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India signs UN Convention on Terrorism

By Deepak Arora

UNITED NATIONS, July 25: India has signed the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism on Tuesday at the UN Headquarters in New York.

This Convention, initially proposed by the Russian Federation, was adopted by the UN General Assembly (UNGA) on April 13, 2005 by a consensus resolution and was opened for signature at the UN Headquarters from September 14, 2005.

The Convention is the first anti-terrorism convention adopted since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The Convention requires States to make punishable as serious offence under their domestic law, terrorist acts involving the use of nuclear materials. States are also required to cooperate in the prevention, investigation and prosecution of these offences through information sharing, extradition and mutual legal assistance.

India is a Party to the other 12 international terrorism conventions and protocols and attaches high priority to the formulation of international legal instruments to combat terrorism. Terrorism presents the most serious threat to international peace and security.

India has always emphasized that the international community must adopt zero-tolerance for terrorism anywhere and be ready to undertake all necessary measures to bring to justice the perpetrators, organizers, sponsors of these and other terrorist acts and those who incite terrorists to commit them.

This Convention is an important step forward in multilateral efforts to strengthen the international legal framework against terrorism and sends an undeniably clear signal that the international community will not tolerate those that threaten or commit terrorist acts involving radioactive material or nuclear devices.

India shares the objective of the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, which demonstrates the resolve of international community to deny terrorists access to nuclear materials and enhances international cooperation between States in devising and adopting practical measures for prevention of acts of nuclear terrorism and for the prosecution and punishment of their perpetrators.

UN vote on N. Korea sanctions delayed

UNITED NATIONS, July 11: Supporters of a Security Council resolution that would impose sanctions on North Korea agreed to delay a vote in the hope that China can pressure Pyongyang to return to talks on nuclear disarmament and halt missile tests, U.S. officials said Monday.

The five veto-wielding nations on the U.N. Security Council are divided over sanctions. The U.S., Britain and France support the resolution proposed by Japan after North Korea test-fired seven missiles on July 5 - one apparently a long-range type that could potentially reach the United States.

China and Russia oppose sanctions and have been pressing for a weaker presidential statement, which is not legally binding, instead of a resolution. China introduced a draft presidential statement on Monday. Beijing's U.N. Ambassador Wang Guangya said it represented the best compromise and the best way to get North Korea to return to the six-party talks on nuclear disarmament which have been stalled since September.

Wang told reporters the resolution "will not calm down the situation" and urged all parties to send "a unified message" to the North. And he indicated for the first time that China might be prepared to consider a weaker resolution. "If they wish to have a resolution, they should have a modified one, not this one," he said.

Ambassadors from the five permanent members of the Security Council met Monday with Japan on the North Korean question while a Chinese delegation arrived in North Korea pledging friendship and deeper ties.

Nuclear terrorism a serious threat: ElBaradei

BERLIN, June 26: The head of the UN's nuclear watchdog warned on Monday there was a real threat that terrorist groups could resort to nuclear weapons. "We worry about sub-national groups, extremist groups acquiring nuclear weapons. It is a nightmare because they will use it," said Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

ElBaradei was speaking at a conference on nuclear disarmament in Berlin organised by the Social Democrats, who are partners in Germany's ruling coalition. He said that in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks on the United States, extremists had become more sophisticated and were trying to lay their hands on nuclear arms. "We have seen the interest of these groups in acquiring nuclear weapons."

ElBaradei said the nuclear arms race was still being fuelled by the fact that many nations saw such weapons as a status symbol. "There is still an aura of power, a status of prestige that comes with nuclear weapons," he said.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier warned that the more governments developed nuclear arms, the greater the risk would be that terrorist groups could gain access to them.
But, he said, the primary problem would be an escalation of the international nuclear arms race over the next decade, particularly if "the Iranian and North Korean nuclear crises were not resolved

India backs Tharoor for UN top job

NEW YORK, June 15: India has nominated UN Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, Shashi Tharoor, as the India's candidate for the post of Secretary General of the world body when the U.N. chief's Kofi Annan second five-year term expires at the end of this year.

Aan indication to this effect was given on Wednesday by India's Ambassador to the UN, Nirupam Sen, who said a decision regarding Tharoor's candidature will be taken in the next few days. If elected, he will be youngest Secretary-General of the world body.

Meanwhile when asked by reporters whether Islamabad will also be fielding a candidate, Pakistan's UN Ambassador Munir Akarm replied, "We have also been giving serious consideration to field a candidate but no decision has yet been taken". The names of both Akram and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz are being mentioned in this regard.

The Secretary-General is nominated by the 15-member Security Council and elected by the 191-member General Assembly. Kofi Annan retires on December 31 this year at the end of second term and the Council has already initiated the process selection process.

Tharoor, 50 this year, began his U.N. career in 1978 and currently heads the UN's Department of Public Information. Born in London, and educated in India and the United States, he is the author of several books.

China, which took the presidency of the U.N. Security Council in April, insists the next U.N. chief should come from Asia. Others Asians in the running for the post of U.N. secretary-general include South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon, Thai Deputy Prime Minister Surakiart Sathirathai and Sri Lankan diplomat Jayantha Dhanapala.

The last Asian secretary-general was U Thant of Burma, now called Myanmar, who served from 1961 to 1971.

Tharoor won support for his bid from the government after meetings in April with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress Party leader Sonia Gandhi and National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan.

Vijay Nambiar joins Kofi Annan team

UNITED NATIONS: Vijay Nambiar, a senior Indian diplomat and former envoy to the United Nations, has become a member of U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan's team of top advisers.

The appointment, made effective this week, was announced earlier this month by Mr. Annan. Mr. Nambiar, whose appointment is for a period of one year, will represent him at key meetings and liaise with envoys from member nations.

