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Obama ups ante on outsourcing

WASHINGTON, Feb 25: In a message that may not be music to Indian outsourcing firms, US president Barack Obama has served notice that he would end the tax breaks for corporations that ship jobs abroad.

Giving his first speech to a joint session of the US Congress on Tuesday, Obama said: “We will restore a sense of fairness and balance to our tax code by finally ending the tax breaks for corporations that ship our jobs overseas.”

If Obama follows through with the announcement in the budget, the move may hurt India’s BPO sector as without the tax breaks, US companies may find it less attractive to outsource jobs to India.

After passing a $787 billion stimulus plan free of earmarks, or pet projects introduced by lawmakers in any legislation, Obama told the Congress: “I want to pass a budget next year that ensures that each dollar we spend reflects only our most important national priorities.”

“My administration has begun to go through the federal budget in order to eliminate wasteful and ineffective programmes... we will also end the tax breaks for the wealthiest 2% of Americans.”

Noting that he aims to give a tax cut for 95% working families, Obama said to maintain fiscal health, “we must address growing costs in medicare and social security”.

Obama widening missile strikes inside Pak: Report

NEW YORK, Feb 21: The Obama administration has expanded the covert war run by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) inside Pakistan by attacking a militant network seeking to topple the Pakistani government, the New York Times reported on Saturday.

Two missile strikes over the last week, on training camps run by Baitullah Mehsud, represent a broadening of the American campaign inside Pakistan, which has been largely carried out by drone aircraft, the influential US daily said in a report from Washington.

Under President George Bush, the US frequently attacked militants from al-Qaida and the Taliban involved in cross-border attacks into Afghanistan, but had stopped short of raids aimed at Mehsud and his followers, who have played less of a direct role in attacks on American troops.

The strikes are another sign that President Obama is continuing, and in some cases extending, the Bush administration policy of using American spy agencies against terrorism suspects in Pakistan, as he had promised to do during his presidential campaign, the Times said.

Mehsud was identified early last year by both American and Pakistani officials as the man who had orchestrated the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, the former prime minister and wife of Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari.

Bush included Mehsud's name in a classified list of militant leaders whom the CIA and American commandos were authorised to capture or kill. The Times said it was unclear why the Obama administration decided to carry out the attacks, which American and Pakistani officials said occurred last Saturday and again on Monday, hitting camps run by Mehsud's network.

The Saturday strike was aimed specifically at Mehsud, but he was not killed, the Times said citing Pakistani and American officials.

The Monday strike, officials cited by the Times said, was aimed at a camp run by Hakeem Ullah Mehsud, a top aide to the militant.

By striking at the Mehsud network, the US may be seeking to demonstrate to Zardari that the new administration is willing to go after the insurgents of greatest concern to the Pakistani leader. But American officials may also be prompted by growing concern that the militant attacks are increasingly putting the civilian government of Pakistan, a nation with nuclear weapons, at risk, the daily said.

The strikes came after a visit to Islamabad last week by Richard C. Holbrooke, the American envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan.

US voices concerns over Swat truce deal

WASHINGTON, Feb 20: The United States has conveyed strong concern to Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari over the truce deal with a Taliban-linked group for enforcing Shariah law in the restive Swat Valley.

President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are worried that this deal should not turn into a surrender to the Taliban militants, Special US Representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke told Zardari in a telephonic conversation on Thursday.

In an interview to Wolf Blitzer of the CNN, Holbrooke said that he expressed the US concern over the peace deal as it gives the Taliban the authority in a critically important part of the country.

“It’s hard to understand this deal in Swat, the area you’re talking about, less than 100 miles from the capital in Islamabad. President Zardari says it’s an interim arrangement while they stabilize the situation,” he said.

“He (Zardari) doesn’t disagree that the people who are running Swat now are murderous thugs and militants and they pose a danger not only to Pakistan, but to the United States and India,” Holbrooke said.

When specifically asked by Blitzer if Zardari gave him any commitment, Holbrooke said: “That I don’t know. But the issue isn’t whether he signs the deal or not, the issue is the negotiations themselves."

Mumbai police gets 26/11 evidence from FBI

WASHINGTON: The Mumbai police has obtained "crucial evidence" from the FBI that points that the plot to execute the 26/11 terror attack was hatched in Pakistan.

The three-member team led by Mumbai Police Deputy Inspector General Deven Bharti received the evidences that also include the information collected by the FBI, which it had gathered by sending its team to Pakistan.

This evidence, ranging from details of Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP), satellite phones used by terrorists, exchange of emails, intercepts and forensic examination of bullets used by attackers and others substantiates the links between the terrorists and their handlers in Pakistan.

The evidence also includes the information collected by the FBI, which it had gathered by sending its team to Pakistan.

The Mumbai police team left for India yesterday. It had come to Washington to hand over a Letters Rogatory issued by a Mumbai court and vetted by the Ministry of External Affairs to the US Department of Justice in Washington.

FBI's help had been sought in sharing the proofs like call details made through VoIP and from the satellite phone besides getting the documents related to Global Positioning System used by the terrorists while sailing from Karachi.

Backed up by its state of the art technological equipments, the FBI is believed to have got minute details of the voice over internet protocol services and satellite phones, which the terrorists used to call up their bosses in Pakistan.

The forensic examination of the bullets used by the terrorists in Mumbai was also a part of the evidence gathered from FBI by Mumbai Police.

The evidence from FBI is expected to make the case water-tight as this kind of proof would further nail Pakistan's claims that the conspiracy behind 26/11 was not hatched in that country alone.

India and the United States share a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) which came into effect on December 3, 2005.

India very important strategic partner: US

WASHINGTON, Feb 13: Asserting that India is a very important strategic partner, the US has said that it is trying to implement the landmark Indo-US nuclear deal signed during George W Bush's presidency.

"India is a very important strategic partner for the United States," State Department Spokesman Robert Wood said when asked to comment about media reports that the new Obama Administration was ignoring India.

He said President Barack Obama himself had recently said that India and the US were "natural allies".

Wood, in response to another question, said the US is trying to implement the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal. "We are trying to get -- we are into the implementation phase of the 123 civil nuclear agreements," he said.

"I don't have the specifics of where we are on this particular day with regard to implementation, but it is certainly something that we want to see happen and nothing more beyond that," Wood said.

US will not allow safe havens for terrorists in Pak: Obama

WASHINGTON DC, Feb 10: In a stern warning to Pakistan, President Barack Obama asserted that his administration would not allow "safe havens" for Al-Qaeda and Taliban terrorists operating with "impunity" in tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.

This is the message his special envoy Richard Holbrooke, currently in Islamabad, has been asked to deliver to Pakistan, Obama said.

"My bottom line is that we cannot allow Al Qaida to operate. We cannot have those safe havens in that region," Obama said in his first press conference after assuming office on 20th January.

"You've got the Taliban and Al-Qaida operating in the Federally-administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and these border regions between Afghanistan and Pakistan," Obama said.

The 47-year-old President said one of the goals of Holbrooke, as he is traveling throughout the region, is to deliver a message to Pakistan that they are "endangered as much as we are by the continuation of those operations, and that we've got to work in a regional fashion to root out those safe havens."

Obama, who took questions on the situation in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran in his hour-long news conference, said the US has not seen concerted efforts to destroy such 'safe havens'.

"What we haven't seen is the kind of concerted effort to root out those safe havens that would ultimately make our mission successful," he said.

"We're going to have to work both smartly and effectively, but with consistency in order to make sure that those safe havens don't exist," he said.

The new administration is carrying out a thorough review of the US policies on Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Obama said he appointed Holbrooke as Special US Representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan with the purpose of eradicating terrorism from the restive tribal areas.

Holbrooke is currently in Pakistan from where he would be going to Afghanistan and then to India, for meeting and consulting with the leaders and people in the region.

"I've sent over Richard Holbrooke, one of our top diplomats to evaluate a regional approach. We are going to need more effective coordination of our military efforts with diplomatic efforts with development efforts with more effective coordination with our allies in order for us to be successful," Obama said.

When asked if he had any timetable for withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, Obama said: "I do not have yet a timetable for how long that's going to take. What I know is I'm not going to make -- I'm not going to allow al-Qaida or Osama Bin Laden to operate with impunity, planning attacks on the US homeland."

Hillary Clinton officially sworn in as Secretary of State

WASHINGTON, Feb 3: Hillary Clinton has been officially sworn in as US Secretary of State by Vice President Joe Biden at a ceremony held at Foggy Bottom here.

Hillary's husband and former US President Bill Clinton and her daughter Chelsea were also present at the ceremonial swearing in ceremony on Moday, which included several former Secretaries of States and Congressional leaders.

She is the 67th Secretary of State. Hillary replaces Condoleezza Rice of the previous Bush Administration.

Speaking on the occasion, Biden said he is confident that with Clinton as Secretary of State, the Obama Administration would be able to achieve its foreign policy goals in challenging times.

"In selecting Senator Clinton for this critical task, I think the (US) President selected a person of unrivaled talent and experience," Biden said.

"While serving as the first lady and as US Senator, she's already represented the US in over 80 countries, and is equally at ease in the great diplomatic halls of Europe as she is in small villages in Africa," he said.

"The national security challenge before this administration is great. We are engaged in two wars. We face a continued threat of terrorist attack by al-Qaeda and its allies. We face numerous transnational threats, including the spread of lethal weapons, climate change, disease, and that require common action," the Vice President said.

"To meet these threats, our military might is absolutely necessary. But, to state the obvious, it is not sufficient. We must use the totality of America's strengths, starting with our diplomacy and the ideas and ideals that inform it," Biden said.

Hillary reiterated her use of "Smart Power" as a key tool of the US foreign policy under Obama Administration.

"We have, in the leadership of President (Barack) Obama, someone who wants us to reach out to the world, to do so without illusions, understanding that the difficulties we face will not be wished away, but meeting them forthrightly and smartly, and that we want to seize the opportunities that exist as well," she said.

"This ceremony takes place at a real hinge of history time, there is so much that lies ahead in terms of challenges, but also opportunities," the former first lady said.

Others present on the occasion were the House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry.

India has no better friend, partner than US: Obama

WASHINGTON, Jan 26: Greeting India on the occasion of the country's 60th Republic Day, US President Barack Obama said Indians have no better friend and partner than the people of the United States.

