countries. " India and China's annual trade has grown from $1 billion to $20 billion in a span of four years." "It is clear that both the sides have lot of synergies. We welcome Chinese investment in India," Kamal Nath said, clarifying that there were no security or any other concerns related to Chinese investment in India.

China extends guarded support to India's N-energy quest

NEW DELHI: China has expressed guarded support to India's quest for civil nuclear energy and rejected perceptions that the growing relations between New Delhi and the US were aimed at containing it."Every country has the right to develop energy in any form, including nuclear form, to meet its development needs," Chinese Ambassador Sun Yuxi said in an interview ahead of President Hu Jintao's maiden visit to India.

Sun, however, said that objectives of non-proliferation should also be maintained and strengthened. When referred to India's contention that it abides by all non-proliferation rules although it has not signed NPT, he said "anything which can strengthen non-proliferation effort should be welcomed by the international community."

He said Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon had recently apprised him about the issue and told him that India is trying to strengthen non-proliferation regime. "I (would) like to take his word... If India is making effort, if any effort (is being made) to strengthen non-proliferation, I agree," he said.

This is the clearest statement on India's quest for civil nuclear deal by China which has so far remained vague on the issue. The Chinese envoy, however, refused to comment on the Indo-US civil nuclear deal as it was a bilateral issue. The remark is significant as China is being seen as one which could cause problems when India's case comes up in the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).

Several American experts, including former Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, recently said that China would ask why an exception is being made with regard to India. Sun also rubbished the perception that growing relations between the US and India were aimed at containing China. "It is only speculation, some thinking of legacies of the Cold War," he said.

Sun noted that US President George W Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had both said that development of the relations between the two countries are not targeted against any third country. "We appreciate that. I believe that is true," the Chinese Ambassador said.

Pointing out that India and China were strategic partners, he said their relations were witnessing an all-round development. "Our relations are fast developing in a healthy way," he emphasised.

Saddam gets death sentence

BAGHDAD, Nov 5: Declaring the final verdit for the ousted dictator Saddam Hussain charged for killing, torturing hundreds of Shi'ite Muslims in 1982, the Iraq's High Tribunal has found Saddam guilty and rewarded death sentence to him, hang till death.

A U S-backed Iraqi court sentenced toppled leader Saddam Hussein to death by hanging for crimes against humanity. The ousted president, visibly shaken, shouted out ''Allahu Akbar!'' (God is Greatest) and ''Long live the nation!''.

The Iraqi High Tribunal also handed down death sentences to former revolutionary chief judge Awad Hamed al-Bander and Saddam's half brother and former intelligence chief Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti. Former Iraqi vice president Taha Yassin Ramadan was sentenced to life in prison. The charges stemmed from the killing of 148 Shi'ite men in Dujail after an assassination attempt against Saddam in 1982.

A death sentence or life imprisonment generates an automatic appeal, delaying any execution by months at least. Saddam has said he wants to face a military firing squad, not the hangman.

Meanwhile Baghdad went into lockdown on Saturday night, mortars slammed into the mainly Sunni district of Adhamiya, killing seven people and wounding 20, an Interior Ministry source said.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who called for the ousted president to be executed quickly, said he should get ''what he deserves'' for killing, torturing or jailing hundreds of Shi'ite Muslims after gunmen from Maliki's Shi'ite Dawa party tried to kill Saddam in the town of Dujail in 1982. ''If he is guilty, he deserves the death penalty,'' Ali Hassan, who testified against Saddam last year, said in Dujail. ''The law must take its course.''

Rice warns Iran after missile launches

WASHINGTON, Nov 4: US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice chided Iran for trying to act "tough" after it fired a new long-range missile for the first time, but warned Tehran would "suffer greatly" if it used the weapon in anger.

Iranian forces launched the Shahab-3 ballistic missile on Thursday as they began 10 days of war games that coincide with US-led efforts to impose UN-mandated sanctions on Iran over its nuclear programme. "I think they're trying to demonstrate that they're tough," Rice said of the missile test.

"But the Iranians also I think are not unaware that the security environment is one in which if they actually were to do something, Iran would suffer greatly and so I think they probably understand that," she said in an interview.

Referring to Iran's refusal to comply with a UN Security Council resolution demanding it abandon suspect nuclear activities, Rice said: "I think the Iranians are a threat and that's why the international community's got to be strong in resisting their ambitions."

She said on Thursday's missile test was Iran's way of telling the world "you're not going to keep us from getting a nuclear weapon... The world has to say to them, yes, we will."

Rice was speaking amid ongoing negotiations between the US and its big power partners over a package of sanctions designed to force Iran to give up its uranium enrichment programme.

Iran insists the programme is aimed at providing fuel for nuclear power plants while Washington and others suspect the ultimate aim is to develop atomic weapons.

India, UK to cooperate over terrorism, climate change

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, Nov 2: India and Britain have decided to take their multifaceted ties to a new level by stepping up cooperation in the crucial areas of counter-terrorism and climate change.

External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and his British counterpart Margaret Beckett held "constructive discussions" on a wide range of bilateral and global issues, including counter-terrorism, climate change and enhancement of the already robust economic ties between the two countries.

"Bilateral relationship has never been better. Our relationship has been underpinned by strong business ties," Beckett, who is currently on a six-day visit to India, told newsmen at a joint press interaction with Mukherjee.

This is Beckett's first visit to India and her first to Asia after becoming the first woman foreign minister of the UK following a cabinet reshuffle in May this year. It is also her longest overseas trip as foreign minister, a measure of India's importance in British foreign policy. Before leaving London, Beckett said relations between the countries had never been better.

Later, Beckett called on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and met Finance Minister P Chidambaram and Home Minister Shivraj Patil.

Describing India and Britain as "natural partners," she stressed on new steps taken by the two countries in sharing information to avert terrorist attacks on mass transit system.

Stressing on "historical strong relations" between India and Britain, Mukherjee said as both countries were "victims of terrorism," they would further enhance their ongoing cooperation in countering terrorism - "the biggest menace to world peace in post Cold War world".

Hailing India as "an important and powerful country with an emerging economy," Beckett underlined the need to confront the global challenge of climate change and sought more informal dialogue with India on this issue.

"It's for us to take this initiative forward. It's a problem the world community needs to address together," said Beckett, while alluding to a move to introduce climate legislation in Britain following the Stern Review report.

The Stern Review sets out the economic case for action on climate change, and concludes that the cost of inaction will be far higher than tackling climate change now. "Climate change is one of our top priorities. There is space for more informal dialogue with India on the issue," said Beckett as she outlined a plan to enhance cooperation with India in the development of clean coal technologies.