His rank is that of an Under Secretary General, and he is the second Indian in the UN with that rank. Shashi Tharoor currently heads the U.N. Communication and Public Information Department since 2001.

Before assuming the current position, Mr. Nambiar was India's Deputy National Security Adviser and head of the National Security Council's Secretariat.

Annan says US should close Gitmo prison

UNITED NATIONS, Feb 17: Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Thursday said the United States should close the prison at Guantanamo Bay for terror suspects as soon as possible, backing a key conclusion of a U.N.-appointed independent panel.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan rejected the call to shut the camp, saying the military treats all detainees humanely and "these are dangerous terrorists that we're talking about."

The panel's report, released Thursday in Geneva, said the United States must close the detention facility "without further delay" because it is effectively a torture camp where prisoners have no access to justice.
Annan told reporters he didn't necessarily agree with everything in the report, but "the basic premise, that we need to be careful to have a balance between effective action against terrorism and individual liberties and civil rights, I think is valid."

He said he supported the panel's opposition to people being held "in perpetuity" without being prosecuted in a public court. This is "something that is common under every legal system," he said. "I think sooner or later there will be a need to close the Guantanamo (camp), and I think it will be up to the government to decide, and hopefully to do it as soon as is possible," the secretary-general told reporters.

The 54-page report summarizing an investigation by five U.N. experts, accused the United States of practices that "amount to torture" and demanded detainees be allowed a fair trial or be freed. The panel, which had sought access to Guantanamo Bay since 2002, refused a U.S. offer for three experts to visit the camp in November after being told they could not interview detainees. Annan said the report by a U.N.-appointed independent panel was not a U.N. report but one by individual experts. "So we should see it in that light," he said.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the report will be presented to the U.N. Commission of Human Rights, which appointed the panel, when it convenes on March 13 in Geneva. Manfred Nowak, the U.N. investigator for torture who was one of the panel's experts, said that the detainees at Guantanamo "should be released or brought before an independent court."

US violated law at Guantanamo: UN report

UNITED NATIONS, Feb 14: A UN investigation has concluded that the United States committed acts amounting to torture at Guantanamo Bay, according to a draft report obtained today.

The torture included force-feeding detainees and subjecting them to prolonged solitary confinement.

The report from five UN human rights experts accused the United States of violating the detainees' rights to a fair trial, to freedom of religion and to health. It recommended that the US close Guantanamo Bay and revoke all special interrogation techniques authorised by the US Department of Defence.

"The apparent attempts by the US Administration to reinterpret certain interrogation techniques as not reaching the threshold of torture in the framework of the struggle against terrorism are of utmost concern," the report said. US officials rejected the report, saying it was riddled with errors and treated statements from detainees' lawyers as fact. Its most significant flaw, that officials said, was that it judged US treatment of detainees according to peacetime human rights laws.

The United States contends that it is in a state of conflict and should be judged according to the laws of war. "Once you fail to even acknowledge that as the legal basis for what we're doing, much of the legal analysis that follows just doesn't hold," a US State Department official said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the United States has not formulated an official, public response to the draft. The draft report was delivered to the United States on January 16. It was first disclosed late Sunday by the Los Angeles Times.

Prophet toon row - UN for dialogue

HOUSTON: Strongly deploring the controversial depictions of Prophet Muhammad in a cartoon as well as the violence that followed, three independent UN human rights experts have asked people to refrain from any form of violence and to avoid fuelling hatred.

"We strongly deplore the depictions of the Prophet Muhammad and are distressed by the grave offence they have caused to the members of the Muslim community," UN's Special Rapporteurs Doudou Diene, Asma Jahangir and Ambeyi Ligabo said in a statement on Wednesday.

Voicing equal concern about the reactions that followed the publication of the cartoon, they strongly condemned "death threats against journalists and intimidation of the media as well as the loss of lives, threats and other forms of violence that have occurred over the past few days, often directed at people with no responsibility for, or control over, the publications."

"Peaceful expression of opinions and ideas, either orally, through the press or other media, should always be tolerated
The press must enjoy large editorial freedom to promote free flow of news and information, with and across national borders, thus providing an arena for debate and dialogue," they said.

At the same time, they emphasized that "the use of stereotypes and labeling that insult deep-rooted religious feelings do not contribute to the creation of an environment conducive to constructive and peaceful dialogue among different communities."

Annan lauds Pakistan-India peace process

DUBAI, Feb 9: UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has lauded the efforts of the leadership of Pakistan and India to promote friendly relationships between their countries, Online news agency reported.

Talking to newsmen here, Annan said both governments were taking positive steps to strengthen relationships and they should be given every possible support in this regard. He also expressed satisfaction at the peace process between India and Pakistan.

In response to a question regarding Iran's nuclear programme, he expressed hope that Tehran would resume dialogue for a peaceful solution to the crisis. The UN would get a report regarding Iran's nuclear programme at the end of this month from the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, he said.

UN fears more deaths in Pakistan quake-zone chill

ISLAMABAD, Jan 5: Heavy snow and extreme cold in Pakistan's earthquake zone have increased the risk of illnesses like pneumonia and could lead to more deaths, the United Nations said on Thursday.

Up to 18 people have already died of pneumonia in the quake zone in the past six weeks, Mohamud Khalif Bile, senior representative in Pakistan of the U.N.'s World Health Organisation, told a news conference. A long-anticipated cold spell struck on Saturday and Jan Vandemoortele, who is heading the U.N. relief effort, said there were fears the number of deaths due to cold would rise.

"The threat is absolutely there, and that is why we have to be vigilant," he said. "Our teams have not been able to reach the high altitudes to assess the situation, but we know that it is likely to be grave.