"As Indian people celebrate Republic Day, they should know that they have no better friend and partner than the people of the United States," Obama said.

Obama, who calls India a natural ally of the US and seeks inspiration from Mahatma Gandhi, in a message said: "It is our shared values that form the bedrock of a robust relationship across people and governments. Those values and ideals provide the strength that enables us to meet any challenge, particularly from those who use violence to try to undermine our free and open societies."

As Indians and people of Indian origin in the US and around the world celebrate Republic Day on January 26, Obama said: "I send warmest greetings of the American people to the people of India. Together, we celebrate our shared belief in democracy, liberty, pluralism, and religious tolerance."

Referring to the new bonhomie of relationships between India and the US in the last one decade, the US president said the two nations have built broad and vibrant partnerships in every field of human endeavour.

"Our rapidly growing and deepening friendship with India offers benefits to all the world's citizens as our scientists solve environmental challenges together, our doctors discover new medicines, our engineers advance our societies, our entrepreneurs generate prosperity, our educators lay the foundation for our future generations, and our governments work together to advance peace, prosperity, and stability around the globe," he said.

Obama is going to be tough on Pakistan

WASHINGNTON, Jan 24: Two missile strikes targetting suspected terrorists hideouts inside Pakistan in the first few days of his presidency indicates that new US President Barack Obama is going to be tough on Islamabad, when it comes to the war against terror, media reports said.

This is the first tangible sign of President Obama's commitment to sustained military pressure on the terrorists groups there, even though the Pakistanis broadly oppose such unilateral US actions, The Washington Post reported on Saturday.

Throughout his election campaign, Obama maintained that his administration would not hesitate from going ahead with unilateral strikes against high value targets inside Pakistan if it had actionable intelligence, even if this was opposed by Islamabad.

In a page one report, The Washington Post said though President Asif Ali Zardari has expressed hopes of a very warm relationship with the new Administration, Obama's national security team has already "telegraphed their intention to make firmer demands of Islamabad than the Bush administration".

This demand would be backed up with a threatened curtailment of the plentiful military aid that has been at the heart of US-Pakistani ties for the past three decades,it said.

"The separate strikes on two compounds, coming three hours apart and involving five missiles fired from Afghanistan-based Predator drones were the first high-profile hostile military actions taken under Obama's four-day-old presidency," The Post said.

During her confirmation hearing, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on January 13, the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had said non-military aid to Pakistan would be made conditional upon progress on Islamabad's action towards terrorists.

In an op-ed piece in The Washington Times on Friday, Senator John Kerry, Chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said that Pakistan is the ground zero of terrorists' threat to the United States.

Even Obama addressing the State Department official on Thursday said Pakistan and Afghanistan are the central front against terrorism. The Obama Administration has appointed tough-taskmaster diplomat Richard Holbrooke as its Special Representatives for Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Barack Obama sworn in, pledges to remake America

WASHINGTON, Jan 20: Barack Obama has been sworn in as the 44th U.S. president Tuesday, shattering racial barriers as the first African-American leader of a country gripped by profound economic troubles and at war in two distant lands.

The 47-year-old Obama assumes power over a nation longing for change after President George W. Bush's eight divisive years in the White House, an era that witnessed the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, the beginning of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and an economic collapse not seen since the 1930s Great Depression.

With his hand on the Bible used in the 1861 inauguration of Abraham Lincoln, the country's 16th president and Obama's inspiration, the new president has ascended to the pinnacle of American political power to confront perils seldom faced by a new president.

Obama's wife, Michelle, the nation's new first lady, held the Lincoln Bible as Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts administered the 35-word oath of office taken by every American president dating to George Washington.

The National Mall, which stretches from the foot of Capitol Hill west to the Lincoln Memorial, was jammed with hundreds of thousands of spectators, perhaps as many as a million, who came from across American and the globe to witness the historic transfer of power.

The nation's 56th inauguration day began for Obama and his vice presidential pick Joe Biden with a traditional morning worship service at St. John's Episcopal Church, across Lafayette Park from the White House.

The Obamas waved to bystanders, then entered the church to applause from about 200 people. The Rev. Luis Leon welcomed the Obamas and said every president since James Madison, the country's fourth, has worshipped at the church at least once, ``some of them kicking and screaming.''

After the 45-minute service, the Obamas were welcomed to the White House for coffee. The outgoing president and first lady Laura Bush greeted them at the North Portico, according to custom. Michelle Obama handed Laura Bush a square white box wrapped with a red ribbon.

The festivities won't end until well after midnight, with dancing and partying at 10 inaugural balls.

Obama's election electrified millions across the globe with the hope that the new America leader would be more inclusive and open to the needs of people and governments worldwide, more collaborative and more inclined to attack problems with diplomacy than with military power.

Tuesday's ceremony was the culmination of a remarkable ascent for the 47-year-old Democrat, who moves into the Oval Office as the nation's fourth youngest president. In less than five years, he rose from a little-known Illinois state lawmaker to the nation's highest office, persuading Americans that despite his relative inexperience, he could turn around the economy, end the Iraq war and restore U.S. standing in the world.

A gifted, inspirational speaker, Obama has raised the hopes of millions as he outlined a new course for the United States. He has promised to emphasize diplomacy, seek global solutions to climate change, reject torture and shut down the Guantanamo Bay prison.

Obama's presidency puts Democrats firmly in charge of Washington. They will control both chambers of Congress and the White House for the first time since 1994.

Though the new president faces monumental challenges, he should face an extended honeymoon as he takes over from Bush, who leaves Washington as one of the nation's most unpopular and divisive presidents.

The 43rd president's approval ratings, which soared after Sept. 11, plummeted over his handling of the Iraq war, his slow response to Hurricane Katrina and the economic meltdown.

Pre-inauguration polls show Americans believe Obama is on track to succeed and express confidence the new president can turn the economy around. But Obama has cautioned that recovery needs time, and that things will get worse before they get better.

More than 10,000 people from all 50 states _ including bands and military units _ were assembled to follow Obama and Biden from the Capitol along the 1.5 mile (2.4-kilometer) inaugural parade route down Pennsylvania Ave., concluding at a bulletproof reviewing stand in front of the White House.

The inauguration was expected to draw up to 2 million people. Security was unprecedented as Washington braced for logistical headaches with major streets and bridges into the capital closed.

About a dozen members of Obama's Cabinet and top appointees were ready for Senate confirmation Tuesday, provided no objection was raised. Secretary of State-designate Hillary Rodham Clinton, Obama's chief rival in the Democratic primary elections, was to have been among that group, but a Senate vote on her appointment was delayed until Wednesday morning on the objection of Republican John Cornyn of Texas. She was expected to be approved in a roll call vote.

Treasury Secretary-designate Timothy Geithner's confirmation has been delayed because of his disclosure that he had failed to pay some taxes.

On Wednesday, his first working day in office, Obama is expected to redeem his campaign promise to begin the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq under a 16-month timetable. Aides said he would summon the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the Oval Office and order that the pullout commence. He will also assemble his economic team to start work on reversing the economic slide.

Text of President Barack Obama's inaugural address

WASHINGTON: Text of President Barack Obama's inaugural address on Tuesday, as prepared for delivery and released by the Presidential Inaugural Committee.

OBAMA: My fellow citizens:

I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.

Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because we the people have remained faithful to the ideals of our forebears, and true to our founding documents.

So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.

That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.

These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across our land _ a nagging fear that America's decline is inevitable, and that the next generation must lower its sights.

Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America _ they will be met.

On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.

We remain a young nation, but in the words of scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of shortcuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted _ for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things _ some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.

For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life.

For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.

For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn.

Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.

This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions _ that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.

For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act _ not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do.

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions _ who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.

What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them _ that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works _ whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. And those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account _ to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day _ because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control _ and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our gross domestic product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart _ not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our founding fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake. And so to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

We are the keepers of this legacy. Guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort _ even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan. With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet. We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus _ and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West _ know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.

As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us today, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages. We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment _ a moment that will define a generation _ it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.

For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter's courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent's willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.

Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends _ hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism _ these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility _ a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.

This is the price and the promise of citizenship.

This is the source of our confidence _ the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.

This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed _ why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.

So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of America's birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:

``Let it be told to the future world ... that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive...that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet (it).''

America, in the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.

India faces threat of a Mumbai rerun: US study

NEW YORK, Jan 18: India can expect more terror attacks like the Mumbai carnage from Pakistan-based terrorist groups with high body counts and symbolic targets in an escalating terror campaign in South Asia, a study by a leading US think tank has warned.

"India will continue to face a serious jihadist threat from Pakistan-based terrorist groups, and neither Indian nor US Policy is likely to reduce that threat in the near future," said Angel Rabasa, lead author of the study and a senior political scientist with RAND Corporation, a nonprofit research organization.

"Other extremist groups in Pakistan likely will find inspiration in the Mumbai attacks, and we can expect more attacks with high body counts and symbolic targets.”

The Mumbai terrorist attacks suggest the possibility of a rise of a strategic terrorist culture, the study said.

The RAND study identifies the operational and tactical features of the attack, evaluates the response of Indian security forces, and analyzes the implications for India, Pakistan and the United States.

Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba has been blamed for the 26/11 strikes.

The report acknowledged that both India and Pakistan have nuclear weapons, making any military action a "dangerous course", but warned that if India does not respond, that "would signal a lack of Indian resolve or capability."

The selection of multiple targets —- Americans, Britons and Jews, as well as Indians — suggests that the terrorists intended the attack to serve multiple objectives that extended beyond the terrorists' previous focus on Kashmir and India.

Mumbai is India's commercial and entertainment center, and the attacks on landmark properties amplified the psychological impact, according to the report.

"The defining characteristic of the Mumbai attack, and what makes it so alarming, is not just the ruthless killing, but the meticulous planning and preparation that went into the operation,” said Brian Michael Jenkins, a leading terrorism expert and senior advisor at RAND.

Other authors of the study are former US Ambassador to India Robert Blackwill, now a senior fellow at RAND; Peter Chalk, Kim Cragin, C Christine Fair, Seth Jones, Nathaniel Shestak, all of RAND, and Ashley Tellis, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

"The goal was not only to slaughter as many people as possible, but to target specific groups of people and facilities with political, cultural and emotional value. This indicates a level of strategic thought — a strategic culture — that poses a difficult challenge: not whether we can outgun the terrorists, but can we outthink them?".

