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Pak given 4th 26/11 dossier

NEW DELHI, Aug 1: India on Saturday handed over to Pakistan a seven-page "detailed" dossier containing additional evidence, sought by that country, on the November 26, 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai.

Union home minister P. Chidambaram said here that Pakistan now has "enough evidence" to prosecute Jamaat-ud Dawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Saeed in connection with the Mumbai attacks. "There is enough evidence to continue the probe against Saeed," Mr Chidambaram said. Saeed, who is also the founder of the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT), is the mastermind of the 26/11 attacks.

The dossier, comprising a seven-page summary and 60 pages of annexures, was handed over by T.C.A. Raghavan, joint secretary in charge of the Pakistan division in the ministry of external affairs (MEA), to Pakistan deputy high commissioner Rifat Masood when she was called to South Block. The MEA said here in a statement that on July 11 Pakistan had provided to India a dossier providing an update on investigations in Pakistan into the terrorist attack on Mumbai.

(In the 34-page dossier given to India, Pakistan had sought the authenticated interrogation reports of two Indian terrorists, Fahim Ansari and Sabahuddin, held in connection with the terror attacks. Pakistan had also sought the attested copies of examination reports given by experts on the global positioning system and voice over Internet protocol used during the attacks.)

"A request had been made in it for further evidence. A detailed dossier of evidence has been provided today to the Pakistan high commission," the statement added.

Foreign secretary Nirupama Rao, who took charge earlier in the day, told reporters: "We will wait for Pakistan to examine the evidence provided in the dossier and we expect a meaningful response from Pakistan."

The latest dossier was handed over to the Pakistani side a day after the home ministry finalised India's response to the latest set of questions sent by Pakistan in connection with the Mumbai attacks.

Asked about the nature of the questions posed by Pakistan, Mr Chidambaram told reporters separately that they were "routine" queries of the "fill-in-the-blanks" type. He said Pakistan had asked for "information which is already there and asked for answers to questions which can easily be found if someone has read the CrPC (Criminal Procedure Code). Nevertheless, I have taken the trouble of dictating the response."

Sources indicated that the material contains "detailed information" about the investigation and legal evidence regarding the 26/11 attacks carried out by the Pakistan-based LeT outfit. In the recent past, India had provided details of the conversations between the 10 terrorists who struck in Mumbai and their handlers in Pakistan.

The dossier, the fourth to be handed over to Pakistan, is "comprehensive" and "covers all points" raised by Pakistan and should be enough for it to take the prosecution to its logical end, the sources said. Pakistan, meanwhile, has maintained that Saeed cannot be prosecuted as there is not much evidence linking him to the 26/11 attacks.

SC declares emergency imposed by Musharraf unconstitutional

ISLAMABAD, Aug 1: In a verdict with significant ramifications for President Asif Ali Zardari and the rulingPPP, Pakistan Supreme Court declared as unconstitutional and illegal former President Pervez Musharraf's imposition of emergency in November 2007.

The appointment of hand-picked judges during the emergency and their endorsement of Musharraf's actions too were declared unconstitutional by a 14-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry.

The apex court said the parliament should decide the fate of some 37 ordinances given permanence during the emergency.

Among these laws is the controversial National Reconciliation Ordinance, which was passed by Musharraf to grant amnesty to Zardari and other PPP leaders in graft cases.

The order issued by the bench said parliament would have to decide on these ordinances within the next four months. Legal experts said if the NRO is scrapped, Zardari would have to quit as President.

The bench also declared as illegal Musharraf's action of sacking 61 members of the superior judiciary, including Chief Justice Chaudhry, who did not endorse the emergency imposed on 3rd November, 2007.

46 injured in Spain car bomb blast

MADRID, July 29: A car bomb exploded outside a Civil Guard barracks in the northern Spanish city of Burgos early on Wednesday, slightly injuring 46 people, an emergency services spokesman said.

Part of the barracks facade collapsed into the street when the bomb went off around 4.30 a.m. A spokeswoman for the Civil Guard, Spain's paramilitary police force, said the attack was probably carried out by Basque separatist rebels ETA.

Most of the injuries were cuts and bruises and no one was in serious condition, although 38 had been transferred to hospital in the historic cathedral town, according to the emergency services spokesman.

"All the windows are broken. It's very damaged so it's almost a miracle no one was hurt more seriously," he said, adding that the barracks had been evacuated and fire fighters were going through the building.

ETA is held responsible for killing more than 800 people in the past 40 years in a campaign to carve out an independent Basque homeland in northern Spain and southern France. It typically uses shootings and car bombs, often parked outside police and army barracks.

The most recent killing blamed on the group was on June 19, when a police inspector died in a booby-trapped car in the northern city of Bilbao.

The organization is under pressure to show it can still mount attacks despite having been weakened by a series of arrests including that of its suspected top commander, Jurdan Martitegi, in April. His capture brought to four the number of commanders caught in less than a year.

Eighteen more alleged ETA members were captured in a three-week period in June and July.

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's Socialist government broke off peace talks with ETA after the rebels killed two people with a car bomb at Madrid airport in December 2006.

Suu Kyi conferred Mahatma Gandhi Peace award

DURBAN, July 21: The pro-democracy Myanmar leader and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has been felicitated with Mahatma Gandhi International Award for Peace and Reconciliation in Durban.

The award was bestowed by the South African-based Mahatma Gandhi Foundation at a function at the Durban City Hall last night.

Burmese Prime Minister in exile, Thien Win received the award on her behalf which was presented by South African Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Ebrahim Ismail Ebrahim.

Bestowing the award, Paddy Kearney, a trustee of the Foundation, said the award was being given on July 20 because it represents the 20th anniversary of Suu Kyi's house arrest by the military junta in her country.

"She is a non-violent leader in the mould of Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King. The award is in recoginition of her strong commitment to non-violence, justice and peace," he said.

We are not sure whether she knows about this award but what we can tell you that our chairperson Ela Gandhi, had sent a letter to the Burmese ambassador in Pretoria and it was returned without being opened, he added.

Kearney said that South Africa fully supports Aung San Suu Kyi and the Myanmarese people in their struggles.

Pak officially admits LeT role in 26/11

NEW DELHI, July 18: A 36 page dossier handed over by Pakistan has for the first time admitted that Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) carried out the November 26, 2008 Mumbai attacks.

The dossier terming Lashkar operations chief Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi as the mastermind and admitting the Pakistan nationality of Ajmal Amir Kasab along with some others is said to have prompted India to be more accommodating with Pakistan at the NAM summit in Sharm-el-Sheikh, Egypt.

If the dossier is any indication of the way Pakistani authorities are going to proceed in the case, sources said, then the chargesheet would be quite substantive.

Pakistan has reportedly given details on each of the accused, which includes Zarar Shah, who has been identified as the person in-charge of the communications, and then there are details of proclaimed offenders like Kasab.