"Unfortunately the temperatures are falling and they are dropping fast, and the cold spell will bring the spectre of increased pneumonia," he said.
More than two million people have been forced to camp out in tents or crude shelters patched together from ruined homes since the Oct. 8 quake, which killed more than 73,000 people in Pakistani Kashmir and North West Frontier Province.

Heavy snow and rain fell on Saturday, blanketing highland areas with snow while drenching, icy rain flooded makeshift lowland tent camps. Vital helicopter relief flights were grounded for three days before resuming on Wednesday.

Bile said the mortality rate had not risen in the past six weeks, and was also not very high given the conditions. But a child died of pneumonia in Pakistani Kashmir on Wednesday, a Pakistani army spokesman said, and there was a report of a small measles outbreak in a tent camp in its capital Muzaffarabad, a U.N. worker said.

With bad weather forecast to return by the weekend, many survivors are desperate to improve their living conditions while they have the chance.
As well as food, blankets and clothing, aid agencies and the army have been handing out corrugated iron sheets, plastic and other building materials. But there has been a shortage of the iron and many people did not get supplies before weather set in.

Pakistan's neighbour India has offered to help with the supply of iron sheeting. As well as highlighting the need for reinforcement of shelter in the mountains, the bad weather exposed the vulnerability of people in tent camps in the valleys.

About 250,000 people are living in registered camps run by the United Nations and other organisations, but numerous camps have sprung up spontaneously, many run by small private charities as well as political and religious groups. Many of these camps are poorly organised and the weather hit them hardest.

In Muzaffarabad, 16 private camps, housing about 11,000 people, have decided to register with the authorities since the bad weather started, meaning they would be get more regular aid and organisational help, the U.N. refugee agency said.

Iraqi polls credible: UN

BAGHDAD, Dec 29: A United Nations official has said that Iraq's recent elections were credible and there was no justification for a rerun of the vote that gave a strong lead to the Shiite religious bloc dominating the current government.

The United Nations official, Craig Jenness, said at a news conference organised by the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq that the UN-led international election assistance team found the elections to be credible and transparent.

"Turnout was high and the day was largely peaceful, all communities participated."

Jenness's statement and the negotiations between Iraqi factions come at a critical time, with the United States placing high hopes on forming a broad-based coalition government.

The government will help provide stability to the fledgling democracy and would allow American troops to begin returning home.

Iraqi officials said they had found some instances of fraud that were enough to cancel the results in that place, but not to hold a rerun.

There were more than 1,500 complaints made about the elections, with about 50 of them considered serious enough to possibly result in the cancellation of results in some places.

India signs UN anti-corruption treaty

UNITED NATIONS, Dec 9: India's Ambassador to the United Nations, Nirupam Sen, on Friday signed the United Nations anti-corruption treaty which, among other things, now makes hiding of illegal gains difficult.

The treaty requires signatories to return assets obtained through corruption to the country from which they were stolen. This had particularly been an important issue for developing countries where corrupt officials took illicit gains out of the country and hid them in foreign lands.

Topics covered by the 71-member treaty include bribery, illicit enrichment, misappropriation, money-laundering, protection of whistle blowers, freezing of assets and cooperation between states to uncover corruption.

Outside forces fuelling terror in Afghan: India

By Deepak Arora

UNITED NATIONS, Nov 30: India has blamed outside forces for fuelling and supporting terrorism in Afghanistan. Raising the killing of an employee of Border Roads Organisation's (BRO), MR Kutty, by Taliban militia in Afghanistan at the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, Mr Nirupam Sen, India's UN Ambassador, said that "there were clear signs that terror elements continue to receive support and safe haven across the border from the southern and south-eastern provinces of Afghanistan.

Mr Sen said such "inhuman and barbaric" incidents calls for international responses against such destabilization were highly essential and could not be limited to combat operations on the ground. "It is equally necessary to resolutely attack the financing, the safe haven, the training camps and networks that support them."

He said "Afghanistan today is suffering from a level of insecurity, especially in the south and parts of the east, not seen since the departure of the Taliban. The growing influence of non-Afghan elements in the security environment is of particular concern".

Mr Sen said the recent escalation in violence, illustrated by the deaths of Mr. Kutty and many other development and humanitarian personnel, underlines the continuing serious threat to Afghanistan's security and stability posed by the remnants of the Al-Qaida, Taliban and other terrorist and extremist elements.

Squarely blaming the Taliban for the abduction and murder of Kutty who was engaged on the construction of Zaranj-Delaram road, the Ambassador strongly condemned the "inhuman and barbaric" killing of an innocent person. "The Taliban and its backers bear the responsibility for the consequences of this outrageous act," he told the delegates and expressed the hope that the perpetrator would be swiftly brought to justice.

Pointing out that the Indian organisation is engaged in building a road which is vital for the development of Afghanistan and for the welfare of the people, he said, "it is inconceivable that anybody should be opposed to it and threaten those working on it."

UN says sonar threatens dolphin, whale survival

NAIROBI, Nov 24: Increased naval military manoeuvres and submarine sonars in the world's oceans are threatening dolphins, whales and porpoises that depend on sound to survive, a United Nations report said on Wednesday.

According to the report, the use of powerful military sonar is harming the ability of some 71 types of cetaceans -- whales, dolphins and porpoises -- to communicate, navigate and hunt. "While we know about other threats such as over-fishing, hunting and pollution, a new and emerging threat to cetaceans is that of increased underwater sonars," Mark Simmonds of the Whale and Dolphin Society said.

"These low frequency sounds travel vast distances, hundreds if not thousands of kilometres from the source." In October, a coalition of environmental groups sued the U.S. Navy over its use of sonar, saying the ear-splitting sounds violated environmental protection laws. The navy said it was studying the problem but said sonar was necessary for national defence.

Animal protection groups have for years lobbied to restrict the use of sonar, saying the sound blasts disorient the sound-dependent creatures and causes bleeding from the eyes and ears. Simmonds said in recent years, western governments have developed stealthier submarines the detection of which requires more powerful, low-frequency sonars.