One of the main lessons of Mumbai is that it exposed numerous weaknesses in India's counter-terrorism and threat mitigation structure, according to the report.

Without an appropriate response, Pakistan, or at least those elements of its military and intelligence leadership that are supportive of the activities of groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba, are likely to conclude that these operations, in some measure, yield benefits that exceed the cost.

For these and a myriad other reasons, researchers say, India is likely to remain a target of Pakistan-based and indigenous Islamist terrorism for the foreseeable future.

The Mumbai attacks are significant in their audacity and ambition, as well as the complexity of the operation and the diversity of targets, according to researchers.

The report analyses key weaknesses in the country's general counter-terrorism and threat-mitigation structure, including gaps in coastal surveillance, inadequate "target hardening," incomplete execution of response protocols, response timing problems, inadequate counter-terrorism training and equipment for the local police, limitations of municipal fire and emergency services, flawed hostage-rescue plans, and poor strategic communications and information management.

The Mumbai terrorist attack has significant and potentially far-reaching implications for India, Pakistan, and the international community, according to the researchers.

Mumbai attack, a new challenge for US diplomacy: Clinton

WASHINGTON, Jan 14: The incoming Obama administration on Tuesday declared that the Mumbai terror attacks threw up new challenges for American diplomacy.

US Secretary of state designate Hillary Clinton listed the 26/11 strikes as among the six major new challenges for American leadership.

In her testimony to a Senate confirmation hearing, the US President-elect Barack Obama's pick for the top diplomatic job said new conflicts in Gaza, mass killings and rapes in Congo,reports of record high green house gases and rapidly melting glaciers and even an ancient form of terror piracy reasserting itself in modern form in the horn of America were the otherchallenges.

Seventy days since the presidential election offered fresh evidence of these challenges to US diplomacy, she said.

Clinton also vowed to build on the economic and political partnership with India, as she said that US and the world leaders must work together to "solve the most pressing problems."

" We will build on the economic and political partnership with India, the world's populous democracy...,"she said.

The former US First lady also acknowledged that emerging markets like India, China, Brazil and South Africa were feeling the "effects" of the current financial crisis andwanted developed and developing countries to work on strategies to provide economic stability in the world.

She also pledged to renew US leadership through a "smartpower" mix of diplomacy and defence.

Terror will consume Pak if it fails to act: Rice

WASHINGTON, Dec 23: Asking Pakistan to do "everything it can" to bring the perpetrators of the Mumbai terror strikes to justice, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said Islamabad knows that it should act against terrorism and extermism or else it will "consume" the country.

"...but this really comes down to dealing with the problem, and that means that Pakistan has got to do everything that it can to help bring the perpetrators to justice," she said.

"And then also make sure they know as much as they possibly as they can so that you don't have a follow-on attack of some kind," Rice told the Financial Times in an interview.

The Secretary of State also said Pakistan should really take on the issue of terrorism and extremism. "They now know it (terrorism) will consume them if they don't, but this is a very tough problem for this civilian government," she said as Islamabad is under intense pressure to act against terrorism in the wake of the Mumbai attacks.

Rice indicated that the fate of Indo-Pak relationship depended on the action Islamabad took against the groups which New Delhi asserts were behind the deadly attacks.

She also noted that India and Pakistan have developed good relations with each other in the past couple of years and they would like to "preserve" them.

"They had no relationship between them (in 2001). We had not terribly deep relations with India or with Pakistan because it was just post-September 11th.

"Now, we have very strong relations with India, really deep relations with India, very good relations with Pakistan. I felt that when I went there I was drawing on a reservoir of trust with the Indians that was quite deep," she said.

Bush ducks shoes in Baghdad

BAGHDAD, Dec 15: US President George W Bush ducked a pair of shoes hurled at his head - one shoe after the other - in the middle of a news conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Both shoes narrowly missed their target and thumped loudly against the wall behind the leaders.

"Don't worry about it," the President said as the room erupted into chaos.

Iraqi reporters started shouting what Bush later explained were apologies for the incident.

"So what if the guy threw a shoe at me?" Bush said, comparing the action to political protests in the United States.

"If you want the facts, it was a size 10," he joked.

The shoe attack came as Bush and al-Maliki were about to shake hands. The assailant -- later identified as television correspondent Muntadar al-Zeidi - leapt from his chair and hurled his footwear at the President, who was about 20 feet away.

"This is a farewell kiss," he yelled in Arabic.

The crowd descended on al-Zeidi, who works for Al-Baghdadiya television, an Iraqi-owned station based in Cairo, Egypt. He was wrestled to the ground by security officials and then hauled away, moaning as they departed the room. Later, a trail of fresh blood could be seen on the carpet, although the source was not known.

In Iraqi culture, throwing shoes at someone is a sign of contempt. When US Marines toppled Saddam Hussein's statue on Firdos Square in 2003, the assembled crowd whacked it with their shoes.

Al-Baghdadia's Baghdad manager told the AP he had no idea what prompted his reporter to go on the attack.

US asks Pakistan to ensure no more terror attacks

WASHINGTON, Dec 9: The United States has asked Pakistan to work with all interested parties to make sure that there are no future attacks "emanating from Pakistani soil" like last month's Mumbai terror assault.

Noting "some positive steps" by Islamabad following Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice's visit to India and Pakistan, State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack on Monday said, "We're going to be following that situation very closely."

As Rice said on her trip and after her return "what's important here is that those responsible for the attacks in Mumbai be brought to justice, that they not be allowed to in any way plan further or participate further in any violent actions, any terrorist actions," he said.

"There needs to be a focus on prevention. What we don't want to see are future attacks emanating from Pakistani soil," McCormack said. "And we would urge cooperation among all interested parties to make sure that that doesn't happen."

Declining to spell out the specific actions taken by Pakistan, the spokesman said he would let the Pakistani government describe for the public exactly what steps they're taking and what it is that they've done.

Asked what specific steps would US like the Pakistanis to take to prevent their soil from being used, McCormack said: "As we ourselves learned through the experience after 9/11, information is key in preventing future terrorist attacks and to breaking up terrorist networks.

"So getting that information and sharing that information so that it can possibly be acted upon to prevent future attacks is critically important," he said.

"It's also incumbent upon the Pakistani government to act to prevent any future terrorist attacks, to break up those networks that may be responsible for perpetrating acts of violent extremism," the US official said.

The Pakistani government understands this, McCormack said, and Rice heard that very clearly during all of her meetings while she was there.

"Because they understand that this is as much a threat to Pakistan as it is to Pakistan's neighbours or others, including the United States, so they understand how critical it is that they act in this regard," he said.

Rice, McCormack said, had offered to the Indian government any assistance that they might be willing to accept and listen to any advice that the US might be able to provide on the basis of experience built up since 9/11 and with which it "had some success".

At the White House spokesperson Dana Perino too taking note of "some positive steps" taken by Pakistan said the US was now continuing to focus on prevention of any "follow-on attacks."

"What's critically important now is that we continue to work together - the Indians, the Pakistanis, the United States and our allies - to prevent follow-on attacks after the attacks in Mumbai."

Asked if the US had credible indications of some follow-on attacks in the making, Perino said: "I wouldn't say that. I would just tell you that it's always a concern once you have a terrorist attack."

"One of the things that you want to learn as quickly as possible is all the information you can get in order to prevent follow-on attacks, because we know that that's how some of these terrorists plan."

"And rooting out terrorists is very hard work. It requires a sustained commitment. We've seen that in our country," Perino said.

"It's going to take a sustained commitment on behalf of the Pakistanis, the Afghanis, and the Indians, and all the other nations working together to root out the evil."

Rice puts Pakistan on notice

ISLAMABAD, Dec 4: In a blunt message to Pakistan, the US on Thursday asked it to investigate the "circumstances" under which the Mumbai terror attacks were carried out and take the responsibility of dealing with non-state actors operating from its territory.

US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, who flew in Thursday morning from New Delhi and held talks with President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, said Pakistan must provide "robust" and "effective" cooperation to India in bringing the perpetrators of the Mumbai terror strikes to justice.

"We talked at length about the importance of Pakistan taking its responsibility to deal with those who may use Pakistan territory even if they are non-state actors," she said at a press conference here after her meetings with the Pakistani leadership.

"Pakistan needs to investigate the circumstances under which these attacks took place in Mumbai," said Ms Rice, who was provided evidence by India on Wednesday about involvement of Pakistan-based terrorists in last week’s attacks.

"There is a lot of information. There are many mechanisms for sharing information and mechanisms should be used," she bluntly told Pakistan.
Noting that the sophistication seen in the Mumbai strikes was never witnessed earlier in this part of region, Ms Rice said "there is urgency to get to the bottom of these attacks, urgency to bring perpetrators to justice and urgency to use this information to disrupt and prevent further attacks."

Mr Zardari, during his meeting with Ms Rice, said Pakistan government "will not only assist in investigation (into the Mumbai strikes) but also take strong action against any Pakistani elements found involved in the attack". "Pakistan is determined to ensure that its territory is not used for any act of terrorism," he said.

After the meeting, Ms Rice claimed that Pakistan "is indeed fighting to root them (terrorists) out wherever they find them. And therefore I found these conversations (with the leadership here) quite satisfactory."

She said "extremists who continue to strike" in various parts of the world have struck here in Pakistan. "This is also Pakistan’s security concern and in all of my meetings I have found a Pakistani government that is focused on the threat."

Replying to a question on India sharing evidence regarding the attacks in Mumbai that claimed 183 lives, Ms Rice said, "I think there is a lot of information about what happened here. And so this isn’t an issue of sharing evidence. There is a lot of information and there are many mechanisms through which to share that information. That information needs to be used now to get the perpetrators and to prevent them from doing this again."

Asked how confident she was about the Indian and Pakistani governments working together effectively, Ms Rice expressed hope that the two sides will keep the lines of communication open.

"It’s a difficult time but I do want to just note that we are starting, when this incident happened relations between India and Pakistan had improved considerably. And so that’s a good thing. It’s good that you are starting from a base in which relations were improving rather than relations in a bad state. But obviously what is going to need to be done here is that the cooperation, the efforts to move forward are going to have to result in bringing the perpetrators to justice and in preventing further attacks," she said.