The LeT, has been referred to as a defunct organisation with no links to other outfits in Pakistan. It is in this context, that India did not want to be rigid in the conversation with Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani at Sharm-el-Shaikh. The dossier is being seen as a step forward as a result, the formulation in the joint statement.

Pakistan created and nurtured terrorists, admits Zardari

ISLAMABAD, July 8: For the first time, Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari has admitted that militants and extremists were "created and nurtured" in the country as a policy to achieve some short-term tactical objectives.

But they began to haunt the country in the post-9/11 era, Zardari said in a candid admission during an interactive meeting with former senior civil servants at the presidency last night.

Militants and extremists emerged on the national scene and challenged the state not because the civil bureaucracy was weakened and demoralised, but because they "were deliberately created and nurtured as a policy to achieve some short-term tactical objectives," he said.

"Let us be truthful to ourselves and make a candid admission of the realities," Zardari said.

"The terrorists of today were the heroes of yesteryears until 9/11 occurred and they began to haunt us as well," he added.

Labelling Pakistan as a frontline state in the war against terrorism, Zardari pledged to eliminate this scourge from society. "I have taken charge at a difficult time and will come up to the challenges the country is facing."

His remarks came days after his comments in an interview that the Pakistan Army would even target militants it had backed in the past for use as a proxy force against India.

The army is currently engaged in a campaign against the Taliban in the northwestern Swat valley and is gearing up for a push against Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan chief Baitullah Mehsud and his network in South Waziristan tribal region.

Zardari also stressed the need for greater national reconciliation, saying he intended to keep all political forces together because Pakistan cannot afford confrontation at this juncture.

"Dialogue is our most powerful weapon...we defeated a dictator through the power of dialogue and we intend to continue holding dialogue to resolve various issues confronting Pakistan," he said.

"We are on the brink and we must realise that personal political games can no longer be played," he added.

Responding to various suggestions by the former civil servants, Zardari said the government is taking several steps to improve governance, tackle militancy and extremism, improve law and order, agricultural output and power generation, strengthen institutions and devolve power.

China riots toll 156; Uighurs stage protests in Turkey, Norway

ANKARA, Turkey, July 7: Uighur expatriates staged protests on Tuesday outside the Chinese embassies in Turkey and Norway, denouncing violence in western China that has killed at least 156 people.

Protesters briefly scuffled with police in Ankara, and the Turkish Foreign Ministry summoned a top Chinese diplomat over the violence in China's Xinjiang region. Rioting broke out Sunday.

In Germany, police said fire bombs were thrown at the Chinese consulate in the southern German city of Munich in the early hours of Monday, causing minor damage to the facade and setting fire to a Chinese flag. A police statement said it was not immediately clear whether the incident was linked to events in Xinjiang.

The Chinese government imposed a curfew in the regional capital of Urumqi on Tuesday after mobs of Han Chinese with meat cleavers and clubs roamed the streets looking for Muslim Uighurs who had earlier beaten up people in the country's worst ethnic violence in decades.

Turkey called the Chinese Embassy's charge d'affairs to the Foreign Ministry requesting "information on the events and to convey Turkey's sensitivity and concern" over the riots, a ministry official said. Uighurs are related to Turks, and Turkey is home to a Uighur community.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity in line with rules barring government employees from speaking to journalists without prior authorization.

Outside the embassy in Ankara, several hundred Uighur and Turkish demonstrators rallied. A group of protesters tried to break through a line of Turkish police in riot gear to approach the embassy, leading to brief scuffles with police. No injuries were reported.

Demonstrators hurled eggs at the embassy building and held up banners calling for an end to Chinese aggression against Uighurs.

Some 100 protesters who gathered outside the Chinese Consulate in Istanbul set a Chinese flag on fire.

Meanwhile, about 100 ethnic Uighurs waving their national flag gathered outside China's Embassy in Oslo, demanding that China end violence and ethnic discrimination in Xinjiang.

Two people were injured in the protest — one while trying to scale the embassy fence — and 11 demonstrators were detained, according to Oslo police spokesman Oystein Roraas.

He said those detained would not face charges and would immediately be released.

Indonesian president poised to win second term

JAKARTA, July 7: Indonesia's president, whose popular economic policies and corruption-free image boosted him to the top of pre-election polls, is countingon a single-round victory when the emerging democracy picks its next leader Wednesday.

The majority of Indonesians are satisfied with the country's newfound economic and political stability, following decades of brutal authoritarian rule. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's campaign team seems have captured most voters with promises of the same policies — an approach that runs counter to recent elections in countries like Iran and the U.S., which have issued loud calls for change.

Opinion polls indicate that Yudhoyono, the first directly elected president in Indonesia, will win the necessary 50% of votes to defeat two opponents and avoid a September runoff — in what amounts to a passing grade for his first five-year term.

Until recently, Indonesia was wracked by secessionist battles, suicide bombings by al-Qaida-funded Islamic militants, and millions of job losses after the Asian financial crisis in 1997-98 toppled the banking system.

Today, the predominantly Muslim country of 235 million is enjoying a level of harmony its critics had said was impossible, with its economy growing at 4% a year amid a severe global downturn. A number of its Southeast Asian neighbors, including prosperous Thailand, are headed in the opposite direction.

``Unless there is some dramatic political event, a first-round win (for Yudhoyono) is highly possible,'' said Sunny Tanuwidjaja, a researcher at the Jakarta-based Center for Strategic and International Studies. ``Voters know what they will be getting over the next five years with Yudhoyono. Indonesia is headed toward five more years of stability.''

Still, Indonesia faces huge obstacles in attracting foreign investment to improve its crumbling infrastructure, creating an independent judiciary, and reducing poverty of up to 100 million people. It has also struggled to stop illegal logging and mining that are depleting its natural resources and causing global warming.

Most public opinion polls in Indonesia are funded by political parties, but even the surveys paid for by Yudhoyono's opponents put the 59-year-old former general 10% ahead of the closest rival. Pro-Yudhoyono pollsters give him a 30% lead at 70% of the vote. Yudhoyono needs 50% of cast ballots to win in one round.

Yudhoyono is competing against Megawati Sukarnoputri, a former president whose father was the first postcolonial leader of Indonesia, and Vice President Jusuf Kalla, the frontman of the ex-dictator's political machine, Golkar.

It has been a decade since the Suharto regime was ousted in a public uprising in 1998, but leaders of the country's military past still play an active role in politics. The courts, police and parliament are regularly ranked among the most corrupt institutions in the world by anti-graft watchdogs.

The running mates of Yudhoyono's opponents, former generals Prabowo Subianto and Wiranto, faced accusations by U.N. prosecutors and rights groups of atrocities during the dictatorship, but are expected to win millions of votes.

Foreign observers are hopeful that a win for Yudhoyono, whose Democratic Party tripled its parliamentary seats in April legislative elections after spending $2 billion on cash handouts for the poor, will reinvigorate the push to eradicate graft and nepotism.