The report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) says species like the Beluga whale, Blanville's beaked whale and the Goosebeak whale are seriously at risk. Researchers found that a stranding of 12 Goosebeak whales in the Ionian Sea in the 1990s coincided with NATO tests of an acoustic submarine detection system. Other Goosebeaks were stranded off of the Bahamas in 2000, and experts link that to military tests.

Tests on the bodies of seven whales that died near Gran Canaria in 2002 found haemorrhages and inner ear damage, which experts said was caused by high-intensity, low-frequency sonar used in the area. "This is a hugely serious concern as these animals need sound to navigate, to find their food, to communicate and to mate," said Simmonds.

There are no laws governing noise pollution in the world's oceans, but western governments, considered largely responsible with their increased military presence in the seas, say they need more research before taking action.

Charles Galbraith, a senior wildlife advisor to the British government, told Reuters the report highlighted a potential problem. "But the issue is still in a relatively grey area in terms of scientific proof and we need to do more research before the government can review its defence systems," he said.

Annan warns of disaster for UN if budget delayed

By Deepak Arora

UNITED NATIONS, Nov 22: The Secretary-General, Mr Kofi Annan, has warned that any delay in approving a new UN budget because of faltering reform proposals would create a severe fiscal crisis for the world body.

He was speaking to newsmen at the UN on Monday after defending his proposals for management and other UN reforms to developing nations, many of which have criticized him for trying to bypass the General Assembly in order to accommodate American demands.

Diplomats have questioned how much the reforms would cost and whether the biennial budget, due by January 1, would be adopted or possibly blocked by Washington and others.

Responding to a question, the Secretary General said "you need the budget to be able to assess the member states and let them pay their contributions. You need the budget to be able to plan ahead and carry out our work. And if you do not do that...you may create a serious financial crisis for the organization."

Mr Annan said if some issues were not decided by January 1, the General Assembly could pass a supplementary budget later. He has estimated some $3.6 billion for the 2006-2007 regular administrative budget, or about $1.3 billion annually, a slight increase over 2004-2005. This excludes peacekeeping, which in 2005 alone amounted to $3.6 billion.

The United States has not threatened to block the basic budget, which would be a first for the United Nations, but leading members of Congress have vowed to cut US dues, as they did in the late 1990s, if reforms are not passed.

US Ambassador John Bolton, in recent interviews, has questioned the usefulness of the United Nations to the American public as the main international problem solver. "The UN is one of many competitors in a marketplace of global problem solving," he told the Washington Times. That "should be an incentive for the organization to reform."

Among Annan's management proposals, backed largely by the United States and Europeans, are the creation of an ethics office, an oversight body, enhanced auditing and investigation and independent external evaluations. He also wants a review of UN programs he thinks have outlasted their usefulness.

The Group of 77, the largest single coalition of developing nations, which now has 133 members, has accused Annan of "intervention in the inter-governmental process" and trying to bypass the General Assembly, whose key committees have control over the budget and operate by a consensus process.

Ambassador Stafford Neil of Jamaica, head of the group, in a November 8 letter to the General Assembly president said some of the supervisory bodies would not strengthen oversight but overload the UN "with more layers of bureaucratic structures."

After Monday's meeting with developing nations, Mr Annan said "I made it quite clear that there's no attempt at power grab. We accept the General Assembly as the key deliberative body of the Organization."

He added that “without their approval, and approval of budgets, nothing can get done." Nevertheless diplomats predict Annan will have a difficult time cutting outdated mandates and creating new commissions and bodies, some as a result of corruption in the $64 billion oil-for-food program for Iraq.

UN, Volcker panel ready to cooperate with India

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, Nov 9: The United Nations and the Volcker panel are willing to cooperate with India and other national authorities into allegations of illegal payoffs by individuals and companies named in the Independent Inquiry Committee (IIC) report on the oil-for- food scam, according to a UN spokesperson.

The Committee is a fact-finding body and "cannot make any binding judicial determination of fact or law,'' she said. Responding to a query from this correspondent, the office of the UN Secretary General said a number of national authorities have already commenced or announced their intention to undertake follow-up inquiries concerning the individuals and companies, based on the information contained in the final Volcker report. "The Independent Inquiry Commission and UN are willing to cooperate as appropriate," said the spokesperson.

The Indian Government has appointed a former diplomat to investigate the credibility of the report and also ordered a judicial probe headed by RS Pathak, a former chief justice of India, to get to the bottom of the controversy. The report has made controversial references to the Congress party and the former external affairs Minister, Mr Natwar Singh.

The Congress Party has also sent a letter to the UN Secretary General requesting him to make available to it all relevant documents on the basis of which adverse references have been made against it in the Volcker committee report. The letter was sent on Monday through a reputed law firm Amarchand Mangaldas.

The UN spokesperson said the five reports of the Independent Inquiry into the Oil for Food Programme chaired by Paul Volcker are the culmination of an 18-month investigation into all aspects of the Programme. "The five public reports have been issued by the IIC and represent the findings and conclusions of that independent inquiry, which is a fact-finding body and cannot make any binding judicial determination of fact or law. This information enables the UN and national authorities to further investigate and, if appropriate, take action against individuals or corporations under their jurisdiction."

The spokesperson said "a number of national authorities have already commenced or announced their intention to undertake follow-up inquiries concerning individuals and companies, based on the information contained in the final report. The IIC and UN are willing to cooperate as appropriate."

In a meeting with the India's Ambassador to the UN, Mr Nirupam Sen, Mr Paul Volcker assured New Delhi that his panel would fully cooperate and share information with the country's investigating agencies within the "legal constrains."