To a question on the US role in investigation into the Mumbai attacks, Ms Rice said Washington is prepared to help in whatever it can.

"There’s considerable capacity on the side of India, there’s considerable capacity on the side of Pakistan. It is our intention to augment that in any way that is helpful. I had conversations in Britain, they have the same attitude. We will be helpful in any way that we can but obviously the best thing is that these two countries do what they can through their own capacity to fully investigate and bring people to justice who perpetrated that," she said.

Need for direct and tough action from Pak: US

NEW DELHI, Dec 3: Rejecting Pakistan's contention, the US on Wednesday night said that there is need for "direct and tough action" by Islamabad even if the perpetrators of the Mumbai terror attacks were "non-state actors".

"The fact is non-state actors perform from the confines of the state. There has to be direct and tough action (by Islamabad)," US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told a press conference after discussions with External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee.

Her remarks assume significance in the context of President Asif Ali Zardari denying Pakistan's involvement in the Mumbai attacks, saying the terror strikes were executed by the "stateless actors" who wanted to hold the "entire world hostage."

Rice made it plain that "non-state actors" were "still a matter of your (Pakistan) responsibility that somehow relates to your territory".

"Pakistan has to act transparently, fully and urgently," she said while noting that "Americans understand the feelings and strong demands" in India for bringing perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks to justice.

Referring to the promise of cooperation given by Zardari in the investigations, she said, "we expect the pledges are going to be fulfilled."

Pranab Mukherjee said that the deadly attacks on Mumbai were led from inside Pakistan and India would act decisively to protect its territorial integrity.

"I informed Dr. Rice there is no doubt that the terrorist attacks in Mumbai were perpetrated by individuals who came from Pakistan and whose controllers are in Pakistan," he said at a joint press conference.

Pranab said there is a deep outrage in India against recent attacks and emphasised on India’s right to protect itself.

He said India wanted to see that "the terrorists and organisations who perpetrated these attacks are arrested and brought to justice".

"We expect all friendly governments and the international community to ensure that this happens," he said.

"What action will be taken by the government will depend on the response we have from the Pakistan authorities. I am expecting the response, (and) after obtaining the response, whatever the government considers necessary to protect its territorial integrity, safety and security of its citizens, the government will do that," he added.

Earlier in the day, Rice said Pakistan should show a "real sense of transparency and urgency" in implementing its commitment to tackle terrorism.

"I would refrain from speculating from what Pakistan will do on the specific request (of India for handing over its fugitives based in that country).

"What has to happen is there has to be a real sense of transparency, real sense of action and real sense of urgency because these are extremists who have the same intention and same goal and that is to terrorise and send message to states around the world," US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had told reporters.

"This message has been conveyed and will be conveyed (to Pakistan)," she said adding extremists have done "great damage" to Pakistan too.

She had said countries like US, Britain and India have "great interest in getting to the bottom of this and bringing people to justice and we have great interest in prevention (of terror attacks)".

"That would be my message. I don't want to go into what Pakistan may or may not do. I am going to take Pakistan's stated commitment to get to bottom of this and make them know that they are enemies of Pakistan as well as India," she added.

India has right to protect itself: Obama

WASHINGTON, Dec 1: Sovereign nations have the right to protect themselves, US President-elect Barack Obama said on Monday, when asked if India could follow thesame policy he advocated during his election campaign — of bombing terrorist camps in Pakistan if there was actionable evidence and Islamabad refused to act on it.

Although Obama said he did not want to comment on the specific situation involving India and Pakistan, his tacit endorsement of New Delhi adopting the same policy was circumscribed by two caveats: first, let the investigators reach definite conclusions about the Mumbai carnage, and second, see if Pakistan will follow through with its commitment to eliminate terrorism.

''My administration will remain steadfast in support of India’s effort to catch perpetrators and bring them to justice. I expect the world community will feel the same way,'' Obama said, in one of several references to the events in Mumbai that underscored the roll-out of his national security team in Chicago on Monday.

As expected, Obama named Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, and retired marine General James Jones as National Security Advisor, in addition to retaining Robert Gates as Defense Secretary, among the three principals of his administration. The second tier of the national security team he introduced included Eric Holder as Attorney-General, Janet Napolitano as Secretary of Homeland Security, and Susan Rice as the US ambassador to United Nations.

In fact, Obama revealed that the Mumbai massacre topped the agenda of the new national security team at its first meeting Monday morning ahead of the public roll-out. He referred repeatedly to the tragedy at his press conference and said he had spoken to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to tell him that the United States is with India in this dark hour. ''India’s democracy is more resilient than the killers who want to tear it down,'' he said.

Obama reiterated his stand that there was only one president at a time in the U.S as he trod a delicate line in setting any new policy. But he appreciated the actions taken by the Bush administration and keeping him informed about it.

''What I can say unequivocally is that both myself and my team are absolutely committed to eliminating terrorism,'' he said. ''We cannot tolerate attacks based on twisted ideology of hate...we will bring the full force of our military, economic and diplomatic power to defeat this. I will be monitoring the situation closely.''

Iraq war my biggest regret: Bush

WASHINGTON, Dec 1: As his second term enters its final days, President Bush is taking time to reflect on the events that may well shape his legacy.

In an interview with ABC television, he spoke in unusually candid terms about the achievements and disappointments of his presidency.

Mr. Bush said his biggest regret of his eight years in office was the intelligence failure in Iraq - the faulty information on weapons of mass destruction that prompted him to remove Saddam Hussein from power in 2003.

He spoke of the difficulties of leading a nation at war, and said he never thought when he first ran for the presidency that he would preside over a major conflict.

"I didn't campaign and say, 'Please vote for me, I'll be able to handle an attack.' In other words, I didn't anticipate war," said President Bush. "[For] presidents - one of the things about the modern presidency - is that the unexpected will happen."

Mr. Bush said that during his presidency, he has had to make a lot of tough decisions. Lately, they have revolved around efforts to revive the ailing U.S. economy.

In an interview excerpt that aired Monday on ABC's World News program, the president was asked whether he feels in any way responsible for the nation's economic woes.

"I have been president during this period of time," said Mr. Bush. "But I think when the history of this period is written, people will realize a lot of the decisions that were made on Wall Street took place over a decade or so before I arrived as president."

Mr. Bush said the economic crisis played a major role in Democrat Barack Obama's victory over Republican John McCain in last month's presidential election.

"Obviously, the economic situation made it awfully difficult for John McCain to get a message out," he said. "And I felt that Barack Obama ran a very disciplined campaign."

Mr. Bush acknowledged he never thought he would live to see an African-American as U.S. president. But his 27-year-old daughter Barbara, who was with him during a portion of the interview, said she was not surprised to see Barack Obama make history.

Obama calls PM, says terror can't defeat India's democracy

WASHINGTON, Nov 29: Asserting that terrorism cannot defeat "India's great democracy", Prez-elect Barack Obama spoke to Manmohan Singh on Saturday over the Mumbai attacks amid his advocacy for full US support to New Delhi in combating the scourge.

Obama called up Singh on Saturday morning in connection with the Mumbai terror strikes and "expressed his deepest condolences", the Prime Minister's Office said in New Delhi.

Singh apprised him about the developments in Mumbai, where the operation to flush out terrorists ended this morning after 60 hours of gun-fights.

Prior to his telephone call to the Prime Minister, Obama, who will occupy the White House in January, said that the terrorists who targeted innocent civilians could not defeat "India's great democracy" nor "shake the will of a global coalition to defeat them".

He said "the United States must stand with India and all nations and people who are committed to destroying terrorist networks, and defeating their hate-filled ideology."

Maintaining that there is only "one President at a time," Obama said, "We fully support the Bush Administration's efforts to protect American citizens and assist the government of India during this tragic time."

"I will continue to closely monitor the situation on the ground in Mumbai and am grateful for the cooperation of the Bush administration in keeping me and my staff updated," said Obama who is in touch with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as well as with Indian Ambassador Ronen Sen.

Obama said he has sent his "deepest condolences" to the loved ones of the American citizens who died in the outrageous terrorist attacks in Mumbai.

"Michelle (Obama's wife) and I send our deepest condolences to the loved ones of the American citizens who lost their lives in the outrageous terrorist attacks in Mumbai," the US President-elect said following reports that a Virginia man and his daughter had been killed along with a rabbi from New York.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with them, and with all who have been touched by this terrible tragedy," Obama said in a statement.

Obama wins, says 'change has come to America'

WASHINGTON, Nov 5: Barack Obama rode a wave of voter discontent to a historic White House victory on Tuesday, promising change as the first black US president but constrained by a deep economic crisis and two lingering wars.

Obama led Democrats to a sweeping victory that expanded their majorities in both houses of Congress as voters emphatically rejected President George W. Bush's eight years of leadership.

Obama is the son of a black father from Kenya and white mother from Kansas, and his election triumph over Republican rival John McCain marks a milestone in US history. It came 45 years after the height of the civil rights movement led by Martin Luther King.

"It's been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, at this defining moment, change has come to America," Obama, 47, told more than 200,000 ecstatic supporters gathered in Chicago's Grant Park to celebrate.

Obama was born at a time when African Americans were still battling segregationist policies in the South and his dramatic rise could help the United States bury its long history of racial tensions. Raucous street celebrations erupted across the country.

Obama won at least 338 Electoral College votes, far more than the 270 he needed. With results in from more than three-quarters of US precincts, he led McCain by 52 percent to 47 percent in the popular vote.

A first-term Illinois senator who will now be sworn in as the 44th US president on Jan. 20, 2009, Obama said he would work to ease the country's sharp political divisions and listen to those who voted against him.

"The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even one term, but America, I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there," he said.

McCain's hopes for a surprise win evaporated with losses in a string of key battleground states led by the big prizes of Ohio and Florida, the states that sent Democrats to defeat in the last two elections.

McCain, a 72-year-old Arizona senator and former Vietnam War prisoner, called Obama to congratulate him and praised his rival's inspirational and precedent-shattering campaign.

"We have come to the end of a long journey," McCain told supporters. "I urge all Americans who supported me to join me in not just congratulating him but offering our next president our goodwill."