But a former Corruption Eradication Commission deputy chairman, Erry Riyana Hardjapamekas, told reporters Tuesday the president ``is failing to respond to unjust attacks'' on the commission, a reference to police investigations into two commissioners.

``Indonesia's anti-corruption movement is at stake and needs commitment from the president,'' he said.

Yudhoyono has gained a name at home and abroad for his clean reputation, and a crackdown on Southeast Asia's Jemaah Islamiyah terrorist network after a series of attacks between 2002 and 2005 killed more than 240 people, most of them foreign tourists on Bali.

The Indonesian Survey Circle, which has accurately forecast previous elections, predicted in a poll published Monday that Yudhoyono would win more than 50% of the popular vote. It said Sukarnoputri and Kalla would garner less than 30%.

The independent agency said it conducted 2,000 face-to-face interviews in the nationwide survey in mid-June, and that it has a margin of error of plus or minus 2%age points. It declined to tell The Associated Press who commissioned the survey.

Around 176 million people signed up to vote at more than half a million polling stations. The Constitutional Court sided with an opposition demand this week that other citizens — possibly tens of millions — will be allowed to make last-minute registrations to exercise their right to vote.

The National Election Commission overseeing the polls has been widely criticized for failing to compile a list of registered voters, as it did in the April elections. Yudhoyono's rivals — while providing no proof — claim that millions of people will be unable to participate.

Every voter will have their index finger dipped in ink to show they have cast their ballot — a system designed to avoid duplications.

Manmohan askes Zardari to end terrorism

YEKATERINBURG (Russia), June 16: Moments after shaking hands, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari on Tuesday that his mandate was simple: to tell Pakistan that it must end all terrorism against India.

As soon as they sat down, Singh said he was happy to meet Zardari.

And then, within earshot of reporters, the PM spelt out the post-26/11 agenda for Zardari — that Pakistan must implement the assurances given to India on terrorism.

Singh, as usual, spoke in his low tone at the Silver Room of the Hyatt hotel in this central Russian city, but his remarks were audible to journalists, before they were ushered out of the meeting room.

Singh and Zardari had last met on the sidelines of a United Nations General Assembly session in New York last September.

On Tuesday, they had a 45-minute one-on-one conversation.

Later, foreign secretary Shivshankar Menon said the “primary issue of terrorism will be discussed by the foreign secretaries of the two countries” before the leaders of the two countries met again in mid-July on the sidelines of an international conference in Sharm-el-Sheikh, Egypt.

Zardari’s spokesman, Farhatullah Baabar, said in a statement that the stalled peace process between the two countries had got a “fresh lease of life”. The president, he added, had reiterated Islamabad’s desire to punish the perpetrators of the Mumbai carnage.

There is no resumption of the composite dialogue yet, but the reset button on the relationship appears to have been pressed by the two countries.

Menon emphasised that the foreign secretaries would discuss what Pakistan had done to tackle terrorism against India and then report to the leaders. The rest, he said, was “astrology”.

It is clear that for the moment only the issue of Pakistani action against India-specific terrorism is on the bilateral agenda, but once Singh and Zardari take stock of the situation in Egypt, opportunities for enhanced dialogue could open up.

Aware of political sensitivities back home, the government seems to have gone along with a limited resumption of talks with Pakistan which would focus directly on Islamabad’s actions to curb terrorist attacks against India.

Asked for a response to the “tough language” used by Singh on terrorism, Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi downplayed the issue. “I would look at it differently,” he said. “The fact that this (Zardari-Manmohan) meeting is happening is a positive development.”

About the release of Lashkar-e-Tayyeba leader Hafiz Saeed by the Lahore High Court, he said, “The courts in Pakistan are independent and we, like you, have to respect their decisions.”

Would the Pakistani government file an appeal in the Supreme Court against Saeed’s release? “We’re contemplating such an appeal,” said Qureshi.

Ensure more say for emerging economies,curb protectionism: BRIC

YEKATERINBURG, June 16: In the backdrop of the global meltdown, India, Russia, China and Brazil on Tuesday pitched for "greater voice and representation" of developing economies in the international financial institutions and demanded curbing of trade protectionism.

In a joint statement after the first Summit of four countries attended by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, BRIC underlined the "strong need for a stable, predictable and more diversified international monetary system."

The four fastest growing economies also pressed all countries and relevant international bodies to "act vigorously" to implement the decisions adopted at the London G-20 Summit in April, with a promise to cooperate closely to ensure further progress of collective action at the next G-20 Summit to be held in Pittsburg in September.

The Summit, where global financial crisis dominated the agenda, emphasised the need for improving the international trade and investment environment and urged the international community to keep the multilateral trading system stable, curb trade protectionism, and push for comprehensive and balanced results of the WTO's Doha Development Agenda.

"We look forward to a successful outcome of the UN Conference on the World Financial and Economic Crisis and its Impact on Development to be held in New York on June 24-26," said the Joint Statement issued by Mr. Singh, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Chinese President Hu Jintao and Brazilian President Lula Da Silva.

The BRIC said it is committed to advance the reform of international financial institutions, so as to reflect changes in the world economy.

"The emerging and developing economies must have greater voice and representation in international financial institutions, and their heads and senior leadership should be appointed through an open, transparent and merit-based selection process," it said.

They said a reformed financial and economic architecture should be based democratic and transparent decision-making and implementation process at the international financial organisations, solid legal basis, compatibility of activities of effective national regulatory institutions and international standard-setting bodies.

The reform of the financial institutions should also entail strengthening of risk management and supervisory practices, it said.

The BRIC statement noted the important role played by international trade and foreign direct investments in the world economic recovery and asked all parties to work together to improve the international trade and investment environment.

Pointing out that the poorest countries have been hit hardest by the financial crisis, the statement said the international community needs to step up efforts to provide liquidity for these countries.

"The international community should also strive to minimise the impact of the crisis on development and ensure the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. Developed countries should fulfill their commitment of 0.7 per cent of Gross National Income for the Official Development Assistance and make further efforts in increasing assistance, debt relief, market access and technology transfer for developing countries," it said.

"We underline our support for a more democratic and just multi-polar world order based on the rule of international law, equality, mutual respect, cooperation, coordinated action and collective decision-making of all states," the BRIC nations said.

The next BRIC Summit will be held in Brazil next year.

Russia, China back India for greater role at UN

YEKATERINBURG, June 16: Russia and China on Tuesday backed India's aspirations to play a greater role in United Nations affairs.

"We reiterate the importance we attach to the status of India and Brazil in international affairs, and understand and support their aspirations to play a greater role in the UN," said a joint statement issued after the first summit meeting of leaders of Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC) here.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da'Silva, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chinese President Hu Jintao expressed their commitment to multilateral diplomacy and comprehensive UN reforms.

"We express our strong commitment to multilateral diplomacy with the United Nations playing the central role in dealing with global challenges and threats," they said.

The leaders of the four countries reaffirmed the need for a comprehensive reform of the UN.