After the meeting in New York on Tuesday, Mr Sen said his impression from the discussions is that the former External Affairs Minister, Mr Natwar Singh, was not sent any notice by the Committee prior to publication of his name as a "non contractual beneficiary" of the Iraqi oil-for-food programme. He, however, said the Committee is still examining documents to reach a final conclusion on that.

On what exactly is meant by "legal constrains", Ambassador Nirupam Sen said the evidence had been collected from several witnesses and some of them might have given it on the understanding that they should not be identified. In those cases, the Committee would need to get waiver from them before releasing the documents.

Asked about the remarks of Volcker that responses were sought from all those who had been mentioned in the report, Mr Sen said the report contained those who were thoroughly investigated and those who were just mentioned on the basis of documents which the Committee considered authentic.

Apparently, Mr Natwar Singh's case was not thoroughly investigated by the Committee, he said. But he cautioned that final judgement would have to await the examination of all relevant documents by the Committee. Those who were thoroughly investigated were given the chance to respond.

Mr Sen said the Committee, as a policy, would share information and documents only with the investigating agencies after they inform it exactly what they are looking for. But it would be necessary to move quickly as the Committee's mandate ends in just over a month.

India has already sent a letter to the Committee on the information it is seeking but that would need to be fine-tuned, he added. Asked whether the investigations would stall if some witnesses refuse to give waiver, Mr Sen said there are other ways also to get the information. For example, it could be asked bilaterally. "We shall cross the bridge when we reach there," he remarked. The Ambassador conveyed to Volcker the Government of India's decision to hold inquiry.

Replying to a question, he said the Committee is aware of the political storm the report has created in India. Mr Sen said Indian investigators would have to look into allegations that the names were not given by the Iraqis but by other "vested interests." That is why India is asking for documents and other information.

To a question whether the fact that response from some of the Indian commercial and non-commercial entities was not sought constituted discrimination, Mr Sen said that is one way of looking at it.

But the Committee investigated only the cases where the wrongdoing was extensive. So, in case of the entities from which response was not sought, the wrongdoing would have been comparatively much less.

In its report, the Committee had named some 2,200 entities worldwide, including around 135 Indian companies, which paid bribes to get contract for the supply of humanitarian goods to the Saddam Hussein regime. Natwar Singh, the Congress Party and Panthers party chief Bhim Singh were mentioned among the "non contractual" beneficiaries who were allocated oil to win political support. Singh was subsequently divested of his External Affairs portfolio.

The price of sale of oil fixed by Iraq was below the market price and those allocated oil used front companies to buy oil and then sell it to the regular oil companies at the market price. The difference between the price the oil was purchased and sold was the profit the allottees got.

UN will help any Indian probe: Tharoor

NEW DELHI, Nov 8: The UN will aid any inquiry by India into the irregularities in Iraq's oil-for-food programme highlighted by the Volcker Committee's report, according to Shashi Tharoor, Under Secretary General.

Tharoor, who is in charge of communication and public information at the UN, told an Indian TV channel there was no "presumption of guilt" in the references made in the report, which were also not the equivalent of legal charges against anyone. He also said the UN could not be issued legal notice as it enjoyed certain immunities.

Tharoor clarified there had been no attempts by former US Federal Reserve chief Paul Volcker to dilute charges against UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, whose son was also accused of wrongdoing.

He said Annan had asked him to convey to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and K. Natwar Singh, who stepped down as external affairs minister Monday, that the UN had not come to any judgement in the matter. Tharoor also told Manmohan Singh the world body would cooperate with any Indian investigation of Volcker's findings. The UN fully respected procedures adopted by India to ascertain the truth, he remarked.

``There is nothing that prevents Virendra Dayal or anyone from the Indian press from contacting Mr Volcker," he said.

He also clarified that there were no attempts made by Volcker to dilute charges that referred to the UN Secretary General, Mr Kofi Annan's son Kojo's business dealings.

Volcker report: Congress writes to UN chief

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI: Congress has sent a letter to the UN Secretary General requesting him to make available to it all relevant documents on the basis of which adverse references have been made against it in the Volcker committee report.

Speaking to newsmen, the party spokesperson, Ms Jayanthi Natarajan, said that the letter was sent on Monday through a reputed law firm Amarchand Mangaldas.

Ms Natarajan said that the party has taken this step in the light of its November 3 statement in which it had declared its resolve to do everything possible to clear the fair name and image of the party, sought to be sullied by the report.

The letter stated that the statements and entries purportedly referring to the Congress party in the report have cast serious aspersions upon the party. In the letter the Congress unequivocally and categorically stated that it had no dealings in respect of any oil-for-food contract or any other oil contract with the Government of Iraq or any of its agencies including SOMO or any company or any firm or any individual.

"The Congress party had not received any notice or letter or information from the committee or anyone acting on its behalf, nor did it have any knowledge of any of the matters referred to in the committee's report until the committee's report was released on October 27 and was reported in the media in India."

In the letter, the Congress party unequivocally and categorically stated that it had not authorized any company or firm or individual to represent or act on behalf of the Congress party in any oil-for-food contract or any other oil contract.

"The Congress party also wishes to unequivocally and categorically state that it had not received no notice or letter or information from the Committee or from any one acting on behalf of the committee. The Congress party was also not provided an opportunity to submit any information or evidence refuting the information that may have been gathered by the committee during the course of the inquiry.

Explaining the reason for writing the letter, it said the party was anxious that the record be set straight, that its fair name and reputation should be vindicated, and that all allegations of any involvement in any oil-for-food contract or illicit payments should be withdrawn.

The letter urged the Secretary General to make available immediately the sources of evidence pertaining to the entries referring to the Congress party to its authorized representative.

"These sources should include the United Nations OFFP records, the records of the Government of Iraq, including the records of SOMO, the records from various financial institutions and the records provided by any entity involved in the purchase of oil from Iraq." The letter clearly stated that the party desired to inspect only those records, which contain any reference to the Congress party.