"We certainly encourage British companies to invest in India," Beckett said in response to a question on whether Britain plans to step up investment in India's infrastructure sector.
India is the second largest foreign investor in Britain. Britain attracts about 60 per cent of Indian investments to Europe.

India's foreign direct investment (FDI) in Britain is more than that of Britain's in India and has exceeded $1 billion. Beckett is also scheduled to visit Mumbai and Hyderabad.

Pakistani raid on school kills 80

CHINGAI, Pakistan, Oct 31: Pakistani troops backed by missile-firing helicopters on Monday struck a religious school purportedly being used as an al-Qaida training center, killing 80 people in what appeared to be the country's deadliest-ever attack against suspected militants.

The country's top Islamic political leader said American planes were used in the pre-dawn strike against the school - known as a madrassa - and called for nationwide protests Tuesday, claiming all those killed were innocent students and teachers. Both Pakistani and the U.S. military officials denied any American involvement in the attack in northwestern Pakistan, less than two miles from the Afghan border.

An al-Qaida-linked militant who apparently was a primary target of the strike had left the building a half hour beforehand, a Pakistani official said. Anger over the missile strike scuppered the signing of a peace accord, expected Monday, between tribal elders linked to militants. The United States has urged Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf to do more to stop militants from crossing from tribal regions into Afghanistan, where Taliban-fanned violence has reached its deadliest proportions since the American-led invasion in 2001.

Musharraf, along with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, met with President Bush last month in Washington to address the issue.

Helicopter gunships fired four to five missiles into the madrassa in Chingai, said army spokesman Maj. Gen. Shaukat Sultan. The blasts tore apart the building and all inside, spraying body parts, blood and debris across a wide area.

Sultan said initial estimates indicate the attack killed about 80 suspected militants from Pakistan and other countries. Only three people - all seriously wounded - were believed to have survived, a hospital official said. "These militants were involved in actions inside Pakistan and probably in Afghanistan," said Sultan.

Sultan said the attack was launched after those in charge of the building refused warnings to close it down.

Among those killed was Liaquat Hussain, a Pakistani cleric and associate of al-Qaida No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahri, locals and an intelligence official said. Another al-Zawahri deputy, Faqir Mohammed, was believed to have been in the madrassa and left 30 minutes before the strike, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity as he was unauthorized to speak to the media.

Iran doubles nuke enrichment capacity

TEHRAN, Oct 28: Iran stepped up its uranium enrichment program Friday, a semiofficial news agency reported, even as a divided U.N. Security Council considered a European draft resolution to impose sanctions over Tehran's nuclear activities.

President Bush called the report that Iran had doubled its enrichment capacity "speculation" but said a nuclear-armed Iran was unacceptable. Israel compared Iran to Nazi Germany.

Iran's injection of gas into a second network of centrifuges, reported by the Iranian Students News Agency, marked the country's first known uranium enrichment since February. The process - which yields either nuclear fuel or material for a warhead - did not represent a major technological breakthrough and was unlikely to bring Iran within grasp of a weapon. But it signaled Tehran's resolve to expand its atomic program at a time of divisions within the Security Council over a punishment for Iran's defiance.

Washington has long pushed for sanctions against Iran for its failure to stop enriching uranium - a process Tehran says aims only to generate electricity and others suspect is a cover for building nuclear arms.

Russia and China, with strong commercial ties to Tehran, have shied away from punitive measures and left the door open to last-minute talks. All three, plus France and Britain, have veto power on the Security Council, which is now weighing a draft resolution that would impose limited sanctions on Iran.

"We are injecting gas into the second cascade (of centrifuges), which we installed two weeks ago," the Iranian Students News Agency quoted an anonymous official as saying. Iran's government sometimes uses the news agency to leak information deemed too sensitive for official channels. Friday's procedure was successful, and the second cascade doubled Iran's capacity to enrich uranium, the agency said.

"We have already exploited the product of the second cascade," the official was quoted as saying.

Iran touted its ability to enrich uranium last February, when it produced a small batch of low-enriched uranium - suitable as nuclear fuel but not weapons grade - using a first set of 164 centrifuges at its pilot complex in Natanz.

While no experiments to enrich more uranium have been announced since then, Tehran insists it never halted the process despite Western demands, and defiantly bypassed an Aug. 31 deadline to do so.

"Iran more likely slowed down the development program over the summer as part of a diplomatic strategy to persuade the world that it would not be nearing nuclear weapons capability any time soon," said Mark Fitzpatrick of the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London.

"Now that the Security Council is taking up a sanctions resolution, Iran has started the second cascade as a political signal to show that it does not give in to pressure," he said.

In Washington, President Bush insisted the United States would not stand for a nuclear-armed Iran. "Whether they've doubled it or not, the idea of Iran having a nuclear weapon is unacceptable," Bush told reporters. "It says to me that we must double our effort to work with the international community to persuade the Iranians that there is only isolation from the world if they continue working forward on such a program."

Doubling Iran's capacity would still mean it was nowhere close to churning out enough uranium to fuel a reactor. Tehran has said it plans to install 3,000 centrifuges at Natanz by year's end, but it would take 54,000 centrifuges to fuel a reactor.

Still, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert compared Iran to Nazi Germany and chastised world leaders for not doing enough to stop its nuclear program. "On these very days we hear echoes of those very voices that started to spread across the world in the 1930s," Olmert said during a ceremony at Israel's national Holocaust memorial.

Iran "continues to be a legitimate member of the United Nations and leaders of many of the countries in the world receive the leader. They hardly do anything," he said.
Russia's defense minister said Friday he didn't "share concerns" about the report, and suggested that Iran's new centrifuges were harmless.
"They are completely empty, so to talk about enriched uranium or uranium for military use, is at the very least, premature," Sergei Ivanov told reporters in Moscow.

France, one of the U.N. draft resolution's sponsors, called Iran's move a "negative signal" that should be taken into account at U.N. talks over possible sanctions. Foreign Ministry spokesman Jean-Baptiste Mattei said the Iranian announcement was not a great surprise because the International Atomic Energy Agency had said in August that Iran was developing new nuclear capacities.

The enrichment process takes gas produced from raw uranium and aims to increase its proportion of the uranium-235 isotope, needed for nuclear fission. The gas is pumped into a centrifuge, which spins, causing a small portion of the heavier, more prevalent uranium-238 isotope to drop away. The gas then proceeds to other centrifuges - thousands of them - where the process is repeated, increasing the proportion of uranium-235.