Iran braced for more election protests

TEHRAN, June 15: Iran is braced for more unrest over its presidential election results after defeated candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi called for them to be annulled.

The government has banned a rally by his supporters, who say they will continue to protest against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's re-election.

On Sunday tens of thousands rallied in Tehran to celebrate his victory.

Mr Mousavi has claimed widespread fraud and US Vice-President Joe Biden says there are "real doubts" about the poll.

There were clashes between the police and anti-Ahmadinejad protesters in several parts of the city for a second day on Sunday.

Police hit protesters with batons and charged them on motorbikes.

Streets were littered with broken glass and fires set by protesters, while more riot police patrolled Mousavi strongholds.

Mousavi supporters cried "death to the dictator" into the evening.

Scores of people are reported to have been arrested.

There have been reports of tear gas being fired and rooms being searched at Tehran University.

Mr Ahmadinejad dismissed the unrest as "passions after a soccer match".

Mr Mousavi's website carried a statement saying he had formally called on Iran's Guardian Council, which must certify the counting, to annul the election.

He added: "I urge you, Iranian nation, to continue your nationwide protests in a peaceful and legal way."

North Korea Vows to Produce Nuclear Weapons

SEOUL, South Korea, June 14: North Korea responded Saturday to new United Nations sanctions on Friday by defiantly vowing to press forward with the production of nuclear weapons and take “resolute military actions” against international efforts to isolate it.

In a statement on the North’s official Korean Central News Agency, an unidentified spokesman for the North Korean Foreign Ministry was quoted as saying that his nation would continue its nuclear program to defend itself against what he called a hostile United States policy. He was quoted as saying that his nation would “weaponize” its existing plutonium stockpiles and begin a program to enrich uranium, which can also be used to make atomic warheads.

The statement, which was light on the vitriol that often colors such missives, was released hours after the United Nations Security Council voted to punish the North for its May 25 nuclear test and its missile tests. The Council tightened sanctions, including an arms embargo and a provision that encourages high-seas searches of North Korean ships.

“We’ll take firm military action if the United States and its allies try to isolate us,” the spokesman said, according to the KCNA, the news service.

The spokesman said that his nation had “reprocessed more than one-third of our spent nuclear fuel rods.”

Since the 1990s, United Nations inspectors have tried to keep track of the spent fuel rods at the Yongbyon nuclear complex; the rods can be reprocessed into weapons-grade plutonium.

American intelligence officials say they believe that North Korea may have one or two nuclear weapons and has produced enough bomb-grade plutonium already for several more.

The United States has also warned in the past that the North may be trying to turn its abundant supplies of natural uranium into material for weapons, but intelligence experts say they believe that such a program is years behind the country’s plutonium-based efforts. The North made similar vows about a uranium-based program in April, after a rocket test that started the latest confrontation between North Korea and the West.

Although the sanctions passed Friday tightened restrictions, the United States had hoped for more stringent penalties and for mandatory ship inspections. The Obama administration pushed for those inspections because of fears that the impoverished North would try to sell its weapons or nuclear material.

North Korea has grown increasingly isolated as it has pressed forward with a nuclear program that many analysts say they now believe is aimed at producing an independent nuclear deterrent rather than being used as a bargaining chip with the West for much needed aid.

The long-range missile test in April was part of what many analysts call an effort to produce a delivery system capable of reaching the United States. There have been signs in recent weeks that the North may be preparing for yet another missile test.

“It has become an absolutely impossible option for the D.P.R.K. to even think about giving up its nuclear weapons,” Saturday’s statement said, using the initials of the North’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

India, Canada explore ways to cooperate in higher education

TORONTO, June 14: India and Canada have explored innovative ways of partnership in higher education including different academic exchange programmes and research collaborations at advanced level.

Both countries deliberated on mutual recognition of credentials, collaboration in higher education and academic exchange programmes, India's Higher Education Department Secretary R.P. Agarwal said on Saturday.

During his two-day visit, Mr. Agarwal met top officials of the departments of Foreign Affairs, International Trade and Human Resources and Skills Development in Canada. He discussed with them the possibility of a consortium of Canadian Universities mentoring new Indian institutions of higher learning.

Mutual recognition of degrees is very important, Mr. Agarwal said and asked the Canadian officials to allow post-doctoral Indian students to join intensive research in the country's leading universities, which could be mutually beneficial.

Observing the 'excellent work' done by the Association of Canadian Community Colleges (ACCC) in Tamil Nadu, he asked Indian-Canadian faculties of Canadian universities to visit India frequently to help faculty shortage in the country.

"India needed Canadian expertise to train our instructors and community teachers as the government had proposed to open up 1,000 new polytechnic degree colleges in 210 backward districts across the country for skill development of young students," Mr. Agarwal said.

Yet another Indian student attacked in Australia

MELBOURNE, June 14: There seems no stopping to the list of violent racist attacks in Australia as yet another Indian student was bashed in Melbourne's eastern suburb.

The 20-year old Sunny Bajaj, according to The Age report on Sunday, was verbally abused and then punched by two men as he was about to get into his car in Boronia on Friday night.

"They came up to me and asked me for money, I told them I had none and then they attacked me," Bajaj, a student of Deakin University, was qouted in The Age.

The student, who hails from New Delhi, said they slammed his car door and punched him in head and stomach and then racially abused him.

Bajaj said his attackers were in their 20s, one was white, while the other appeared to be of African descent.

The case which counts the fourteenth such attacks on Indians in Australia in less than a month, is now being investigated by the police.

Six Indians assaulted in Canada

TORONTO, June 11: Six Indians were assaulted by a group of Canadians at a tennis court on the outskirts of Vancouver on Friday last. The police have arrested four assailants, including a woman, for shouting racial slurs at and robbing tennis players at Aldergrove.

The teenagers have been charged with robbery, assault with a weapon and uttering threats.

The four approached the players at the Jackman Park tennis courts. They allegedly used a metal bar and boards to rip off a fence to menace the six victims, shouting racial slurs, local media reported quoting the police. The players were herded into a corner of the court, and one was hit on the head by a board. Their belongings were taken away.

The B.C. Hate Crime Team is helping the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) in Langley in the investigation, RCMP Cpl. Holly Marks said.

Blaming entire Australia for racist attacks wrong: Dalai Lama

INDORE, June 11: Describing the attacks on Indian students in Australia as 'disappointing', Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama today said it would be wrong to blame the entire nation for the acts of a few people.

"The attacks on Indian students is disappointing but only a handful of people were behind it," the Nobel Laureate told reporters here.

"It would be wrong to generalise the entire country or society as racist on the basis of a few incidents. In my view, this is wrong," he said.

The behaviour of the native Australians is fast turning positive towards people of other cultures who have settled there, the spiritual leader said.

Dalai Lama, who was here to deliver a lecture on 'Compassion and Non-Violence' and interact with students of the Indian Institute of Management, noted that "racism was fast disappearing from the globe".