UNSC condemns Delhi blasts

UNITED NATIONS, Nov 2: The United Nations Security Council today strongly condemned the weekend bomb attacks in New Delhi and made a strong plea for international cooperation for bringing those behind the "reprehensible" act to justice.

The Security Council asked all member countries to cooperate actively with India for finding the "perpetrators, organisers, financers and sponsors" of the serial bomb blasts, suspected to have been carried out by Pakistan-based militant outfit Laskhar-e-Toiba.

The UNSC condemnation came a day after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh categorically told Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf that there were external linkages of terrorists involved in the blasts and asked him to act against terrorism directed against India.

"The Security Council stresses the importance of bringing the perpetrators, organisers, financiers and sponsors of these reprehensible acts of violence to justice, and urges all states, in accordance with their obligations under international law and resolutions to cooperate actively with the Indian authorities in this regard," it said in a statement

"Terrorism in all its forms and manifestations constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security," the statement read by Council President Romanian Foreign Minister Mihai-Razvan Ungureanu said.

Describing terrorist violence as "criminal" and "unjustifiable", the Council reaffirmed the need to combat by all means threats to international peace and security caused by terrorist acts.

India elected to UNESCO Executive Board

NEW DELHI, Oct 16: India has been elected to the Executive Board of UNESCO by 145 votes at the on-going conference of the world body. India has been on the Board since 1947. In the last election to the Board in 2001, India had secured 125 votes, an official release said on Saturday.

The election to the Board on Thursday followed other major successes for the Indian delegation led by HRD Minister Arjun Singh to the UNESCO General Conference this year. India had proposed a resolution seeking UNESCO's pro-active involvement in WIPO discussions for protection of rights of broadcasting organisations so that UNESCO objectives of protection of freedom of expression and universal access to information and knowledge are not in any way hindered by the provisions of the treaty, the release said.

This resolution was supported by a majority of countries, despite some stiff resistance by developed countries. After very effective intervention by S K Arora, Secretary in the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, and some other countries, the resolution was adopted unanimously with minor amendment, the release added.

India confident of place in UN sun despite opposition

UNITED NATIONS, Sept 17: India is confident of the UN carrying out sweeping reforms that might lead to the world's largest democracy getting what it feels is its rightful place on the Security Council despite subtle and not so subtle lobbying against it by the US, China and Pakistan.

The path to the coveted seat is not smooth, admit Indian diplomats, but they are sure the mission can be accomplished as long as the G4 grouping - India, Germany, Japan and Brazil - remains united and steadfast.

On its own, it may have been a near impossible task for India to become a permanent member of the Security Council. But the alliance with Japan, an economic powerhouse, Germany, a key European power and the continent's largest economy, and Brazil, Latin America's largest nation and one of the world's emerging powers, gives the group a cutting edge - and this both China and the US are slowly realising.

But that has not prevented the two countries in particular and some others, including Pakistan, from carrying out the best lobbying they can muster to keep India out of the top UN body that will give it a clout it has been clamouring for in keeping with its image as an emerging world power. 'We are confident, and we know we will be there,' a top Indian diplomat said.

On Thursday, the foreign ministers of India, Brazil and Japan and a top official of Germany met at the Indian mission here in a symbolic show of unity, within days after the US shed its inhibitions and came out openly in support of Tokyo in a clear bid to wreck the G4 alliance. But Japanese leaders quickly announced that they had no intention of deserting the others, a point that was made here Thursday too.

Indian officials say that in any case Japan knows that whatever its economic might, it cannot make it on its own and that its own best interest lay in teaming up with the other three. 'On their own none of the four countries might get a seat on the Security Council for more reasons than one,' said the Indian diplomat. 'But collectively they are a potent force, whatever the opposition and whatever the gang-up.'

More than the US, it is China which is engaged in frenzied lobbying against the G4, going to the extent of using its economic and diplomatic leverage in Africa to prevent the 53-member African Union from throwing its weight behind G4. But the Chinese, it seems, are already paying a price for this, evident from the critical remarks several African diplomats accredited to the UN are making, quietly though, against Beijing.

Publicly, the Chinese communist regime is opposed only to Japan, which it continues to blame for World War II atrocities. But in reality, it is as much opposed to India, a country with which it is at peace but which it sees as a potential economic rival.

Indian diplomats say the G4 already have the support of some 100 countries in the 191-member UN and would need the backing of the African Union to clinch the two-thirds number required to bring about the necessary changes in the Security Council charter.

Unfortunately, the African Union is itself divided, with countries such as Libya and Egypt, the latter despite its non-aligned credentials and the former despite its once overt anti-US posturing, plotting against India.

On its part, Pakistan, notwithstanding the bilateral peace process, is against India occupying a seat on the Security Council. President Pervez Musharraf publicly rallied against 'a new elite' taking its place in the highest echelons of the UN. But Pakistan is the least of the problem, as far as UN reforms are concerned.

In South America, Argentina and Mexico remain Brazil's key opponents, Italy is against Germany, and both China and South Korea do not want Japan.
South Africa, a major African power, has already come out against the machinations of countries such as Libya and Egypt and has conveyed to India that it is for radical reforms of the UN, where the P5 - the US, Britain, France, China and Russia - alone wield veto powers.

But this was a world body that took birth in the immediate aftermath of World War II. Even here, Russia and France are all for reforms that, Indian officials assert, is a very good omen.

World Summit ends with adoption of reform document

NEW YORK, Sep 17: The three-day summit of the UN General Assembly ended here with the adoption of a document that provides guidance to reform the 60-year-old world body. The world's largest-ever gathering of national leaders late Friday adopted the 2005 World Summit Outcome document by acclamation after it heard its last speaker.