Blacks and whites celebrated together in front of the White House to mark Obama's win and Bush's imminent departure. Cars jammed the downtown Washington streets, with drivers honking their horns and leaning out their windows to cheer.

Thousands more joined street celebrations in New York's Times Square and in cities and towns across the United States.

"This is the most significant political event of my generation," said Brett Schneider, 23, who was in the crowd for Obama's victory speech in Chicago.

"This is a great night. This is an unbelievable night," said US Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, who was brutally beaten by police in Selma, Alabama, during a voting rights march in the 1960s.

He was at a celebration in Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, the home church of King, who led the civil rights movement and was murdered in 1968.

Rev. Jesse Jackson, a prominent civil rights leader and former presidential candidate, joined the celebrations in Chicago on Tuesday night, tears streaming down his cheeks.

Obama and Democrats will face intense pressure to deliver on their campaign promises. Obama has vowed to restore U.S. leadership in the world by working closely with foreign allies, to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq in the first 16 months of his term and to bolster U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan.

But his immediate task will be tackling the U.S. financial crisis, the worst since the Great Depression. Obama has proposed another stimulus package that could cost about $175 billion and include funding for infrastructure and another round of rebate checks.

Obama took command of the race in the last month as the financial crisis deepened and as his steady performance in three debates with McCain appeared to ease lingering doubts among voters.

His judgment on handling the economic crisis appeared to help tip the race in his favor. Exit polls showed six of every 10 voters listed the economy as the top issue.

In addition to Ohio and Florida, Obama won Virginia, Iowa, New Mexico, Nevada and Colorado -- all states won by Bush in 2004. McCain's loss in Pennsylvania eliminated his best hope of capturing a Democratic-leaning state.

The vote capped an epic campaign marked by a rapid rise from obscurity for Obama and a bitter Democratic primary battle with New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, as well as McCain's comeback from the political scrap heap to win the Republican nomination.

In the general election battle, Obama accused McCain of representing a third term for Bush's policies and being out of touch on the economy. McCain's campaign attacked Obama as a tax-raising liberal and accused him of being a "pal" with terrorists.

In a difficult political environment for Republicans, McCain struggled to separate himself from Bush. Exit polls showed three out of every four voters thought the United States was on the wrong track.

In the fight for Congress, Democrats were making big gains but appeared to be falling short of picking up the nine Senate seats to reach a 60-seat majority that would give them the muscle to defeat Republican procedural hurdles.

Democrats gained at least five Senate seats and knocked off two-high profile Republican incumbents -- North Carolina Sen. Elizabeth Dole, a former presidential candidate and wife of 1996 Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole, and New Hampshire Sen. John Sununu.

Democrats also gained about 25 more House of Representatives seats to give them a commanding majority in that chamber.

India greets Obama on extraordinary win

NEW DELHI, Nov 5: India on Wednesday greeted Barack Obama on his election as the 44th US President with the government and political parties hoping to further strengthen relations with the world's oldest democracy.

President Pratibha Patil and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh sent congratulatory messages to the 47-year-old Obama and invited him to visit India "as soon as possible".

Students, professionals and politicians welcomed the election of the US' first African-American President as "historic" and said they looked forward to heralding of an era of a "less confrontational" America.

The Indian industry, particularly the software sector, hailed the victory of the first-time Illinois Senator and played down fears of an adverse impact on the flourishing outsourcing business.

"Your extraordinary journey to the White House will inspire people not only in your country but also around the world," Singh said in his message to Obama, who rose from a small-time community worker to become the most powerful man in the world.

"We look forward to strengthening the partnership between India and the US and continuing the close engagement that we have developed in recent years both in bilateral cooperation and in addressing global issues of common concern," External Affairs Ministry spokesman Vishnu Prakash said.

Obama's extraordinary journey to the White House drew cheers from political parties of all hue, including the Left and the Right.

Congress, BJP and Left parties termed Obama's victory as historic.

Text of Democrat Barack Obama's speech in Chicago after winning the presidential election

Nov 5, 2008

OBAMA: Hello, Chicago.

If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.

It's the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen, by people who waited three hours and four hours, many for the first time in their lives, because they believed that this time must be different, that their voices could be that difference.

It's the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled. Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been just a collection of individuals or a collection of red states and blue states.

We are, and always will be, the United States of America.

It's the answer that led those who've been told for so long by so many to be cynical and fearful and doubtful about what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.

It's been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this date in this election at this defining moment change has come to America.

A little bit earlier this evening, I received an extraordinarily gracious call from Senator McCain.

Senator McCain fought long and hard in this campaign. And he's fought even longer and harder for the country that he loves. He has endured sacrifices for America that most of us cannot begin to imagine. We are better off for the service rendered by this brave and selfless leader.

I congratulate him; I congratulate Governor Palin for all that they've achieved. And I look forward to working with them to renew this nation's promise in the months ahead.

I want to thank my partner in this journey, a man who campaigned from his heart, and spoke for the men and women he grew up with on the streets of Scranton ... and rode with on the train home to Delaware, the vice president-elect of the United States, Joe Biden.

And I would not be standing here tonight without the unyielding support of my best friend for the last 16 years ... the rock of our family, the love of my life, the nation's next first lady ... Michelle Obama.

Sasha and Malia ... I love you both more than you can imagine. And you have earned the new puppy that's coming with us ...to the new White House.

And while she's no longer with us, I know my grandmother's watching, along with the family that made me who I am. I miss them tonight. I know that my debt to them is beyond measure.

To my sister Maya, my sister Alma, all my other brothers and sisters, thank you so much for all the support that you've given me. I am grateful to them.

And to my campaign manager, David Plouffe ... the unsung hero of this campaign, who built the best _ the best political campaign, I think, in the history of the United States of America.

To my chief strategist David Axelrod ... who's been a partner with me every step of the way.

To the best campaign team ever assembled in the history of politics ... you made this happen, and I am forever grateful for what you've sacrificed to get it done.

But above all, I will never forget who this victory truly belongs to. It belongs to you. It belongs to you.

I was never the likeliest candidate for this office. We didn't start with much money or many endorsements. Our campaign was not hatched in the halls of Washington. It began in the backyards of Des Moines and the living rooms of Concord and the front porches of Charleston. It was built by working men and women who dug into what little savings they had to give $5 and $10 and $20 to the cause.

It grew strength from the young people who rejected the myth of their generation's apathy ... who left their homes and their families for jobs that offered little pay and less sleep.

It drew strength from the not-so-young people who braved the bitter cold and scorching heat to knock on doors of perfect strangers, and from the millions of Americans who volunteered and organized and proved that more than two centuries later a government of the people, by the people, and for the people has not perished from the Earth.

This is your victory.

And I know you didn't do this just to win an election. And I know you didn't do it for me.

You did it because you understand the enormity of the task that lies ahead. For even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime _ two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century.

Even as we stand here tonight, we know there are brave Americans waking up in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan to risk their lives for us.

There are mothers and fathers who will lie awake after the children fall asleep and wonder how they'll make the mortgage or pay their doctors' bills or save enough for their child's college education.

There's new energy to harness, new jobs to be created, new schools to build, and threats to meet, alliances to repair.

The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even in one term. But, America, I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there.

I promise you, we as a people will get there.

AUDIENCE: Yes we can! Yes we can! Yes we can!

OBAMA: There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who won't agree with every decision or policy I make as president. And we know the government can't solve every problem.

But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree. And, above all, I will ask you to join in the work of remaking this nation, the only way it's been done in America for 221 years _ block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand.

What began 21 months ago in the depths of winter cannot end on this autumn night.

This victory alone is not the change we seek. It is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were.

It can't happen without you, without a new spirit of service, a new spirit of sacrifice.

So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism, of responsibility, where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves but each other.

Let us remember that, if this financial crisis taught us anything, it's that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers.

In this country, we rise or fall as one nation, as one people. Let's resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long.

Let's remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House, a party founded on the values of self-reliance and individual liberty and national unity.

Those are values that we all share. And while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress.

As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, we are not enemies but friends. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.

And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn, I may not have won your vote tonight, but I hear your voices. I need your help. And I will be your president, too.

And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces, to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of the world, our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand.

To those _ to those who would tear the world down: We will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security: We support you. And to all those who have wondered if America's beacon still burns as bright: Tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity and unyielding hope.

That's the true genius of America: that America can change. Our union can be perfected. What we've already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But one that's on my mind tonight's about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. She's a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election except for one thing: Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old.

She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn't vote for two reasons _ because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin.

And tonight, I think about all that she's seen throughout her century in America _ the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can't, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes we can.

At a time when women's voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes we can.

When there was despair in the dust bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs, a new sense of common purpose. Yes we can.

AUDIENCE: Yes we can.

OBAMA: When the bombs fell on our harbor and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved. Yes we can.

AUDIENCE: Yes we can.

OBAMA: She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma, and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that We Shall Overcome. Yes we can.

AUDIENCE: Yes we can.

OBAMA: A man touched down on the moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination.

And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen, and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change.

Yes we can.

AUDIENCE: Yes we can.

OBAMA: America, we have come so far. We have seen so much. But there is so much more to do. So tonight, let us ask ourselves _ if our children should live to see the next century; if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what change will they see? What progress will we have made?

This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment.

This is our time, to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth, that, out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope. And where we are met with cynicism and doubts and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes, we can.

Thank you. God bless you. And may God bless the United States of America.

Rice, Pranab to sign nuclear deal

WASHINGTON, Oct 4: The United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrives in New Delhi on Saturday to ink the India-US nuclear deal.

Rice, officials said, will be meeting External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee at Hyderabad House, where the two are expected to sign the deal. Besides Mukherjee, Rice will also be meeting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Leader of the Opposition LK Advani.

A Bill to give effect to the India-US civil nuclear accord was passed with an overwhelming majority by the US Senate on Thursday.

The “historic” civilian nuclear agreement cements an effort to bring together the world’s largest democracy and the world’s oldest continuous democracy, Rice has said. But “that is not the only element of this relationship”, she said on Thursday at a reception for thank those who worked on the agreement. “This is also a friendship based on values, a friendship based on ties, people-to-people ties...”

President Bush is expected to sign the Bill passed by the Senate and earlier by the House into law anytime.