"Be it Malaysia in Asia or England in Europe, the walls of division are fast crumbling", he said.

"Differences between the Whites and Blacks have become a thing of the past in the United States of America", the Noble Laureate said pointing out that Afro-American Barrack Obama was now the president of the US.

Indian student targeted again in Australia

MELBOURNE, June 8: A 23-year-old Indian student was beaten up for the second time in a fortnight by a group of youths here, the 11th person from the community to be assaulted within a space of a month in Australia.

Kamal Jit was found unconscious and bleeding by another Indian student in western suburb of the city on Sunday.

It was the second attack in two weeks on Jit, who was previously pelted with eggs by several masked men after getting off a late night train at St Albans station in western suburb.

"It is very bad because we pay a lot of money and we are living far away from our country and from our families and we are without protection," Jit was quoted as saying in The Age newspaper on Monday.

As he walked home at about 1.40 am local time on Sunday, Jit said, he noticed three men acting suspiciously in a car and he tried to avoid them.

He then saw two men come out of it near a pizza shop, while another waited in a car.

"The two guys pushed me to the ground and I was hit on the head, I think with a steel rod," Jit said.

Jit, who required seven stitches after the blow to his head, said he did not want to live in the suburb any longer.

Jit's friends said the attack was the sixth or seventh over the past week on the Indian students, and called for extra police at the suburb of St. Albans station at night.

A Victoria Police spokeswoman was quoted by the newspaper as saying that extra police, increased surveillance and mobile patrols had been deployed around train stations.

The Australian Government had last week announced setting up of a Task Force headed by the National Security Adviser to deal with such violence.

Hundreds of Indian students yesterday rallied in Sydney to protest against the attacks.

Apart from Indians, there were students from other countries at the rally, who voiced their concerns about the racial violence and demanded police to be alert to prevent such incidents from happening again.

Just ahead of the rally, another youth from the community complained about his newly-bought car being torched outside his home here.

Indian students rally in Sydney; Youth's car burnt in Melbourne

SYDNEY, June 7: Chanting 'Vande Matram' and 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai', hundreds of Indian students rallied in Sydney on Sunday to protest against a spate of racial attacks and demand justice for victims, hours after another youth from the community complained about his newly-bought car being torched outside his home.

The rally, which saw the participation of nearly 1,000 students, was organised by the Federation of Indian Students Association, Sydney Chapter, along with the National Union of Students.

The protesters, shouting anti-racism slogans, marched from Townhall to High Park in Sydney. The chants of 'Vande Matram' and 'Baharat Mata Ki Jai' also reverberated the air during the rally.

Apart from Indians, there were students from other countries at the rally, who voiced their concerns about the racial violence and demanded police to be alert to prevent such incidents from happening again, witnesses said.

The rally, which demanded justice for the victims of racial attacks, came hours after yet another incident targeting Indian students in Australia came to light in which a car belonging to a 22-year-old youth from the community was torched.

Vikrant Rajesh Ratan, who had used all his savings to buy the car, said the vehicle was burnt last night outside his home.

'Slumdog’ may become English’s millionth word

‘Jai ho’ and ‘cuddies’ are other two Indian entries

NEW YORK, June 8: Come June 10 and English is likely to get its one millionth word. The frontrunner is ‘Hinglish’ term ‘jai ho,’ with the two other Indian entries of ‘slumdog’ and ‘cuddies.’

“The million-word milestone brings to notice the coming of age of English as the first truly global language,” president and chief word analyst of Global Language Monitor Paul J J Payack said.

‘Jai ho,’ a song composed by A.R. Rahman, and ‘slumdog’ achieved popularity through the multiple Academy Award Winner film ‘Slumdog Millionaire.’

‘Slumdog’ refers to those living in Indian slums, while ‘cuddies’ is used to refer to ladies’ underwear.

“There are three major trends involving the English language today: an explosion in word creation with words being added to the English language at the rate of some 14.7 words a day; a geographic explosion in which some 1.53 billion people now speak English around the globe as a primary, auxiliary, or business language; and English has become, in fact, the first truly global language,” Mr. Payack said.

According to the Global Language Monitor, owing to the global extent of the English language, the millionth word is as likely to appear from India or China as it is to emerge from Stratford-upon-Avon, Shakespeare’s home town. The other words in the reckoning are ‘alchopops’ (sugary-flavoured mixed drinks in Australia) and ‘chengguan’ (‘Chinglish’ term for urban management officers, a cross between mayors, sheriff, and city managers).

Australian state plans 'hate laws' after Indian attacks

MELBOURNE, June 2: The Australian state at the centre of a furore over attacks on Indian students said on Tuesday it would introduce hate laws to combat the problem, which has caused outrage on the sub-continent.

Authorities in Victoria said they would look at changing laws so that judges can take account of prejudice against a particular group of people when sentencing for a crime.

The move is an attempt to contain the fallout from a series of attacks on Indian students, although the changes would apply to hate crimes prompted by religion, sexual orientation and gender, as well as race.
"It may lead, in certain circumstances, to increased penalties," Victorian state Attorney-General Rob Hulls said.

"What we're looking at is ensuring that judges take into account whether or not a crime has been committed purely based on hatred or vilification of a particular group."

Hulls said the changes should be introduced by the end of the year.
Indian media have extensively reported the attacks, dubbing them 'curry bashings' and splashing with headlines such as 'Australia, land of racists.'

Students in Melbourne also highlighted the issue at a peaceful city-centre rally which ended in scuffles as it was broken up by police early on Monday.

Footage of police dragging students away was beamed back to India along with allegations the officers used excessive force.

The students were demanding action after at least 70 attacks in Melbourne in the past year including four in recent weeks. One victim is in a coma after being stabbed with a screwdriver.

Police say 30 per cent of assaults in Melbourne's western suburbs are against Indians, a disproportionate figure in a city of almost four million with an Indian student population of less than 50,000.

India calls for swift action against attacks in Australia

NEW DELHI, May 30: As incidents of violence against its students in Australia continue unabated, an angry India called upon authorities in that country to take swift measures to stop the atrocity.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh raised the issue with his Australian counterpart Kevin Rudd. The Australian PM had called Singh to congratulate him for having taken over again as prime minister, but that did not prevent Singh from taking up the issue with him.

While Rudd assured Singh that Australian authorities were doing their best to prevent such attacks, foreign ministry summoned Australian high commissioner John McCarthy to express its anguish over rising incidents of violence against Indians.

On Friday, another attack on an Indian student was reported, this time from Sydney in New South Wales.

McCarthy was called by secretary (east) in the MEA N Ravi to convey India's concern over the attacks. Sources said it was conveyed to McCarthy in no uncertain terms that it was the responsibility of Australian authorities to ensure safety of Indian students.

"It was conveyed to the Australian high commissioner that continuing sense of unease and insecurity for Indian students in Australia can have an adverse effect, in a sector that holds much promise. Certain steps that the Australian side could take, in addition to those that they have initiated, were also discussed and conveyed to the high commissioner," said the MEA in a statement.