South Korea enforces sanctions on North

SEOUL, Oct 26: South Korea made its first concrete move Thursday to enforce U.N. sanctions imposed on North Korea for its nuclear test, saying it will ban officials from the communist country who fall under a U.N. travel restriction and control financial transactions between the rivals.

Meanwhile, a South Korean Defense Ministry report underscored the lingering threat posed by the North, saying the regime is believed to have enough plutonium to make as many as seven nuclear bombs. The North is also working to make a small, lightweight nuclear warhead that can be carried by ballistic missile, according to the report released by an opposition lawmaker.

The U.N. resolution, passed in response to the North's underground nuclear blast on Oct. 9, seeks to ban the country's weapons trade and calls for North Korean ships to be searched for suspected illegal materials. The resolution asks all member countries to state how they plan to implement the sanctions within 30 days of its Oct. 14 adoption.

Unification Minister Lee Jong-seok said Seoul would ban some North Korean officials from traveling to the South and control transactions and remittances related to inter-Korean trade and investment with Pyongyang, the South's Yonhap news agency reported.

It was unclear how tough the South will be in enforcing the restrictions. Seoul had been hesitant to take strong measures to support the sanctions, mindful of North Korea's massive armed forces poised at the border, its family and cultural ties, and its wish to expand economic relations with its neighbor.

Also at issue was whether South Korea would expand its participation in a U.S.-led drive to interdict North Korean ships and aircraft suspected of carrying weapons of mass destruction or related material.

South Korea has been reluctant to participate fully in the Proliferation Security Initiative because of concerns it could lead to clashes with North Korea and undermine efforts to persuade the communist state to give up its nuclear ambitions through diplomacy.

Still, Seoul's announcement is certain to be welcomed in Washington, where Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Wednesday urged South Korea to show "a strong commitment" to the sanctions.

On Wednesday, Pyongyang warned that any move by the South to impose trade, travel and financial sanctions would be seen as a "declaration of confrontation" that would elicit "corresponding measures" from the North. It also said sanctions could cause a breakdown in inter-Korean relations.

"If North-South relations collapse due to reckless and imprudent sanctions against us the South Korean authorities will be fully responsible for it and will have to pay a high price," said a statement carried by the North's official Korean Central News Agency.

South Korea rejected the North's warning Thursday. "If North Korea is concerned about the future of Korean people, it should not aggravate the situation any more (and) return immediately to the six-party talks," the Unification Ministry said, referring to negotiations among the two Koreas, the U.S., Japan, China and Russia aimed at resolving the nuclear standoff.

The South Korean Defense Ministry report on the North's nuclear capabilities was based on a meeting of top military officials a day after the North's test. The report says the North is believed to have extracted 110 pounds of high-grade plutonium, enough for up to seven nuclear weapons. The North can use its Russian-made bombers to drop the bombs, the ministry said, adding that the North has 82 Il-28 bombers at bases in Uiju and Jangjin.

North Korea also has built a nuclear warhead weighing some two to three tons. To be mounted on a missile, the warhead would need to be less than a ton, the ministry said. The North stunned the world in 1998 by firing a long-range ballistic missile over Japan into the Pacific. It also test-fired seven missiles in July, including a long-range missile believed capable of reaching the U.S. that crashed shortly after launch.

Report: N. Korean leader regrets test

SEOUL, Oct 20: North Korean leader Kim Jong Il expressed regret about his country's nuclear test to a Chinese delegation and said Pyongyang would return to international nuclear talks if Washington backs off a campaign to financially isolate the country, a South Korean newspaper reported Friday.

"If the U.S. makes a concession to some degree, we will also make a concession to some degree, whether it be bilateral talks or six-party talks," Kim was quoted as telling a Chinese envoy, the mass-circulation Chosun Ilbo reported, citing a diplomatic source in China.

Kim told the Chinese delegation that "he is sorry about the nuclear test," the newspaper reported. The delegation led by State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan met Kim on Thursday and returned to Beijing later that day - ahead of U.S. Secretary of State

Condoleezza Rice's arrival in the Chinese capital Friday. China is viewed as a key nation in efforts to persuade the North to disarm, as it is the isolated communist nation's main trading partner.

North Korea has long insisted that the U.S. desist from a campaign to sever its ties to the international financial system. Washington accuses Pyongyang of complicity in counterfeiting and money laundering to sell weapons of mass destruction.

The North has refused since last November to return to the nuclear talks, which also include China, Japan, Russia and South Korea. Pyongyang has sought bolster its negotiating position by a series of provocative actions, test-firing a barrage of missiles in July and performing its first-ever nuclear test October 9.

91 die in sectarian violence in Iraq

BAGHDAD, Oct 18: Four days of sectarian slaughter killed at least 91 people by Monday in Balad, a town near a major U.S. air base an hour's drive north of the capital. Elsewhere, 60 Iraqis died in attacks and 16 tortured bodies were found.

The U.S. command said seven American troops died in fighting a day earlier. That raised the U.S. toll to 58 killed in the first two weeks of October, a pace that if continued would make the month the worst for coalition forces since 107 U.S. and 10 British soldiers died in January 2005.

Iraqi deaths also are running at a high rate. As many as 708 Iraqis have been reported killed in war-related violence this month, or just over 44 a day, compared to a daily average of more than 27 since the AP began tracking deaths in April 2005.

A surge in sectarian bloodshed and jump in U.S. casualties coincide with the run-up to the American midterm elections in which the Bush administration's handling of the Iraq war has become a key issue.

The U.S. military has kept a low profile in Balad, where violence began Friday with the slaying of 17 Shiite Muslim workers. Revenge-seeking Shiite death squads then killed 74 Sunnis, causing people to flee across the Tigris River to the nearby Sunni-dominated city of Duluiyah.

An American spokesman did not directly respond when asked if the Iraqi government had sought U.S. military assistance in quelling the violence.

"Coalition force units are partnering with Iraqi police and Iraqi army units involved in operations around Balad. We are also providing quick reaction assets to the Iraqi police and army. The IA and IP are in the lead with the operations around Balad," Lt. Col. Christopher Garver said.

The two runways at the air base on the outskirts of Balad are among the world's busiest, launching 27,500 aircraft a month, hundreds of them bomb-laden jets that support U.S. troops moving against insurgents. The base is also the supply hub for all U.S. military operations in Iraq.

President Bush, meanwhile, telephoned Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Monday to reassure him of American support as rumors swirled through Baghdad that Washington had lost patience with the Shiite leader during his little more than four months in office.