More than 170 presidents and prime ministers and scores of foreign ministers attended the session under tight security. The assembly president, Jan Eliasson of Sweden, said that the 40-page, 178-provision document is a package of 'changes to enhance the collective security, peace and security, human rights and institutional reform'.

Venezuela and Cuba were the only countries that voiced objection to the document, but did not try to prevent its adoption. Some speakers fully endorsed the document during the three-day debate, while others expressed disappointment. The document does not contain details for all reform programmes, and the assembly in coming months is to work out those details.

'I cannot disguise our profound disappointment that we were not able to agree at this summit on all the elements to make it operational,' Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin told the UN General Assembly summit. As the list of speakers churned on, expectation was building for Saturday's revelation by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of a new plan to ease international fears that it was preparing to produce weapons-grade uranium.

A number of presidents and prime ministers are to remain to attend the regular General Assembly's annual session Saturday. Martin vowed to pursue efforts by his government to realize proposals on the table, including the creation of a Human Rights Council to replace the discredited UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva. He said that the status quo that marked the six decades of the UN and its empty rhetoric should make way for a 'new and pragmatic multi-lateralism' measured by concrete results.

Norway's Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik said the world desperately needs a reformed UN that is 'strong and flexible' to carry on with the tasks it received 60 years ago.

Speakers included the presidents of Poland, Portugal, Bolivia, Togo, Panama and scores of prime ministers and foreign ministers. They focused on progress on implementing the so-called Millennium Development Goals over the last five years, including cutting the number of poor by half, halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and providing primary education to all children by 2015.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard told the summit Friday that his country, one of 51 original founders of the UN, expects a redefinition of UN authority and responsibility for the coming decades. 'We should not think that the UN can solve all the world's problems, nor that it should attempt do so,' Howard said. 'And the type of multilateralism embodied in organizations such as the UN can only be one element of a comprehensive approach to foreign policy.' Howard echoed the dominant theme of the week, saying that the world now lives 'in the shadow of global terrorism'.

Democracy on the net - courtesy India

By Deepak Arora

NEW YORK: The Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, has announced that India would soon establish a virtual centre on the Internet for providing information on democracy and a forum for exchange of experience.

"We intend to harness new and innovative technologies, including distance learning and satellite networks in the endeavour. We welcome partners in this initiative," Dr Singh said while speaking at a function to mark the launch the UN Democracy Fund in New York on the sidelines of the 60th session of the UN General Assembly.

Several world leaders, including US President Bush and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan were present at the launch. Dr Singh said this Fund was proposed by President Bush at the UN General Assembly last year and has received widespread acclaim. "Its relevance is underscored by its becoming a concrete reality in just a year's time."

Welcoming the launch of the UN Democracy Fund, the Prime Minister said it gives us an instrument to build the institutional and human capabilities that are necessary to underpin the successful exercise of democracy.

"India has been sharing its rich experience, institutional capabilities and training infrastructure with nations that share our values and beliefs and request our assistance. We are prepared to do much more, both as active participants in the Democracy Fund and in the Community of Democracies."

Stressing that globalisation is bringing new opportunities each day in the quest to overcome the age-old challenges of poverty, ignorance and disease, the Prime Minister called for ensuring that its relentless advance does not leave in its wake large pools of dispossessed and that the voiceless are empowered.

"Only democracy can ensure that they, too, become stakeholders in a millennium of peace and prosperity that we, in the United Nations, seek to accomplish," he added. Talking about India's rich democratic heritage, Dr Singh said democracy alone gives the assurance that development aspirations of the poorest citizens of the society would be taken into consideration. "This is the strength of a democratic system," added the Prime Minister.

Iran resumes full conversion operations

ISFAHAN (Iran), Aug 11: A defiant Iran resumed full operations at its uranium conversion plant Wednesday, as Europe and the United States struggled to find a way to stop the Islamic republic from pushing ahead with a nuclear program they fear will lead to weapons of mass destruction.

With United Nations inspectors watching, Iranian officials removed U.N. seals that had been placed voluntarily on equipment at the facility eight months ago when Tehran agreed to freeze most of its nuclear program. Technicians then immediately resumed work on the process that turns raw uranium into gas for enrichment.

The breaking of the seals at the facility in the mountains outside the southern city of Isfahan was the latest move of Iranian brinkmanship over its nuclear ambitions. The hard-line government's determination to move ahead left Europe and the United States scrambling over what to do next.

Iran has rejected European proposals to limit its program in return for economic incentives and shrugged off threats of U.N. sanctions. Any attempt to impose sanctions could face a veto in the U.N. Security Council from Russia and China, which have close ties with Iran.

Europe and the United States were left appealing to Iran to reconsider the proposals and waiting for Tehran to make its own offer in negotiations, while diplomats at the U.N. nuclear watchdog - the International Atomic Energy Agency - debated how strongly to rebuke Iran.

The 35-nation board of governors of the IAEA canceled a session tentatively planned for Wednesday, and instead diplomats were holding private on how best to persuade Iran to suspend its latest nuclear activities. A resolution was introduced Wednesday evening and will be discussed at a board meeting Thursday, said IAEA spokesman Peter Rickwood. He had no details on the resolution.

On Tuesday, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said he was willing to continue negotiations and would put forward his own proposals. However, Iran has said it won't restart uranium enrichment without a negotiated deal with Europe. Enrichment can produce nuclear fuel for a reactor or material for a bomb.

US condemns Iran's breaking of UN seals on nuclear plant

VIENNA, Aug 11: The United States condemned Iran's breaking of UN seals to bring online a key nuclear fuel plant, calling it a sign of Tehran's disregard for the international community.