During her meetings, a State Department statement said, Rice will “discuss a wide range of issues, including the US-India civil nuclear cooperation initiative, trade, counter-terrorism, human rights, religious freedom and education”.

Once formalities are completed, “we look to the US and Indian private sectors to take the lead in implementing the agreement and beginning cooperation”, said White House Deputy Press Secretary Tony Fratto.

US Congress clears $ 700 billion bail out package

WASHINGTON, Oct 3: The US Congress approved a revised 700 billion dollar package to bail out the beleaguered US financial sector after the House of Representatives today cleared the historic measure four days after it rejected an earlier plan that stunned the global markets.

The House okayed 263-171 in a make or break vote the unprecedented government intervention designed to pull the US economy out of the brink and sent it to President George W Bush for certain signature into law. The Senate on Wednesday passed 74-25 a revised version of the bailout package.

Calling the bipartisan Congress vote a "bold" step, Bush said the package will help the US economy weather the financial crisis.

The revised package aimed at buying up the bad debts of failing institutions included sweetners on extending bank deposit insurance and expired tax breaks in a bid to get more Republicans behind the legislation.

Several law makers dropped their opposition to the bill when it came up for vote today capping two weeks of turmoil in the Congress and the Wall street.

The Bill was tweaked by the Senate which addded about 100 billion dollars in new tax breaks in an initiative to get the House support for the new version.

Only 85 Republicans voted for the bailout in the 228 to 205 defeat for the bailout on Monday and Democratic House leaders said before the vote they needed 100 members of the minority party to ensure passage.

The plan lets the government spend billions of dollars to buy bad mortgage-related securities and other devalued assets from troubled financial institutions. It is aimed at allowing frozen credit to begin flowing again and prevent a dangerous recession.

Senate approves US-India nuclear deal

WASHINGTON, Oct 2: The US Senate on Wednesday approved a landmark deal ending a three-decade ban on US nuclear trade with India, handing a victory to President George W Bush on one of his top foreign policy priorities.

Final approval came as the Senate voted to ratify the deal, 86-13, sending the legislation to Bush to sign into law.

The Senate's move came just ahead of an expected trip to India this weekend by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

The Bush administration says the pact will secure a strategic partnership with the world's largest democracy, help India
meet its rising energy demand and open up a market worth billions.

But critics say the deal does grave damage to global efforts to contain the spread of nuclear weapons, by letting India import nuclear fuel and technology even though it has tested nuclear weapons and never signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

India has a yawning energy deficit, and the accord opens up this market worth billions to American companies such as General Electric and Westinghouse Electric, a unit of Japan's Toshiba Corp.

Rice spent much of the past month in an all-out effort to persuade Congress to approve the pact, which the Bush administration says will transform the U.S.-India relationship. Bush wanted the deal approved before leaving office in January; Congress is expected to adjourn soon for elections.

The accord enjoys bipartisan support in Congress, where many lawmakers favored it as a way to create jobs in the US civil nuclear industry while cultivating the small but affluent Indian-American community.

Critics said the deal was deeply unwise, overturning decades of US policy of refusing to sell nuclear technology to nations lacking full safeguards against that technology's diversion into nuclear weapons programs.

Before approving the pact, the Senate rejected an amendment by Sen. Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico and Sen. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, both Democrats, making clear that another Indian nuclear test would lead to termination of the deal.

Lugar argued the amendment was unnecessary, saying India had been warned repeatedly that the consequences of another test would be "dire": U.S. nuclear trade would be cut off.

The deal could open up around $27 billion in investments in 18-20 nuclear plants in India over the next 15 years, according to the Confederation of Indian Industry.

But there is global competition. France announced on Tuesday that it had signed a nuclear cooperation agreement with India, and Russia is already building two 1,000 megawatt reactors in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

Local media say India's monopoly Nuclear Power Corp has tentatively picked four suppliers, including Westinghouse Electric and France's Areva, for planned new projects.

India is also reported to be negotiating with General Electric, Japan's Hitachi Ltd and Russia's atomic energy agency Rosatom.

Everything in 123 not binding on US: Envoy

NEW DELHI, Oct 2: Everything in the 123 Agreement is not binding on Washington, US ambassador to India David C. Mulford said here Thursday shortly after the Senate vote.

"The language is intended to indicate the 123 Agreement is law, but not every single thing... is binding because it can’t be. It’s not possible for the US to compel its companies to do things [offer technology; supply fuel at a certain price] which may in fact be against our law," he said.

In response to a question on India’s concerns over fuel supply in the absence of a legally-binding commitment, Mr Mulford elaborated on what he thought was a "simple and well-understood point", that "the US cannot compel other governments to provide services or to undertake certain action. The world doesn’t work that way."

The assurances, he added, were a "presidential commitment" which will "no doubt be honoured in the future".

The envoy suggested the content of the 123 Agreement was preserved because the US Senate did not press for amendments.

"The 123 Agreement and all the other elements that I’ve mentioned faithfully honour the general outlines of the [July 18, 2005] declaration," he said.

US House defeats $700B financial markets bailout

WASHINGTON, Sept 30: The House of Representatives on Monday defeated a $700 billion emergency rescue package, ignoring urgent pleas from President George W. Bush and bipartisan congressional leaders to quickly bail out the staggering U.S. financial industry.

Stocks plummeted on Wall Street even before the 228-205 vote to reject the bill was announced on the House floor.

When the critical vote was tallied, too few members of the House were willing to support the unpopular measure with elections just five weeks away. Ample no votes came from both the Democratic and Republican sides of the aisle.

Bush and a host of leading congressional figures had implored the lawmakers to pass the legislation despite howls of protest from their constituents back home.

The vote had been preceded by unusually aggressive White House lobbying, and spokesman Tony Fratto said that Bush had used a ``call list'' of people he wanted to persuade to vote yes as late as just a short time before the vote.

Lawmakers shouted news of the plummeting Dow Jones average as lawmakers crowded on the House floor during the drawn-out and tense call of the roll, which dragged on for roughly 40 minutes as leaders on both sides scrambled to corral enough of their rank-and-file members to support the deeply unpopular measure.

They found only two.

Senate to take up Indo-US N-deal on Wednesday

WASHINGTON, Sept 30: The US Senate, which is "close to working out" the Indo-US civil nuclear deal, will take up the accord for discussion and vote on Wednesday, Senate Majority leader Harry Reid said on Monday.

The Senate, which is pre-occupied with the vital $ 700 billion financial bailout package, is expected to go into recess on Monday and return on Wednesday.

Reid referred to the "Indian nuclear treaty" after the Senate voted on the Railrod safety and Amtrak legislation, while listing out the businesses left for the Chamber prior to the final recess on Wednesday and said the 123 Agreement with India is likely to be taken up on Wednesday along with the bailout bill.

Reid said the Senate will try to complete modalities on the financial bailout package, so that it can be taken up for a vote on Wednesday.

"In the meantime we're working to see if we can complete an agreement to move and complete the Indian nuclear treaty also on the same day, that would be Wednesday," he said.

"I think we're very close to working that out. And that would allow all afternoon today, all day on Tuesday, and Wednesday to work on those two items," the Democrat said referring to the emergency economic bailout package as also the approval legislation to the nuclear deal with India.

He said the Senators were doing their "very best" to wrap up the remaining business on Wednesday.

US House approves N-deal; Senate vote likely on Monday

WASHINGTON, Sept 28: The Indo-US nuclear deal has moved into the last lap clearing a major hurdle when the House of Representatives approved a legislation on it that will now go to the Senate which is likely to vote on it on Monday.

Once the Senate clears the bill, the agreement reached between the two countries three years ago will be ready to be inked by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee.

Rice's visit to New Delhi on October3 may be rescheduled, a high-ranking Indian official accompanying Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said. The External Affairs Minister who is in New York is scheduled to return to the Indian capital on October 3.

The Prime Minister voiced happiness that the nuclear deal has crossed another hurdle following its approval by the House.

"I am happy that one hurdle has been crossed but I think that is not the end of the legislative process. So, we will wait for the final outcome," he told reporters on way to France at the end of his five-day visit to the US.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said the landmark agreement could be brought to a vote in his Chamber, possibly as early as on Monday, and urged his colleagues to drop their objections to the deal.

After a lot of drama and suspense, the House of Representatives passed the Bill on an unusual extra day of sitting on Saturday with bipartisan support but a considerable number of Democrats were still opposed to it.

The Berman Bill H R 7081, named after Howard Berman, a Democrat, was adopted with 298 voting for and 117 against it.

Berman, a known critic of the deal, finally veered around presenting a bill identical to the one passed by a Senate panel. He agreed to drop references to Iran as also certain other additions which could have sabotaged early passage of the bill in the House. One lawmaker merely voted present.

Despite the bipartisan support the bill received, 107 Democrats voted against the legislation while 120 of their party colleagues voted for it. In the Republican party, only 10 voted against it while 178 voted in its favour.

The deal just needs the backing of the Senate which may vote on the issue on Monday. But the Senate vote appears to be a formality given the fact that an identical Bill has already been approved by its Foreign Relations Committee earlier this week.

"... what are we going to do on Monday? We may have to have a vote on the defence authorisation bill.... we've got to do the defence authorisation bill, we have to do Amtrak. we have to do the nuclear treaty with India," Reid said on the Senate floor yesterday while urging his colleagues to drop their objections to the deal.

The Senate Majority Leader's remarks came against the backdrop of information that it is not a lone Senator who has placed a "hold" on the movement of the Bill of Approval of the civilian nuclear cooperation agreement in the Senate.

Passage of nuke deal highest feet of diplomacy: Cong

NEW DELHI, sept 28: Congress on Sunday termed the passage of the nuclear deal in the US House of Representatives as the "highest feat" of diplomacy sculptured by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Party spokesperson M Veerappa Moily said the country is also "grateful" to US President George W Bush who made it possible to happen due to his "untiring" efforts.

"This is the highest feat of diplomacy chiselled and sculptured by our great statesman Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, guided and inspired by our visionary party President Sonia Gandhi," Moily said in a statement.

Congratulating the team of diplomats and nuclear scientists, he said "proud" India presents itself to the entire world "victory after victory" from the day MoU on 123 agreement to the trust vote and from the clearance of IAEA to the passage of the deal in the house.