Bush spokesman Tony Snow said the president used the 15-minute conversation to tell al-Maliki there was no American deadline for the Iraqi government to be able to stand on its own.

N Korea stuns the world with its first nuclear test

SEOUL, Oct 9: North Korea carried out an underground nuclear test on Monday, North Korea's Central News Agency (KCNA) reported. The test was carried out at 0706 hrs IST in Hwaderi near Kilju city. "Our science research section has safely and successfully conducted an underground nuclear test on October 9," it said.

It added that there was no leak or danger from the test. South Korea's presidential Blue House said a tremor had been detected in North Korea on Monday. It said South Korea's Institute of Geoscience and Mineral Resources had detected a tremor of a magnitude 3.58 to 3.7 at 07.00 am.

North Korea had announced last week that it would test a nuclear device saying its hand was forced by what it called US threats of nuclear war and economic sanctions. But it said it would not be the first to use a nuclear weapon.

Following the announcement, South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun held an emergency meeting of top security officials at the Blue House. Tokyo backs a hard line toward Pyongyang, while Seoul and Beijing - leery of instability on the peninsula - have previously cautioned against backing the North into a corner. However, all three agree that Pyongyang should end its nearly year-long boycott of six-country talks on ending its nuclear weapons program.

Analysts say North Korea probably has enough fissile material to make six to eight nuclear bombs, but probably does not have the technology to devise one small enough to mount on a missile.

N-cooperation, terrorism to figure in Indian PM's parleys with UK, EU leaders

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, Oct 7: Civil nuclear cooperation, terrorism and deepening of economic ties will figure in the talks that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will have with leaders of Britain, Finland and the European Union during his six-day visit to London and Helsinki beginning Monday.

Dr Singh will attend the third India-UK Summit meeting with his British counterpart Tony Blair in London on Oct 10 and the seventh India-EU summit Oct 13 in Helsinki. On October 12, he would hold bilateral talks with the Finnish Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen, according to Mr Shiv Shankar Menon, Foreign Secretary.

In his first official interaction with the newsmen after taking over as Foreign Secretary, Mr Menon said the issue of allowing international community to have civil nuclear cooperation with India, in the backdrop of Indo-US deal, will also be raised by the Prime Minister with leaders of UK, Finland and EU. At the press conference the Foreign Secretary was flanked by Ms Sujata Singh, Joint Secrtary (Western Europe), Mr V Ashok, Joint Secretary (Central Europe) and Mr Navtej Sarna, Spokesman, Ministry of External Affairs.

He pointed out that the 23-nation EU did not have a common position on the issue. Many of its members have expressed support for the cooperation but some have reservations and India was discussing the issue individually with member countries.

Some member countries, he pointed out, were very sympathetic while some were not. But overall, the mood vis-a-vis civil nuclear cooperation was sympathetic to India compared to about two years ago. He said efforts were on to muster further backing.

Several of the EU countries are members of the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) which will meet in Vienna later this month and the Indo-US nuclear deal is expected to figure. The nuclear agreement is required to be endorsed through consensus by the NSG, which will have to change guidelines to allow international community to have civil nuclear cooperation with India.

The Prime Minister will be accompanied by Commerce Minister Kamal Nath and Minister of State for External Affairs Anand Sharma.

Mr Menon said that both New Delhi and London have been victims of terrorism and this would form a key part of the discussions between the leaders of the two countries.

Indian and British officials could exchange information on the safe conduct of the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi in 2010 and the Olympic Games in London in 2012. "We have seen substantial progress in bilateral ties between India and the UK during the last two years," said Mr Menon. Cooperation in counter-terrorism between security agencies would be a core issue in the dialogue.

India's concerns over cross-border terrorism in the backdrop of recent evidence that Pakistan's ISI and terror outfits based there were behind the July 11 Mumbai serial blasts that killed nearly 200 people would also figure during talks with the leadership of Finland and the EU. "We will bring them up to date with India's experience as victim of terrorism," said Mr Menon.

He rejected apprehensions that the Indo-Pak anti-terror joint mechanism would compromise New Delhi's efforts to highlight Pakistan's role in terrorism. "We haven't changed our position on terrorism," he said. India's position was "very clear" and "determined by what we see on the ground".

He will address the India-UK Investment Summit which is expected to be attended by over 100 CEOs. The Prime Minister will travel to Cambridge to receive an honorary doctorate. He was awarded a similar honour by Oxford University in July 2005. Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, who is chancellor of Cambridge University, will present the doctorate.

Dr Singh will leave for Helsinki on October 12 on a three-day visit to attend the 4th India-EU Summit. Finland is the current EU President. For India, EU is a "very important economic partner", he said.

The Prime Minister will also talk on bilateral issues with leaders of Finland, bilateral relations with which have traditionally been warm and friendly. Firms from Finland are slowly showing interest in investing in India.

Iran: Sanctions won't derail enrichment

HASHTGERD (Iran), Oct 5: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad warned Wednesday that sanctions will not stop Iran from enriching uranium after a European negotiator conceded "endless hours" of talks had made little progress and suggested the dispute could wind up at the U.N. soon.

The talks had been seen as a last-ditch attempt to avoid a full-blown confrontation between Iran and the UN Security Council after Tehran ignored an August 31 deadline to suspend enrichment - a key step toward making nuclear weapons - or face punishment.

The latest comments - and the view of senior U.N. diplomats that nearly two years of intermittent negotiations had failed - suggested an emerging consensus that the time has finally come to consider Security Council sanctions.

Iran maintains its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes and does not violate international law. Its refusal to give up enrichment compounds the failure of more than three years of U.N. inspections to banish suspicions that Tehran might have a secret weapons program. The conflict picked up steam after last year's election of the hard-line Ahmadinejad, whose tough stance on the nuclear issue is wildly popular in Iran - even among moderates.

Javier Solana, the European official who has been negotiating with the Iranians, told the European Parliament on Wednesday that the Iranians had made "no commitment to suspend." The dialogue with the Iranians "cannot last forever" and it was up to Tehran "to decide whether its time has come to end," he said.

Solana said his talks had found "common ground" on some issues "but we have not agreed in what is the key point, which is the question of suspension of activities before the start of the negotiations." He suggested that if the talks ended, the standoff should be moved to the Security Council.

In a speech shortly afterward, Ahmadinejad warned that sanctions would not dissuade his country from pursuing nuclear technology, including the enrichment of uranium. "You are mistaken if you assume that the Iranian nation will stop for even a moment from the path toward using nuclear energy, due to your nagging," he told the West, speaking to a crowd of supporters outside Iran's capital.