"Today's breaking of seals is yet another sign of Iran's disregard for international concerns," said Matt Boland, spokesman for the US mission to international organizations in Vienna. Iran on Monday took the first steps to break a suspension of nuclear fuel cycle work, which it had begun in November to start talks with the European Union on getting trade and other benefits in return for guarantees it was not making atomic weapons.

Iranian technicians on Wednesday removed seals placed by the UN watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) at a uranium conversion plant in Isfahan, 400 kilometres (250 miles) south of Tehran, allowing the facility to return to full capacity and raising the stakes in a standoff with the international community.

The United States accuses Tehran of covertly developing nuclear weapons, a charge vehemently denied by Iran which says its atomic program is a peaceful effort to generate electricity. Boland said the United States "strongly" supports the European Union's effort through talks with Tehran "to convince Iran to stop its dangerous activities."

"We urge Iran to give serious consideration to the EU's proposals," for the Islamic Republic to suspend all nuclear fuel cycle work in order to guarantee it will not make atomic weapons, Boland said.

Iran's removal of the seals comes as the European Union tries to win approval at a emergency IAEA meeting in Vienna for a draft resolution calling on Iran to reverse its decision to push ahead with the nuclear fuel work. Conversion turns uranium ore or yellowcake into a feed gas for making enriched uranium, which can be the fuel for reactors or the explosive core of atomic bombs.

Iran points out that its right to the nuclear fuel cycle is legally enshrined under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and that it has infringed no international rules by resuming uranium conversion.

UN Agency assesses Iran Nuclear activity

VIENNA, Aug 10: The UN nuclear watchdog agency held an emergency meeting Tuesday to assess Iran's resumption of uranium conversion, while an Iranian dissident said Tehran has manufactured about 4,000 centrifuges capable of enriching uranium to weapons grade.

The meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency's 35-nation board of governors came a day after Iran restarted some activities at its nuclear plant at the central Iranian city of Isfahan.

Alireza Jafarzadeh, who helped uncover nearly two decades of covert nuclear activity in 2002, said the centrifuges - which he said are unknown to the IAEA - are ready to be installed at Iran's nuclear facility in Natanz. Jafarzadeh, who runs Strategic Policy Consulting, a Washington-based think tank focusing on Iran and Iraq, said the information - which he described as "very recent" - came from sources within the Tehran regime who have proven accurate in the past.

His claims could not immediately be independently verified. The IAEA was taking the allegation "seriously" and will investigate "should we find anything credible contained within it," spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said.

In Tehran, Ali Hafezi, spokesman for Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, said that the IAEA had been given a full disclosure of Tehran's nuclear program, including the number of centrifuges. He would not say how many centrifuges Iran has.

Meanwhile, diplomats in Vienna said the IAEA's board of governors was likely to issue a resolution by Thursday urging Tehran to again suspend its nuclear activities. "Iran must not be allowed to violate its international commitments and must not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons," said Gregory Schulte, US envoy to the IAEA.

But there was no talk of reporting Iran to the UN Security Council, which could impose economic or political sanctions on the regime, according to a Western diplomat. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the debate within the closed-door meeting, which was adjourned until Wednesday afternoon.

IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei said he was hopeful the standoff could be resolved. "The board will request Iran to reconsider its decision to unravel a part of the suspension," ElBaradei told reporters. "The important thing for me at the end of the day is to go back to the negotiating process and avoid any escalation of the situation."

Tehran, which had agreed to suspend nuclear activities in November, insists its nuclear program is peaceful, but Washington accuses it of covertly trying to build a weapon. Under the agreement, Iran had pledged to stop building centrifuges, which can be used to enrich uranium to levels high enough to fuel a nuclear weapon. Centrifuges also can be used for the peaceful generation of nuclear energy; uranium enriched to lower levels is used to produce electricity.

Iran resumed work at Isfahan after IAEA inspectors installed cameras and other surveillance equipment intended to ensure no nuclear material is diverted. But ElBaradei said the surveillance equipment had not yet been tested. The agency previously had said it was aware of the existence of 164 centrifuges at Natanz, 300 miles south of Tehran.

"These 4,000 centrifuge machines have not been declared to the IAEA, and the regime has kept the production of these machines hidden from the inspectors while the negotiations with the European Union have been going on over the past 21 months," Jafarzadeh said Tuesday in a telephone interview from Washington.

In 2002, Jafarzadeh - then a member of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, an exiled opposition group - disclosed information about two hidden nuclear sites that helped uncover nearly two decades of covert Iranian atomic activity and sparked present fears that Tehran wants to build a bomb.

The council is the political arm of the Mujahedeen Khalq, a group that Washington and the European Union list as a terrorist organization.

Jafarzadeh said Iran was making "extensive" use of front organizations or companies for the production and testing of centrifuge parts. He identified the companies as Pars Tarash, Kala Electric and Energy Novin, and said all had office space in the downtown Tehran building that houses Iran's Atomic Energy Organization. The Iranian nuclear spokesman confirmed that the three companies work with the agency but provided no further details.

Britain, France and Germany have been working on behalf of the 25-nation European Union to persuade Iran to drop its uranium enrichment program and related activities in return for incentives. Tehran rejected their latest offer last weekend.

Officials in Washington would not directly answer questions about whether the United States intends to push for sanctions now. State Department spokesman Adam Ereli did say that Iran was "thumbing its nose at a productive approach."

Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Washington-based Arms Control Association, said he thought "the (IAEA) board should act by making clear that if Iran does not suspend these activities within days or a couple of weeks, they will meet again and refer the case to the Security Council."

Sending Tehran's file there now would have little effect and could even be counterproductive by encouraging nationalist sentiment, Kimball said.
Iran has insisted it has the right under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to carry out the entire fuel cycle - from raw uranium to fuel for a reactor. Europe fears that if Iran can develop fuel on its own, it will secretly produce material for a bomb.



Dental Implants India

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