Noting that 21st century has been heralded as the century of India and its glorious future, he said, "the great surge is now poised ultimately to have the approval of the US Senate and also the final signing of the nuclear agreement between India and the US."

Bush seeks public support for bailout package

WASHINGTON, Sept 25: Expressing concern that the country will face economic ruin if Congress did not act fast, President George W Bush took his case on the financial bailout packet to the American people on Thursday.

"The market is not functioning properly. There has been a widespread loss of confidence, and major sectors of country's financial system are at risk of shutting down. The government's top economic experts warn that, without immediate action by Congress, America could slip into a financial panic," Bush said in a sombre mood in a nationally televised address on Thursday.

"I'm a strong believer in free enterprise, so my natural instinct is to oppose government intervention. I believe companies that make bad decisions should be allowed to go out of business. Under normal circumstances, I would have followed this course, but these are not normal circumstances," the President warned.

The message by the President is seen as a step to bridge the divide between Republicans and Democrats and perhaps even more so within the Grand Old Party.

The blunt message capped a bizarre day in America -- law makers were still at odds over the bailout package, top administration officially frantically trying to convince a sceptical Congress of the urgency of the situation, the Republican nominee Senator John McCain breaking off his campaign and returning to Washington DC and calling on his Democratic rival Senator Barack Obama to delay the debates.

The Illinois Democrat saying that he is willing to sign on to a Joint Statement with Senator McCain on the crisis facing the country but standing his ground that there should be no postponement of the first debate scheduled for Friday in Mississippi.

Bush also spoke a few hours after he had invited Senators Obama and McCain and other top Congressional leaders to the White House for an extraordinary meeting at the White House on Thursday to break the impasse on Capitol Hill on the financial stabilisation package.

But President Bush did not fail to lay out what is in store for Americans if Congress did not act urgently.

"More banks could fail. The stock market would drop even more, which would reduce the value of your retirement account. The value of your home could plummet. Foreclosures would rise dramatically. More businesses would close their doors, and millions of Americans could lose their jobs," he said.

"Even if you have good credit history, it would be more difficult for you to get the loans you need to buy a car or send your children to college. And, ultimately, our country could experience a long and painful recession," the President added.

"Fellow citizens, we must not let this happen. I appreciate the work of leaders from both parties in both houses of Congress to address this problem and to make improvements to the proposal my administration sent to them," he said.

"But given the situation we are facing, not passing a bill now would cost these Americans much more later," Bush maintained.

India, Pak vow to take 'severe action' against terror acts

NEW YORK, Sept 25: Acknowledging that the peace process has been "under strain" in recent months, India and Pakistan on Thursday announced that cross-LoC trade in Jammu and Kashmir will commence on October 21 and vowed to take "severe action" against any elements directing or involved in terrorist acts.

Unveiling a slew of measures for a "peaceful resolution and saisfactory settlement" of all bilateral issues, including Jammu and Kashmir, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at his first meeting with the new Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari agreed that the forces that have tried to derail the peace process must be "defeated."

Meeting on the sidelines of the 63rd United Nations General Assembly session at the Millenium hotel where the Pakistan President is staying, the two leaders came out with a joint statement agreeing that violence, hostility and terrorism have no place in the vision they share of the bilateral relationship and must be "visibly and verifiably" prevented.

In an apparent attempt to tell India that let bygones be bygones in the backdrop of rise in cross-border terrorism and ceasefire violations, Zardari reassured Dr Singh that the Pakistan government stood by its commitments of 6th January 2004 to stamp out terrorism.

With the needle of suspicion pointing to Pakistans ISI for the bombing of he Indian Embassy in Kabul, the two leaders agreed to convene a special meeting of the Joint Anti-Terror mechanism next month to address mutual concerns including the Kabul attack.

The two countries agreed to commence cross-Line of Control (LoC) trade on the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad and Poonch-Rawalakot roads on October 21, 2008, open the Wagah-Attari road link to all permissible items on trade and the Khokrapar-Munabao rail route to all allowed items of trade.

The two leaders addressed the apparent lack of progress at the Foreign Secretary level talks to resolve outstanding issues saying they will schedule meetings of the Fifth round of the Composite dialogue in the next three months which will focus on "deliverables and concrete achievements."

Briefing newsmen after the nearly hour-long meeting, Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon said Prime Minister Singh was "very satisfied" at the meeting.

The joint statement is a strong one in regard to the approach to be followed to deal with terrorism, he said, adding "we hope progress will be made on all (bilateral) issues.

Congratulating President Zardari on his election and the victory of democracy in Pakistan, Dr Singh expressed the hope that this would pave the way for a "profound transformation" of the bilateral relationship so that India and Pakistan could work together on their shared objectives of peace prosperity and security.

The two leaders agreed to work for an early and full normalisation of relations between India and Pakistan on the basis of "mutual respect, peaceful co-existence and non-interference."

"Both leaders acknowledged that the peace process has been under strain in recent months. They agreed that violence, hostility and terrorism have no place in the vision they share at the bilateral relationship and must be visibly and verifiably prevented," the joint statement said.

"Severe action would be taken against any elements directing or involved in terrorist acts. President Zardari reassured Prime Minister Singh that the government of Pakistan stands by its commitments of January 6, 2004," it said.

Sarah Palin meets Manmohan

NEW YORK, Sept 25: Republican Vice Presidential candidate and Alaska Governor Sarah Palin on Wednesday met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh here.

No details of the meeting, which lasted for half an hour, were released but Palin had been discussing international issues with world leaders who are here to attend the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) session.

Originally, Republican Presidential candidate McCain was slated to accompany her but sources said he was held up in Washington where the Bush administration is trying to get a package to re-energise flagging markets through the Congress.

Earlier, Palin met Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari as also leaders from Georgia, Ukraine and Iraq. She began meeting world leaders Tuesday and was warmly received. In reply to a question, she said these meetings are very informative.

Receiving Palin, Pakistani President remarked, "You are look so gorgeous. Now I know why the whole America crazy about it."

The conservation was caught on the tape and telecast. "You are so nice," Palin said.

An aide of Zardari then told them to keep shaking hands for the cameras.

"I'm supposed to pose again," Palin said "If he's insisting, I might hug," Zardari replied. Then Palin smiled politely in response.

India, China agree to cooperate on N-energy

NEW YORK, Sept 25: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao on Wednesday agreed to expand cooperation in civilian uses of nuclear energy and voiced satisfaction over the progress in resolving the vexed boundary dispute plaguing bilateral ties.

Dr Singh and Wen, who are in New York to attend the UN General Assembly meeting, held a one-hour meeting at the Waldorf Hotel where the Indian Prime Minister is staying.

The meeting took place amid some tension in bilateral ties in the wake of attempts by China to block a consensus on the India-specific waiver at the NSG meet in Vienna earlier this month.

During their talks, the two prime ministers agreed on expanding bilateral cooperation in civilian uses of nuclear energy, an issue which has figured during high-level exchanges between the two Asian giants.

Touching on the contentious boundary dispute, the two sides described it as a "complicated" issue, Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon told reporters after the meeting.

He said Singh and Wen expressed satisfaction over the progress in resolving the border question.

After a year-long hiatus, the two sides held two days of in-camera boundary talks at the level of Special Representatives last week in Beijing.

After the conclusion of the 12th round of talks on boundary dispute on 19th September, China had stated that no specific agreements had been reached.

Unable to find a negotiated settlement through the diplomatic channels, India and China appointed Special Representatives in June 2003 to address the border issue from a political perspective of the overall bilateral relations.

India says China is illegally occupying 43,180 sq kms of Jammu and Kashmir including 5,180 sq km illegally ceded to Beijing by Islamabad under the Sino-Pakistan boundary agreement in 1963. On the other hand, China accuses India of possessing some 90,000 sq km of Chinese territory, mostly in Arunachal Pradesh.

Menon said the two Prime Ministers also agreed to expand the level of consultations and exchanges on matters relating to global issues, including trade and climate change.

The situation in Pakistan also figured during the meeting, the Foreign Secretary said.

Senate panel clears Indo-US N-deal

WASHINGTON, Sept 24: A US Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday approved the US-India Nuclear Agreement by a 19-2 margin even as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrived in New York, providing a glimmer of hope that the deal would be consummated by the time he visits Washington DC on Thursday.

The Senate panel appended agreement for consideration at its business meeting on Tuesday at the very last minute, adding it as item no.9 in its mark-up list. It was not immediately clear who were the two lawmakers who voted against it, but at the SFRC hearing last week, Senators Barbara Boxer of California and Russ Feingold of Wisconsin took the strongest stand against the deal.

Action is now awaited on the House side.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrived in New York even as President Bush began a major re-casting of the war on terror by moving the focus from Iraq to Pakistan-Afghanistan in the waning days of his presidency, while at the same time battling a financial conflagration that threatens to engulf the world.

The twin crisis has put the much-awaited US-India nuclear deal on the backburner as Washington, euphemism for the US administration, has momentarily moved to New York, and is seized with more urgent priorities that also affect India.

Among them is the new American resolve to get a handle on Pakistan, which will require New Delhi's cooperation and inputs given India's influential position and stakes in the region, particularly in Afghanistan. A more active Indian role in the region, including additional inputs in Afghanistan, is slated for discussion when Prime Minister Singh meets Bush in the White House on September 25.

Bush met Pakistan's newly-elected, but already embattled, leader Asif Ali Zardari in New York first-up on Tuesday even as the White House began a major re-appraisal of its policy in the region, spurred by the horrendous bombing of the Marriott in Islamabad.

The usual bromides about Pakistan being an ally in the war on terror was essayed by both leaders, but fundamentally, the White House appears to be correcting its policy of extreme dependency on Pakistan's military and intelligence, which have now been assessed as being unreliable and treacherous, public affirmation about cooperation notwithstanding.

In remarks that followed their meeting, Bush indicated that Zardari had brought up the issue of US incursions into Pakistan in a strong way, but offered no assurance that it would end.

"Your words have been very strong about Pakistan's sovereign right and sovereign duty to protect your country, and the United States wants to help," Bush said, remaining non-committal on the hot-button issue.