"For 27 years they haven't allowed us to use technologies that they possess," Ahmadinejad added. "This nation is powerful and won't give in to one iota of coercion."

In an apparent response to Solana, the Iranian president said his nation favored continued negotiations. "We are for talks. We can talk with each other and remove ambiguities. We have logic. We want talks to continue," he said.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and foreign ministers from five other major powers were expected to meet, possibly Friday in London, to discuss the situation.

Diplomats said the Security Council could meet as early as Monday to start work on a resolution imposing the first of a series of sanctions meant to make Iran roll back its program.

Iran was initially referred to the Security Council in February by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog, which said Tehran's suspicious activities represented breaches of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. The Vienna-based agency also said it could not be sure Iran was not trying to make weapons.

The United States insisted that Tehran halt enrichment as a precondition for further talks on its nuclear program, but Iran ignored the August 31 deadline set by the Security Council. The Americans then agreed to let Solana hold more talks with the Iranians after Russia, China and France spoke out against a rush to sanctions.

At first, both Solana and Iran's top negotiator, Ali Larijani, had signaled progress in the talks. On Tuesday, however, diplomats said Larijani told Solana that the hard-line Iranian leadership had rejected even a limited enrichment freeze. One diplomat said Western council members - the United States, Britain and France - favor an embargo on sales of nuclear or missile technology to Tehran as a first sanctions step. That would be followed by other sanctions, including travel bans on Iranian officials and the freezing of their assets.

Iran has so far shown little concern about the prospect of such sanctions - perhaps because such limited sanctions would not greatly hurt the country overall. Russia and China, both veto-wielding council members, traditionally oppose sanctions, and the United States could still face a tough fight getting them to agree to any truly punitive measures.

U.S. officials have said they intend to start with trying for relatively lower-level punishments as a way to persuade Russia and China to sign on. China's U.N. Ambassador Wang Guangya, asked whether Beijing would support possible sanctions if Iran doesn't suspend uranium enrichment, said Wednesday that over the last few weeks "there has been some progress" in the Solana-Larijani talks so the door isn't completely shut. "But I do hope that diplomatic means is still the best way to achieve a solution on this Iranian nuclear issue," he said.

Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said he hadn't heard Solana's comments, but if Solana was saying that Iran now had a choice of whether to suspend enrichment or face sanctions "it will be a very sad moment."

"We were very supportive of Mr. Solana's efforts and still are if he intends to continue those efforts. Of course, it was our hope that those efforts would be successful and things will be resolved diplomatically," Churkin said. "We do not want any extra work load here in the Security Council anyway, and of course, it's a very important matter and we are hoping Mr. Solana will be successful."

U.S. Ambassador John Bolton, asked about the possibility of the U.N. Security Council discussing sanctions against Iran, said: "We haven't discussed sanctions here in New York for weeks, many weeks, lots of weeks. But as soon as I'm instructed, I'm prepared to begin as soon as the cable comes in."

Quarter million Iraqis flee sectarian violence

BAGHDAD, Sept 29: A quarter of a million Iraqis have fled sectarian violence and registered as refugees in the past seven months, data released on Thursday showed, amid an upsurge in attacks that has accompanied the Ramadan holy month

Al Qaeda's leader in Iraq called for the kidnapping of Westerners to swap for a Muslim cleric jailed in the United States, according to an Internet audio tape.

The sectarian killing continued in Baghdad, where police said they had found the bodies of 40 victims -- bound, tortured and murdered -- in the last 24 hours, a total that has become almost commonplace in the capital over the last few weeks.

The United States says violence in Iraq has surged in the last two weeks, and this past week, the first of Ramadan, saw the most suicide bombs of any week since the war began in 2003.

The registered refugee figures showed 40,000 families -- 240,000 people -- claiming assistance, up from 27,000 families in July. The figures do not include an uncounted number of Iraqis who have moved home without claiming aid.

"The reason for this increase is that the security situation in some provinces has deteriorated considerably, forcing people to leave their homes in fear for their lives," said Migration Ministry spokesman Sattar Nowruz.

The new leader of Al Qaeda's Iraq branch called on his followers to capture Westerners to swap for Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, a blind cleric jailed for life in the United States after the 1993 bombing at the World Trade Center.

"I call on every holy fighter in Iraq to strive during this holy month (Ramadan)... to capture some dogs of the Christians so that we can liberate our imprisoned sheikh," said Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, in an audio recording on the Internet.

Muhajir, also known as Abu Ayub al-Masri, succeeded Iraq's Qaeda chief Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi when he was killed by U.S. forces in June.

U.S. commanders say have focused their efforts on the capital Baghdad over the past two months and say they have managed to reduce the number of sectarian death squad killings in the scattered neighborhoods they have targeted.

But the killers seem to have moved to other neighborhoods and violence has not subsided in the city as a whole.

A car bomb and a roadside bomb exploded in quick succession in the Sadoun district of central Baghdad on Thursday, killing four people and wounding 38, police said. At least five other bombs struck in the capital in the morning, killing at least three and wounding 30.

Mortar rounds landed on a district in the southwest of the capital killing four. Other bombs struck in Mosul, Kirkuk and Numaniya. A woman and two children were among five people killed in an air strike in Ramadi, hospital officials said.

Death squads were returning to one of the areas the Americans had cleared, Ghazaliya, because police were allowing the killers back in, said a senior U.S. military official who briefed reporters under condition he not be named.

"We would ascribe that to probably some measure of some element in MoI facilitating the re-entry of folks into the area," said the official, referring to the Ministry of the Interior which oversees the police.

He described a surge in death squad killings since February by members of cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi Army, including some who were "rogue" and no longer under Sadr's control.

The death squads have been seeking out victims using lists of targets and placing them before clerics who give religious sanction to their killings, he said, giving one of the most detailed descriptions of U.S. intelligence on the violence.

Since June they have carried out mass kidnappings, often of dozens of people stopped at roadblocks and separated out by their religion. They are held, tortured and killed.

Osama 'probably' hiding in Pak: Karzai

NEW YORK, Sept 26: Three days ahead of the trilateral summit with US Prez George W Bush and Pak Prez Pervez Musharraf, Afghan leader Hamid Karzai has said the al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden is "probably" in Pakistan and he can be captured if "collectively tried".

"He (Osama) is not in Afghanistan. I can tell you that for sure," Karzai said during NBC's "Meet the Press" programme. When asked if he is in Pakistan, the Afghan leader replied:"Probably he is there. That's what the reports say now that come across".