"We are worried about the safety of Indian citizens, particularly the students," foreign minister S M Krishna said later. He too raised the issue with Australian foreign minister Stephen Smith when he called up Krishna to congratulate him. Krishna said the Indian government was in constant touch with Australian authorities "with a view to addressing issues concerning the well-being and physical safety of our students".

In his conversation with Singh, Rudd assured him that an overwhelming majority of Indian students were safe and that he was taking the issue very seriously.

Responding to attacks on Australian students, overseas Indian affairs minister Vayalar Ravi said, "We will be getting a report from the Australian high commissioner. My immediate task is to set up an institutional mechanism to deal with such incidents."

McCarthy said after his meeting with MEA officials that the attacks appeared more like criminal activity than racist. He said Australia has been taking a number of measures to "diminish" the prospects of such attacks taking place in the future. McCarthy said his discussion officials in the ministry had with him was "absolutely justified" and he would convey those views to authorities in Australia.

In a fresh incident of attack, 25-year-old Rajesh Kumar suffered 30% burns after a petrol bomb was hurled at his home in Sydney.

Australia on Friday arrested five teenagers in connection with the recent assaults on Indian students and charged one of them with attempted murder. A 17-year-old boy was charged with attempted murder after four Indian students, including 25-year-old Sravan Kumar, were attacked by gatecrashers at a party here over the weekend, Victorian police said, adding another 18-year-old was quizzed in relation to the assault, but has since been released. Kumar remains critical.

The arrests came after Indian High Commissioner Sujata Singh said the spate of assaults targeting Indian students in Australia have to "stop now'' and asserted that racism was a factor in some of the incidents.

"The fact of the matter is that whatever the motive behind the attacks, they seem to be Indian students. There is a racist element in some of the attacks but many of the attacks are opportunistic,'' she said.

Singh, along with the Consul General in Melbourne, had detailed meetings, with the Premier of the State of Victoria, John Brumby, and other ministers - as also police officials on Thursday. Brumby himself said that Victoria alone received 47,000 students last year from India and "it's paramount that their education experience and life experience in our state is positive''.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said he was horrified at the attacks but defended the police response. "Any act of violence, any decent human being just responds with horror at the sorts of attack which have occurred recently...but the key thing is to make sure our law enforcement authorities are doing the best they can. I am confident they are,'' he was quoted as saying by the AFP.

Education minister Julia Gillard said on Friday that the Australian government will not tolerate victimisation and violence against international students. "I can assure you that the perpetrators of recent attacks in both Sydney and Melbourne will face the full force of the law and I will be working closely with the Victorian and New South Wales State Governments to ensure every effort is made to minimise the possibility of such attacks in the future,'' said the minister.

India, Canada to finalise nuclear agreement soon: Gavai

TORONTO, May 26: India and Canada will soon finalise the civilian nuclear cooperation agreement that will pave the way for new opportunities for both thecountries, a senior Indian diplomat has said.

"Both the countries have already exchanged the draft agreement. An expert Canadian team was in Mumbai last week to workout, with the Atomic Energy Commission of India, final technical details and conditions under which business can be done," S M Gavai, Indian high commissioner to Canada said.

Gavai, commending Canada's efforts to sign a nuclear pact with India, said: "We want to make sure that the proposed Canada-India nuclear agreement is equitable and non-discriminatory and both the countries work on the same wavelength."

"Canadian firms, including federally-owned Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd, Cameco Corp and SNC-Lavalin are eager to forge joint ventures or work with Indian firms to help build billion-dollar nuclear reactors and supply uranium," Gavai said.

He added that India is in favour of early implementation of Canada-India Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement and stressed on the need for facilitating greater engagement between small and medium enterprises of the two countries.

Pak SC allows Sharif brothers to contest polls

ISLAMABAD, May 26: In a major relief to Pakistan's top opposition leader and ex-premier Nawaz Sharif, the Supreme Court on Tuesday declared him and his brother Shahbaz eligible for contesting polls, three months after they were barred from electoral politics.

A five-member bench headed by Justice Tassadaq Hussain Gillani set aside previous judgements of the Lahore High Court and the Supreme Court in the case.

The bench was hearing the review petitions filed by Nawaz and Shahbaz, the Chief Minister of crucial Punjab province, against their disqualification from electoral politics for their conviction in separate criminal cases.

"I salute the Pakistani people who got the judiciary free. The judiciary was practically taken hostage by a dictator (a reference to former president Pervez Musharraf)," an elated Sharif told reporters in his hometown Raiwind.

The verdict came months after Iftikhar M Choudhury, sacked by Musharraf, was reinstated as the Chief Justice of Pakistan after prolonged protests by Sharif's PML-N and the lawyers' movement.

'Sikh guru killed in planned Vienna attack'

VIENNA/LONDON, May 26: Sant Rama Nand, associate head of the Jalandhar-based Dera Sacha Khand, a leading Indian Sikh sect, who died in Sunday’s assault by members of a rival fundamentalist group, was killed in a “planned attack”, according to the Vienna police.

“The attack had clearly been planned,” police spokesman Michael Takacs told journalists. “A full investigation is under way,” he said.

At least 16 people were wounded, some of them seriously, in the attack, which sparked riots in parts of North India, where the followers of Sant Rama Nand, 57, took to the streets to protest the killing.

Nand, one of the two visiting preachers, died of wounds in hospital. The other, Sant Niranjan Dass, 66, was seriously injured.

Six of the attackers, who were caught and roughed up by the devotees, were in hospital. The condition of four of them was serious, while the others were questioned by the police.

The Austrian police did not rule out more arrests. “The investigation is continuing to find out whether the six attackers were acting alone or under orders,” the spokesman said. The police revised the number of injured from 30 to 16.

Mr. Takacs said the attackers pulled out knives and fired from a gun as the Sant was preaching to a congregation of 200 disciples at a gurdwara near here.

He underwent an emergency operation, but “lost consciousness and died shortly after midnight last night”. The six people were overpowered by members of the community and seriously injured. Two of the attackers were in a critical condition after being shot in the head.

Regretting the violence, Austria said Monday that it was making all efforts to book the guilty.

“The investigation is going on,” Austrian Foreign Ministry spokesman Peter Launsky said. Mr. Launsky said it was “particularly sad” and “very unfortunate” that the incident took place in Vienna, which he said was known as the place of dialogue and peace.

Sources said the Indian Embassy was in constant touch with the Austrian authorities.

LTTE ‘confirms’ Prabakaran’s death

COLOMBO, May 24: A report posted on the site of Al Jazeera television channel quoted an LTTE statement on Sunday confirming the death of its leader, Velupillai Prabakaran. It said he died on May 19 in the last phase of Eelam IV war.