Asked to comment on a report of the Rand Corporation, which was privately endorsed by offcial circles, that essentially accused the Pakistani government and forces of being in collusion with the Taliban, he said: "We have a serious problem in this regard. When I said we must go to the sources of terrorism, where they are trained, where they are equipped, where they are given money, where they are given motivation and sent to kill international coalition forces, engineers, doctors, Afghans, that's what I meant."

Pressed on whether he is talking about Pakistan, he said "whatever the source is". "If it is violated, then we will be very skeptical and that will exactly be a sanctuary for terrorism in that part of Pakistan" Karzai added.

He maintained that Afghanistan had provided the location to Islamabad of Osama bin Laden and argued that if "all" cooperate the al Qaeda chief could be nabbed. "We have provided, from time to time, for the past so many years, information to our friends, our brothers, our neighbors in Pakistan about sanctuaries, about training grounds, about personalities associated with terrorism.

They came back to us and said that some of the information was old, but that it was true sometime before that and that we hope that more action will be taken" the Afghan leader said.
Asked if Pakistan can capture bin Laden the Afghanistran leader remarked," I don't have so much information to speculate on that. But if you all tried to collectively, he would not be able to hide".

Separately,the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Jane Harman said the Bush administration failed to nab bin Laden after cornering him at Tora Bora and that there is now a fair degree of certainty that the al Qaeda chief is in Pakistan.

"We missed a chance. We had him cornered at Tora Bora in Afghanistan. And under this administration, no action was taken. We also know, I think for a fair certainty, that he's in the tribal area of Pakistan. I don't believe he's in Afghanistan. Resources were not focused on this problem as we got bogged down in Iraq. Now we have more resources on the problem. But we should have been able to capture him within the last five years" Harman said in a news channel late Edition.

Thailand's military ousts prime minister

BANGKOK, Sept 19: Thailand's army commander ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in a military coup Tuesday night while he was in New York, circling his offices with tanks, declaring martial law and revoking the constitution. A military spokesman said army Commander-in-Chief Gen. Sondhi Boonyaratkalin would be acting prime minister

Sondhi, a Muslim in this Buddhist-dominated country, is known to be close to Thailand's revered monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej. An announcement on national television signed by army Sondhi Boonyaratkalin ordered all troops to report to their duty stations.

A senior army general, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation, said the armed forces chiefs were meeting with the king to discuss forming an interim government, suggesting it would probably be led by civilians.

As soldiers and armored vehicles moved through a drizzly Bangkok, an announcement from the military had earlier declared a provisional authority loyal to the king. It declared that a "Council of Administrative Reform" had seized power in Bangkok and nearby provinces without any resistance. It recognized the king as head of state.

"The armed forces commander and the national police commander have successfully taken over Bangkok and the surrounding area in order to maintain peace and order. There has been no struggle," the announcement said. "We ask for the cooperation of the public and ask your pardon for the inconvenience."

Thaksin, who has faced calls to step down amid allegations of corruption and abuse of power, was in New York at the U.N. General Assembly, and he declared a state of emergency in an audio statement via a government-owned TV station in Bangkok.

At least 14 tanks surrounded Government House, Thaksin's office. A convoy of four tanks rigged with loudspeakers and sirens rolled through a busy commercial district of Bangkok, warning people to get off the street for their own safety.

Army spokesman Col. Akara Chitroj said Deputy Prime Minister Chitchai Wannasathit had been removed from his post. An army general, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation, said Chitchai and Defense Minister Thammarak Isaragura na Ayuthaya - two Thaksin loyalists - had been arrested. "The government is no longer administering the country," Akara said.

In a vain attempt to stave off the coup, Thaksin in his state-of-emergency declaration from New York had ordered Sondhi to report to Chitchai immediately, effectively dismissing him.
Thaksin, who had been scheduled to address the General Assembly on Wednesday night, switched his speech to Tuesday at 7 p.m. EDT.

The coup went largely unnoticed in Bangkok's popular tourist districts, where foreigners packed bars and cabarets, oblivious to the activity about two miles away. But word raced among street vendors hawking T-shirts, who packed up their carts quickly and started heading home.

Hundreds of people gathered at Government House taking pictures of themselves with the tanks. "I don't agree with the coup, but now that they've done it, I support it because Thaksin has refused to resign from his position," said university student Sasiprapha Chantawong. "Allowing Thaksin to carry on will ruin the country more than this. The reputation of the country may be somewhat damaged, but it's better than letting Thaksin stay in power."

The White House said it was monitoring the events. Frederick Jones, a spokesman for the National Security Council, said President Bush's national security advisers had seen various reports of military movements as well as reports of a declaration of a state of emergency. "We are monitoring developments closely, but the situation at the moment is unclear," Jones said. "We look to the Thai people to resolve their political differences in a peaceful manner and in accordance with principles of democracy and rule of law."

It was the first coup in Thailand since 1992, when an attempt by Prime Minister Suchinda Kraprayoon, a military general, to retain power was countered by mass street demonstrations and Suchinda's ouster. After that, the military vowed to remain in its barracks, in contrast to earlier decades when military coups were a staple of Thai politics.

Tuesday's coup came a day before a major rally - the first in months - was to take place in Bangkok by a anti-Thaksin coalition. Massive rallies earlier this year forced Thaksin to dissolve Parliament and call an election in April, three years early. The poll was boycotted by the opposition and later annulled by Thailand's top courts, leaving it without a working legislature.

Thaksin's Thai Rak Thai Party twice won landslide election victories, in 2001 and 2005 and had been expected to win the next vote on Oct. 15, bolstered by its widespread support in the country's rural areas.

In March, Sondhi sought to ease speculation the military might join the political fray, as it last did in 1992 and more than a dozen other times during earlier crises. "The army will not get involved in the political conflict. Political troubles should be resolved by politicians," Sondhi said at the time, echoing comments of other top military officials. "Military coups are a thing of the past."

On Monday, Thaksin had said he might step down as leader of Thailand after the upcoming elections but would remain as partly leader, despite calls for him to give up the post.

The first sign of the coup came when army-owned TV channel 5 interrupted regular broadcasts with patriotic music and showed pictures of the king. Later, several hundred soldiers were deployed at government installations and major intersections in Bangkok.

Thaksin's critics wanted to jettison his policies promoting privatization, free trade agreements and CEO-style administration.

Opposition to Thaksin gained momentum in January when his family announced it had sold its controlling stake in telecommunications company Shin Corp. to Singapore's state-owned Temasek Holdings for a tax-free $1.9 billion. Critics allege the sale involved insider trading and complained a key national asset moved to foreign hands.

Thaksin also has been accused of stifling the media and mishandling a Muslim insurgency in southern Thailand that flared under his rule. In the mostly Muslim south, separatist insurgents have waged a bloody campaign that has left at least 1,700 dead, mostly civilians, since 2004. Citizens there have complained of rights abuses by soldiers and discrimination by the country's Buddhist majority.

Bhumibol, a 78-year-old constitutional monarch with limited powers, has used his prestige to pressure opposing parties to compromise during political crises. He is credited with helping keep Thailand more stable than many of its Southeast Asian neighbors. He is the world's longest-serving monarch, celebrated his 60th year on the throne with lavish festivities in June that were attended by royalty from around the world.

Many Thais had been counting on him to pull the country through its political crisis, which has left it with no functioning legislature and only a caretaker government after the inconclusive election. Bhumibol was born in Cambridge, Mass. He became the ninth king of Thailand's Chakri dynasty on June 9, 1946, succeeding his older brother, Ananda, killed by an unexplained shooting.

Since then, he has reigned through a score of governments, democratic and dictatorial. He has taken an especially active role in rural development. In 1992, demonstrators against a military strongman were gunned down before the king stepped in to end the fighting and usher in a period of stability.

India, Pakistan to set up anti-terror mechanism

HAVANA, Sept 17: Taking a significant step to build trust, India and Pakistan today decided to set up a joint anti-terrorism institutional mechanism and agreed to resume the foreign secretary-level talks soon.

After an hour-long meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf in Havana, the two sides emphasised that the peace process must be maintained and its "success was important" for both the countries and the future of the region.

A Joint Statement issued after the meeting said the two countries will continue search for "mutually-acceptable options" for a "peaceful negotiated settlement of all issues, including Kashmir, in a sincere and purposeful manner."

The two leaders, who met in the aftermath of the Mumbai blasts which led to a chill in the bilateral ties, "strongly condemned all acts of terrorism".

Agreeing that terrorism is a scourge that needs to be dealt with, Singh and Musharraf decided to put in place an "India-Pakistan anti-terrorism institutional mechanism to identify and implement counter-terrorism initiatives and investigations."

The decision to set up the new mechanism comes on the heels of India asking Pakistan to take concrete action on the ground to stop terrorism emanating from that country if it wanted the peace process to move forward.

NAM expresses total opposition to terror

HAVANA, Sept 17: In a strong endorsement of India's position, the 118-nation Non-aligned Movement (NAM) on Sunday expressed its total opposition to terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and asked countries to combat the menace, including by prosecuting and extraditing its perpetrators.

Burning midnight oil and bringing to an end months of negotiations, the two-day NAM summit adopted the Havana Declaration and the 'Final Document' in the early hours of the day urging countries to refrain from extending political, diplomatic, moral or material support to terrorism under the UN Charter and also asking them to fulfill global obligations not to give it any support.

Being held in Cuba, an inveterate anti-US campaigner, the conference condemned unilateralism and attempts to exercise hegemonic domination in international relations, a favourite phraseology of Cuba for decades to attack Washington.

It resolved to oppose and condemn the categorisation of countries as "good or evil" based on unilateral and unjustified criteria and the adoption of a doctrine of pre-emptive attack, including by nuclear weapons.

In a paragraph that could cause discomfort to Pakistan, the 91-page final document expressed deep concern that the terrorist groups, including former Taliban, were regrouping in the southern and eastern parts of Afghanistan. Equally of concern was that the efforts of international community to fight terrorism were being undermined by support, protection and shelter that these forces of destablisation continued to receive, it said.

Though the document did not take the name of any country, sources said during the negotiations Pakistan had raised some objections to the wording.

India's campaign for reform of the United Nations, especially the Security Council, found support when the declaration and the document expressed concern over the lack of progress in the discussions in the UN General Assembly on the question of equitable representation and increase in the membership of the Council. It called for efforts to make the Council more democratic, more representative, more accountable and more effective.

Taking concerns of countries like India on board on the issue of terrorism, the document said criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror among the people "for whatever purposes, wherever, by whomever, against whomsoever committed are, in any circumstance, unjustifiable, whatever the considerations or factors that may be invoked to justify them."

It asked the countries to fulfill their obligations under international and humanitarian law to combat terrorism, including by prosecuting or extraditing the perpetrators of terrorist acts and by not instigating or financing terror acts against other states.

The document called for the conclusion of a comprehensive convention for combating international terrorism.

In a veiled attack on US, the summit opposed unilateralism in international relations as well as unilaterally imposed measures by certain states and the use of force and pressure to achieve their national policy objectives.

In the context of talk of clash of civilisations, the NAM countries sought a dialogue among cultures, civilisations and religions.

More than 200 Taliban die in Afghanistan

PASHMUL (Afghanistan), Sept 4: Warplanes and artillery pounded Taliban fighters hiding in orchards Sunday during a big Afghan-NATO offensive that the alliance said killed more than 200 militants in its first two days. Four Canadian soldiers also were killed.

If the estimate is confirmed, the battle would be one of the deadliest since U.S.-led forces ousted the Taliban regime five years ago. Reporters could not reach all the combat zone because officials barred traffic from all but one road in this part of southern Kandahar province.

Operation Medusa was launched Saturday to flush out Taliban fighters from Panjwayi and neighboring Zhari district. NATO spokesman Maj. Scott Lundy said alliance and Afghan troops had gained ground and disrupted the militants' command system so guerrillas were moving in confusion.

Afghan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak said Taliban casualties were high, but could not confirm the NATO report of more than 200 dead. A NATO statement said its figure was derived from "surveillance and reconnaissance assets operating in Panjwayi and Zhari districts, as well as information reported by various Afghan officials and citizens living nearby."

About 80 other suspected Taliban were arrested by Afghan police and a further 180 fled the area, it said. The alliance said it had no reports of civilian casualties, despite the heavy weight of fire being used. But a spokesman for the Afghan Defense Ministry, Gen. Zahir Azimi, said earlier that an undetermined number of civilians were killed.

Dutch Minister's visit to boost trade ties

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, Sept 3: The Netherlands' Minister for Foreign Trade, Mrs Karien van Gennip's five-day visit will further strengthen bilateral economic relations, promote Indo-Dutch trade and investment and cooperation in the field of science and technology.

"There is substantial room for growth in India-Netherlands economic relations", she said in a recent interview. With 8.5 per cent growth last year India is a good market for trade, investment and scientific cooperation.

Dutch companies are increasingly looking at India for expanding their business. India is one of the three priority countries for the Dutch Trade Board, a public-private partnership set up by the government a year ago, that aims to promote and increase international business.