“His final request was for the struggle to continue until we achieved the freedom for his people,” according to Selvarasa Pathmanathan, the LTTE’s head of International Relations. The statement said the LTTE would observe a week of mourning to mark Prabakaran’s death.

Last Tuesday, hours before the Sri Lanka military confirmed the death of the LTTE chief, Mr. Pathmanathan had said the LTTE leader was still alive.

LTTE chief Prabhakaran killed: Lanka govt

COLOMBO, May 18: Sri Lanka's war against Tamil Tiger rebels has "ended successfully," the island's defence secretary, Gotabhaya Rajapakse, told the island'spresident on Monday in a nationally televised ceremony.

"We have successfully ended the war," he told President Mahinda Rajapakse, who is his brother and commander-in-chief of the Sri Lankan armed forces.

Sri Lankan military commanders also lined up and shook hands with him before starting closed-door talks.

The meeting came as state television and defence officials announced that Tamil Tiger leader Velupillai Prabhakaran and the entire rebel leadership had been killed on Monday by government troops.

Sri Lanka's state television station announced on Monday that Tamil Tiger rebel chief Velupillai Prabhakaran has been killed, and the army commander said the last pockets of rebel resistance have been cleared from the north.

Prabhakaran's death would spell the end of a more than three-decade quest by the rebel leader for a separate state for minority Tamils across northern and eastern Sri Lanka.

Rupavahini television, the state broadcaster, broke into its regular programming Monday afternoon to announce Prabakharan's death. They gave no details of how he was killed.

The government information department also sent a text message to cell phones across the country announcing Prabhakaran was killed along with his top deputies, who were known as Soosai and Pottu Amman.

Sri Lanka's army chief, Lt. Gen. Sareth Fonseka, told television his troops routed the last rebels from the northern war zone Monday morning and were working to identify Prabhakaran's body from among the dead.

Ensure 'effective devolution of power': India to Sri Lanka

NEW DELHI, May 18: With LTTE Chief V Prabhakarn killed, India on Monday asked Sri Lanka to take political steps to ensure "effective devolution of power" so that Tamils in the island nation could live with dignity.

External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee spoke to Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa who confirmed that the armed resistance by LTTE has come to an end and Prabhakaran was dead.

In a statement later, the External Affairs Ministry said "it is our view that as the conventional conflict in Sri Lanka comes to an end, this is the moment when the root cause of conflict in Sri Lanka can be addressed.

"This would include political steps towards the effective devolution of power within the Sri Lankan Constitution so that Sri Lankans of all communities, including the Tamils, can feel at home and lead lives of dignity of their own free will."

The death of the top LTTE leader came a day after Tamil Tigers conceded defeat saying the decades-old battle has reached its "bitter end" and they have decided to "silence" their guns.

The External Affairs Ministry said "India will work with the people and government of Sri Lanka to provide relief to those affected by "the tragic conflict and rapidly rehabilitate all those who have been displaced, bringing their lives to normalcy as soon as possible."

Besides Prabhakaran, officials confirmed that more than 220 front line rebel cadres, including his elder son Charles Anthony, LTTE political head Balasingham Nadesan and LTTE peace Secretariat chief S Pulidevan were killed in fierce battles in the last 12 hours.

LTTE concedes defeat

COLOMBO, May 17: Sri Lankan troops swept across a tiny patch of land still held by the LTTE after killing at least 70 rebels, including two of their leaders, but the elusive Tiger chief V Prabhakaran remained untraceable despite the guerrillas conceding that the war had come to a "bitter end".

President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who cut short his visit to Jordan, declared that the guerrillas had been defeated militarily as authorities announced that the last among the remaining 50,000 civilians had fled the conflict zone.

The government also denied reports of the death of the LTTE supremo Prabhakaran and said Rajapaksa would make a nationally-televised address from Parliament on Tuesday to give an update on the war.

"We do not have any reports of Prabhakaran's death and such reports are not true. Even the stories on the (recovery of) burnt LTTE bodies is incorrect," Minister for Mass Media and Information, Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena, said.

In the face of a major offensive by the Sri lankan military, the Tigers admitted defeat saying they had decided to "silence" their guns. They claimed they had done this to ensure the safety of Tamil civilians.

"We remain with one last choice - to remove the last weak excuse of the enemy for killing our people. We have decided to silence our guns. Our only regrets are for the lives lost and that we could not hold out for longer," LTTE's head of international relations S Pathmanathan said in a statement.

"We need to do everything within our means to stop this carnage. If this means silencing our arms and entering a peace process, that is something that we have already agreed to," said Pathamanathan.

He said the rebels' step was the "need of the hour" as these are "historically unprecedented times and require historically prudent decisions."

His comments came hours after military spokesperson Udaya Nanayakkara said that over 50,000 civilians have escaped the rebel-held area in the past three days.

The Defence Ministry said the soldiers have reached the concluding phase of their operation against the rebels as over 36,000 civilians fled the No Fire Zone in the last 24 hours alone.

It said three divisions of the army have entered the area where LTTE leaders were "cowering" among civilians during the last couple of weeks.

Admitting that the three decades-long battle -- Asia's longest running civil war -- had reached its "bitter end", Pathmanathan said in his statement that "against all odds, we have held back the advancing Sinhalese forces without help or support, except for the unending support of our people."

Earlier in the morning, 70 rebels trying to flee through water route were killed by the troops.

Troops confronted the LTTE fighters, who tried to escape from the Nandikadal lagoon in the north east of the country, killing 70 Tiger rebels, the military said.

The army earlier said that two top LTTE leaders, Swarnam and Shashi Master, were killed in fierce fighting during the last legs of confrontation between troops and LTTE.

Top LTTE leaders may commit ‘mass suicide’

COLOMBO, May 16: With the Sri Lankan forces cutting off all their escape routes, the top Tamil Tigers leadership, including its supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran, may be preparing to commit "mass suicide", the defence ministry said on Saturday.

The Tigers are "preparing for a mass suicide after forces cut off their sea as well as land escape routes and cornered them in a mere 3.5 sq km area," a military statement said.

The reports of the LTTE leadership resorting to self destruction came as a government spokesman said that Army was on the brink of capturing all the rebel-held areas.

"Within hours, we expect the news of end of fighting," state television reporters, who have been allowed to move with the frontline troops, reported.

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse, who is on a trip to Jordon, is cutting short his visit and returning here where he may make a televised announcement late on Saturday.

The fast paced development came as Sri Lankan forces on Saturday captured last strip of coastline held by the rebels virtually cutting off any sea escape routes.

Two Army divisions advancing on parallel fronts on the island’s northeastern coastline linked up at the village of Vellamullivaikkal early on Saturday cutting off any sea escape route of the Tigers, military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara said.

Pak helicopter gun-ships blast Taliban positions in Swat

ISLAMABAD, May 10: Pakistani helicopter gun ships blasted Taliban positions in the militants' Swat valley bastion while a curfew blocked residents from joining hundreds of thousands who have already fled from the fighting zone.