Exports from the Netherlands to India (Euro 911 million in 2005) are increasing yearly. Dutch foreign investment in India ranks third position, while the Netherlands emerged as the largest recipient of overseas Indian investment in the first nine months of FY06 ($244 million).

The theme of her mission is globalization, innovation and co-operation in research and development. In this regard special attention will be given to IT, life sciences, with a focus on biotechnology and non-conventional energy.

This will be reflected in a number of company visits and other activities such as a visit to the Centre for Cellular & Molecular Biology in Hyderabad and the participation of Minister van Gennip in CONNECT 2006 in Chennai. Highlight in Chennai will be the World premier of the showcasing (outside the Netherlands) of a solar boat, as an example of Dutch innovative design and technology.

A special feature of her visit to India will be the celebration of the 10th anniversary of the two Netherlands Business Support Offices in Chennai and Ahmedabad.

During her two days of parleys in New Delhi beginning Monday, she would meet the Minister for Commerce and Industry, Mr Kamal Nath, the Minister for Non-Conventional Energy Sources, Mr Vilas Muttemwar, and the Finance Minister, Mr P. Chidambaram.

On Monday she will open the matchmaking event hosted by CII and address a FICCI round table entitled "India-Netherlands: connecting innovative gateways". The minister will visit Hyderabad on September 6 and Chennai on September 7 and 8.

In Hyderabad, she will call on the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, Mr Y. S. R. Reddy and in Chennai she will pay a courtesy call to the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, Mr M.K. Karunanidhi.

She is accompanied by a business delegation, headed by Mr. Rutger Koopmans, Chairman of the Netherlands-Indian Chamber of Commerce and Trade (NICCT) and comprising companies from various sectors, mostly IT and life sciences. Apart from the business delegation, the Minister is accompanied by representatives of the Rijksmuseum, the Concertgebouw Orchestra and the Royal Tropical Institute (KIT).

Her visit comes nearly two weeks after the detention of 12 Indian nationals by the Dutch police on board a Mumbai-bound US airliner following a mid-air terror drama.

India had officially protested and summoned the Dutch Ambassador in New Delhi and lodged a protest against the detentions.

Unabated Iraqi violence claimes 59 lives

BAGHDAD, Aug 28: A series of deadly suicide bombings and shootings across Iraq killed at least fifty nine people in a brutal response to premier Nuri al-Maliki's attempts to stitch his wounded country back together.

One day after Maliki won a promise from tribal leaders to rein in Iraq's violent factions, bombers carried out deadly attacks across the country, with four targeting the northern Kurdish minority that left 15 people dead. The Sunday's savagery has a blow to Maliki's authority on a day in which he once again insisted that Iraq is not slipping into all-out sectarian conflict.

"The violence is on the decrease, and our security ability is increasing," Maliki said in an interview with a news television. "I want to assure he who loves Iraq that Iraq will never be in a civil war," he said.

Shortly after the interview was broadcast, gunmen stormed a market in Khallis, a mainly-Shiite town north of Baghdad, and sprayed automatic fire indiscriminately into a crowd, killing 14 people and wounding 25.

Earlier, two near simultaneous suicide car bomb attacks on Kurdish targets killed 10 and wounded 50 more in the ethnically mixed northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, police Brigadier General Burhan Tayib told the news agency in the city. One attack hit a religious shrine owned by the family of Iraq's Kurdish President Jalal Talabani, the other the home of a Kurdish police chief, Colonel Ahmed Abdallah's, whose son was among the dead, Tayib said.

Iran still has time to avoid sanctions: US

WASHINGTON, Aug 25: The United States is awaiting a formal UN deadline before seeking any new measures to coerce or punish Iran over its disputed nuclear programme, the State Department says.

"We're looking at the Aug 31 date and I think once we get there, we'll begin to take action," State Department spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos said on Thursday. The UN Security Council is set to take up the Iran case on Aug 31, and could soon consider a new resolution to impose economic or other sanctions on Tehran.

Rice: U.N. draft alone won't fix Lebanon

CRAWFORD, Texas, Aug 6: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice described a draft U.N. cease-fire resolution as a first step to stop violence in the Middle East, but said it cannot solve the problems in Lebanon.

Rice said the Lebanese government must extend its authority into the south so the militant Islamic group Hezbollah does not have control. She said the international community must help Lebanese forces be successful over the next several months.

"We're trying to deal with a problem that has been festering and brewing in Lebanon now for years and years and years," Rice said. "And so it's not going to be solved by one resolution in the Security Council.

"These things take awhile to wind down," she said. "It is certainly not the case that probably all violence is going to stop. .. I can't say that you should rule out that there could be skirmishes of some kind for some time to come."

Rice spoke to reporters near President Bush's private ranch, where he was on a 10-day vacation from the White House. With the full United Nations Security Council considering a proposal developed by the U.S. and the French, Rice and National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley were spending the weekend at the president's side.

The proposal calls for Hezbollah to stop all military operations and for Israel to stop its offensive drive against Lebanon. The proposal would allow Israel to strike back if Hezbollah were to break a cease-fire.
Hadley said the United States hoped the resolution would pass Monday afternoon or Tuesday morning.

The Lebanese parliamentary speaker, a prominent Shiite who has been negotiating on behalf of Hezbollah, rejected the plan because it did not include an immediate cease-fire and withdrawal of Israeli troops.

"I know Hezbollah has said all kinds of things. I've heard, 'We should have an immediate cease-fire,' I've heard, 'We'll keep fighting,' I've heard all of those things," she said. "When this U.N. Security Council resolution is passed, we're going to know who really did want to stop the violence and who didn't."

Israel says it won't pull its troops out of the south until a significant international military force deploys in the region. Rice said a second proposal was being drafted at the U.N. that would form an international force. "There are things the Israelis wanted and things the Lebanese wanted, and everybody wasn't going to get everything that they wanted," Rice said. "This is the international community's effort to bring about a reasonable, equitable basis for the cessation of hostilities of the kind that are so devastating to civilian populations."

Hadley reiterated that the United States would not contribute ground troops to the international force deployed to Lebanon. He said other nations were discussing which will contribute, when they would move in and other logistical matters, but they have been reluctant to move forward without the second resolution. He said he hoped that resolution would be approved "in days, not weeks."

Bush spoke on the phone to British Prime Minister Tony Blair for 47 minutes Sunday about their strategy for the Middle East. Hadley said Bush had not called the prime ministers of Lebanon or Israel, but "if it will advance the diplomacy, the president will do it."

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