The struggle in the scenic northwestern valley 130 km from Islamabad has become a test of Pakistan's resolve to fight a growing Taliban insurgency that has alarmed the United States.

Under pressure from the US, President Asif Ali Zardari said in an American television programme that Pakistan has moved some of its forces and is ready to shift some more from the Indian border to its western frontier to fight the Taliban and al-Qaeda terrorists.

Meanwhile, Taliban has reportedly vowed to "eliminate" the country's top leadership including President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has ruled out resumption of composite dialogue with Pakistan till it takes effective steps to bring to book the culprits of the Mumbai terror attacks.

He was addressing a press conference in Chennai. Referring to Pakistan's offensive against the Taliban, he wished Islamabad well in its efforts.

India not a threat: Zardari

WASHINGTON, May 10: President Asif Ali Zardari has said India is not a threat to Pakistan and it is facing danger from the terrorists inside the country.

"Well, I am already on record. I have never considered India a threat," Zardari said in an interview on the PBS news channel's popular show "Newshour With Jim Lehrer" on Saturday.

This is the first time a top Pakistani leader has publicly said that India is not a threat to his country; a fact which Obama Administration has been trying to convince Zardari and the Pakistan Army for quite some time now.

"I have always considered India a neighbour, which we want to improve our relationship with. We have had some cold times and we have had some hard times with them. We have gone to war thrice, but democracies are always trying to improve relationships," Zardari said while responding to a question about "which being the greatest threat to Pakistan? India, or the militants."

Last month, at a White House press conference held on the occassion of his 100 days in office, Obama had said such a belief against India by the Pakistani establishment was "misguided".

257 civilians killed, 814 injured in Lankan attack

COLOMBO, May 10: A massive barrage of artillery in Sri Lanka's northern war zone killed at least 257 civilians and wounded 814 overnight, a government doctor said on Sunday, calling it the bloodiest day he had seen in the government's offensive against the Tamil Tiger rebels.

V Shanmugarajah, a physician working in the war zone, said he feared many more may have been killed since some bodies were being buried on the spot without being brought to the makeshift hospital he runs.

Shanmugarajah described seeing shells fly through the air, with some falling close to the hospital, sending many to take shelter in bunkers.

The rebel-linked TamilNet website said about 2,000 people are feared dead and accused Sri Lankan forces of launching the attack, a charge the military denied.

Military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara said it was only using small arms in its effort to wipe out the Tamil Tiger rebel group and there "is no shelling taking place."

The government had sent medical supplies into the war zone in the past days but a shortage of physicians, nurses and helpers has made treatment difficult, Shanmugarajah said.

"We are doing the first aid and some surgeries as quickly as we can. We are doing what is possible. The situation is overwhelming; nothing is within our control," he said.

Shanmugarajah said he had sought the help of volunteers to dig graves.

The government vowed two weeks ago to cease firing heavy weapons into the tiny coastal strip that remained under rebel control in an effort to avoid civilian casualties. However, medical officials in the area have reported that air strikes and artillery attacks have continued unabated, despite the presence of an estimated 50,000 ethnic Tamil civilians in the tiny conflict zone.

Reports of the fighting are difficult to verify because the government bars journalists and aid workers from the war zone.

UN figures compiled last month showed that nearly 6,500 civilians had been killed early this year as the government renewed its efforts to end its 25-year civil war with the rebels.

The government has brushed off international calls for a humanitarian ceasefire, saying the beleaguered rebels would use any pause in fighting to regroup.

It has accused the rebels of using civilians in the north as human shields, and Nanayakkara said the insurgents shot families who tried to escape the war zone Saturday, killing nine people.

The rebels have been fighting since 1983 for a separate state for minority Tamils, who have suffered decades of marginalization at the hands of governments controlled by the Sinhalese majority.

Zuma inaugurated as President of South Africa

PRETORIA, May 10: Leader of African National Congress Jacob Zuma was on Saturday sworn in as President of South Africa at a ceremony in Pretoria attended by a number of world leaders, including Vice President Hamid Ansari.

Mr Zuma was officially elected president by members of parliament on Wednesday, after the ANC won the general election two weeks ago.

He is due to unveil his new cabinet on Sunday.

The 67-year-old charismatic ANC leader is the fourth democratically elected South African President since apartheid ended in 1994.

Ansari joined a host of other dignitaries in the impressive ceremony at the top-of-the-hill Union Buildings, the seat of the government, in this scenic city.

Amid chilly weather brought by morning rains, thousands of people dressed in colourful traditional attire gathered at the lawns to witness the event.

The ceremony began with recitation of Gayatri Mantra by a religious leader.

South African Air Force jets staged an impressive fly-past and a 21-gun salute boomed as supporters clad in ANC T-shirts danced in joy.

Zuma's inauguration culminated his extraordinary comeback to the political arena dominated for long by the African National Congress (ANC), which had swept the April general elections bagging 264 seats in the 400-member Parliament.

Zuma, also known by his clan name of 'Msholozi', was elected as President by the country's parliament with a thumping majority on 6th May, following which he had vowed to work quickly to promote friendship, harmony and bolster the nation's economy.

The hugely popular ANC leader had polled 277 votes as against his opponent Mvume Dandala, who got 47 votes in Parliament in Cape town.

Other than Ansari, 30 other world leaders, including Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayaka, Britain's junior foreign minister Mark Malloch Brown as also Zuma's three predecessors -- anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela, Thabo Mbeki and Kgalema Motlanthe -- were in attendance in the inauguration ceremony.

Recalling that his predecessors K R Naryranan, Krishan Kant and Bhairon Singh Shekhawat had all represented India at the inauguration of South African Presidents since Mandela became the first head of the state in post-apartheid era, Ansari on Friday said "this is in keeping up with that well-established practice."

The ANC has been in power since 1994 when the apartheid came to an end in South Africa, which is also home to 1.5 million people of Indian-origin.

Zuma, the son of a housekeeper, had vowed during the electioneering that he would bring "visible change" that would improve the lives of blacks in the country.

After being elected, he paid a tribute to "our icon" Nelson Mandela in a letter.

Calling him 'Madiba' as the 90-year-old leader is affectionately known, Zuma said "he made us walk tall and feel proud to be South Africans."

"As President of the Republic, I will do my best to lead the country towards the realisation of Madiba's vision of a truly non-sexist, non-racial South Africa, united in its diversity," he said in the letter posted at the ANC website.

The ANC leader, hailing from the northern KwaZulu-Natal province, had spent a decade in jail alongside Mandela on Robben Island in South Africa, a country where Mahatma Gandhi launched his 'Satyagraha' movement.

In a biography of Zuma released by the ANC, the party highlighted his humble background, noting that he had dropped out of school after the death of his father and studied at night and while herding goats.

Zuma, who became an active member of the ANC during the anti-apartheid regime, has three wives and 19 children.

He is a traditionalist member of the Zulu tribe, which allows men to have more than one spouse.

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