From all accounts though, Washington now wants to strengthen the hands of Pakistan's civilian government, make the country's military subservient to it as it happens in most democracies, and purge the ISI of rogue elements and subversive orientation. Pakistan's civilian leadership has seen the need for US intervention in areas that it has no control over, but the country's military generals, who have used the lawless regions as staging ground for jihad, are the ones resenting the US intrusion and putting pressure on the civilian leadership to make it an issue.

N-deal begins journey through US Congress

WASHINGTON, Sept 20: The India-US civilian nuclear agreement began its journey through US Congress on a promising note at a meeting of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday.

The agreement is not perfect, but lawmakers must approve it, said Senator Christopher J. Dodd, who presided over the meeting in the absence of chairman Joe Biden. “We would be well advised to approve it this month... rather than waiting until next year,” said Dodd, a Democrat.

Sen Richard Lugar, the ranking Republican on the committee and a non-proliferation advocate, was also hopeful of early passage. “I am confident that if we have total cooperation from the administration and strong bipartisan teamwork here in Congress, we can succeed.”

Waiver of a rule requiring 30 days of consideration before a vote will open the measure to amendments, but their chances of success are low given the broad bipartisan support the agreement enjoys, analysts said.

The Bush administration fielded Undersecretary of State William Burns and Acting Undersecretary John Rood to make the case for quick ratification and answer questions.

The agreement has moved US-India relations “farther and faster forward than any other step”, Burns said. It also advances US non-proliferation goals and offers far-reaching economic, environmental and security benefits for both countries. Congress must approve the agreement now to ensure US companies aren't placed at a disadvantage, he said. Rood said the US did not make any side deals to achieve consensus at the Nuclear Suppliers' Group. The text of the statement adopted by the NSG is consistent with the Hyde Act, he said.

Bush invites PM to White House on 25th Sept; N-deal may be inked

WASHINGTON DC, Sept 11: After sending the 123 Agreement to the US Congress, President George W Bush invited Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to the White House on 25th September when the two may sign the pact if it is approved by then.

The Prime Minister, who will go to the United Nations for attending the General Assembly, will travel to Washington for the meeting.

"The President also looks forward to welcoming Prime Minister Singh to the White House on September 25, 2008 to strengthen the strategic partnership and to build upon our progress in other areas of cooperation, such as agriculture, education, trade and defence," White House Press Secretary Dana Perino said.

Bush "is pleased to approve the US-India Agreement for Peaceful Nuclear Cooperation (also known as the 123 Agreement).

"The conclusion of this agreement, which completes the US-India Civil Nuclear Cooperation Initiative, has been a priority for both President Bush and Prime Minister Singh, and strengthens the US-India Strategic Partnership," Perino said in a statement.

She said "this historic achievement will bolster international non-proliferation efforts, provide economic and business opportunities in both countries, and help India address its growing energy needs in an environmentally responsible manner."

The President "looks forward to working with Congress to ensure passage on the agreement this year," she said.

Singh will be in the US from 23rd to 27th September.

White House sends Indo-US nuclear deal to Congress

WASHINGTON DC, Sept 11: The White House said late on Wednesday it sent the text of a landmark US-India civilian nuclear agreement to Congress for final approval but it remains unclear if lawmakers will give the accord the greenlight.

The proposed deal, signed by President George W Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in July 2005, offers India access to Western technology and cheap atomic energy as long as it allows UN nuclear inspections of some of its nuclear facilities.

If Congress endorses the agreement it would lift a three decade-old ban on nuclear trade with India.

The White House said in a statement that it was transmitting the text of the agreement and other relevant documents to lawmakers, who returned to work Monday after their August recess and are expected to leave Washington again in late September to campaign ahead of the November 4 elections -- leaving little time for action on the accord.

"The proposed Agreement provides a comprehensive framework for US peaceful nuclear cooperation with India," the statement read. "It permits the transfer of information, non-nuclear material, nuclear material, equipment (including reactors) and components for nuclear research and nuclear power production. It does not permit transfers of any restricted data.

"Sensitive nuclear technology, heavy-water production technology and production facilities, sensitive nuclear facilities, and major critical components of such facilities may not be transferred under the Agreement unless the Agreement is amended," the statement said.

The agreement "will remain in force for a period of 40 years and will continue in force thereafter for additional periods of 10 years each unless either party gives notice to terminate it 6 months before the end of a period," it said, adding that either party can end the agreement before that "on one year's written notice to the other party."

The Bush administration may not have sufficient time to get the deal through Congress but has launched a heavy lobbying effort to try to push the accord through.

US law requires that the Congress be in 30 days of continuous session to consider the deal. Given the targeted date of adjournment of September 26, this would leave only 15 days of continuous session.

India is not a member of the nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT), but the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) -- a multinational regulator of sale of nuclear fuel and technology -- recently gave the US-India deal a green light.

But some members of Congress seem reluctant to rush their approval.

"Before we vote, Congress needs to study the NSG decision, along with any agreements that were made behind the scenes to bring it about," said Howard Berman, chairman of the House of Representatives foreign affairs committee.

Berman, who plays an influential role in rallying House support for the deal, has demanded that any final agreement must be consistent with a special law -- the Hyde Act -- passed overwhelmingly in 2006 laying the foundation for the nuclear deal.

A key condition under the law is immediate termination of all nuclear commerce by NSG member states if India detonates a nuclear explosive device.

Touting the agreement, the White House said nuclear cooperation between the United States and India "will offer major strategic and economic benefits to both countries, including enhanced energy security, an ability to rely more extensively on an environmentally friendly energy source, greater economic opportunities, and more robust nonproliferation efforts."

Lipstick comments colour US campaign

NEW YORK, Sept 11: Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama on Wednesday accused Republican John McCain’s campaign of using “lies and phony outrage and Swift-boat politics’’ in claiming he used a sexist comment against vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

Calling it “the latest made-up controversy by the John McCain campaign,’’ Obama responded to the Republicans’ charge that he was referring to Palin when he used the phrase “lipstick on a pig’’ at a campaign stop.

On Tuesday, Obama was delivering a dissertation about McCain and President Bush — not Palin — when he used the lipstick aphorism. His reference to Palin was a defense of her strong belief in religion.

Accusing Obama of “smearing’’ Palin in “offensive and disgraceful’’ comments, the McCain campaign demanded an apology. The McCain campaign issued an ad that said Obama was talking about Palin and said of Obama: “Ready to lead? No. Ready to smear? Yes.’’

Palin pre-empts rumours, says daughter pregnant

WASHINGTON, Sept 1: The 17-year-old daughter of Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin is pregnant, Palin said on Monday in an announcement intended to knock down rumours by liberal bloggers that Palin faked her own pregnancy to cover up for her child.

Bristol Palin, one of Alaska Governor Palin's five children with her husband, Todd, is about five months pregnant and is going to keep the child and marry the father, the Palins said in a statement released by the campaign of Republican presidential candidate John McCain.

Bristol Palin made the decision on her own to keep the baby, McCain aides said.

"We have been blessed with five wonderful children who we love with all our heart and mean everything to us," the Palins' statement said. "Our beautiful daughter Bristol came to us with news that as parents we knew would make her grow up faster than we had ever planned," the statement said.

Obama promises to undo Bush's 'failed policies'

DENVER, Aug 29: Vowing to make a clean break with the "broken politics" and "failed policies" of President George W Bush, Barack Obama accepted the Democratic Party nomination as US Presidential candidate, and said he would undo the eight years of Republican reign.

In a stirring speech before an estimate 80,000 plus crowd at the Denver Democratic National Convention, the 47 year old Afro-American Senator from Illinois hammered away at the Bush government's domestic and foreign policies, taking potshots at the Republican nominee John McCain for endorsing them.

"Next week, in Minnesota, the same party that brought you two terms of George Bush and Dick Cheney will ask this country for a third," Senator Obama said to booing from the crowd.

"And we are here -- we are here because we love this country too much to let the next four years look just like the last eight. On 4th November, we must stand up and say: Eight is enough," he said.

Obama, who was on Thursday nominated by the party as its presidential candidate, went on to rebuke his rival McCain's stand on the Iraq war, saying his demand for a timeframe to remove troops from Iraq has been vindicated as it has now been echoed by the Iraqi and even the Bush administration.

"... today, as my call for a timeframe to remove our troops from Iraq has been echoed by the Iraqi government and even the Bush administration. Even after we learned that Iraq has USD 79 billion in surplus while we are in deficit, John McCain stands alone in his stubborn refusal to end a misguided war," Senator Obama said.

McCain picks Alaska’s Palin as running mate

OHIO, Aug 29: John McCain sprung a surprise on Friday by picking Sarah Palin, the 44 year-old reform-minded governor of Alaska, as his vice-presidential running mate.

Mrs Palin is a rising star among Republicans because of her solid conservative record but she could also help Mr McCain reach out to women and restore his maverick reputation.

She appeared alongside Mr McCain at a rally in the swing state of Ohio at noon on Friday before launching a tour of swing states ahead of next week’s Republican convention in Minnesota.

She was chosen ahead of several better-known contenders, including Tim Pawlenty, governor of Minnesota, and Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts.

The choice was bold and high-risk because of Mrs Palin’s relative obscurity and inexperience, threatening to undermine Mr McCain’s strength on national security.

A spokesman for Barack Obama, the Democratic candidate, said Mr McCain’s decision meant the issue of experience was now ”off the table”.

But the decision promised to inject freshness and excitement into the McCain campaign and help seize attention from Mr Obama hours after he brought the Democratic convention to a euphoric close with his acceptance speech to 75,000 people in Denver’s Invesco stadium.

The choice guarantees that the US will elect either its first black president or its first woman vice-president in November, underscoring the historic nature of this year’s election.

Democrats are sure to question whether Mrs Palin is qualified to become commander-in-chief in the event of her replacing Mr McCain, who turned 72 on Friday.

The McCain campaign argued that, as governor, she has more executive experience than either Mr Obama or his running mate, Joe Biden, who are both senators.

As a governor of far-flung Alaska who rose to prominence by attacking corruption in state government, Mrs Palin will be cast as a Washington outsider who will reinforce Mr McCain’s reform-minded reputation.

“Governor Palin is a tough executive who has demonstrated during her time in office that she is ready to be president,” said the McCain campaign, in a statement. “She has brought Republicans and Democrats together within her administration and has a record of delivering on the change and reform that we need in Washington.”

Mrs Palin’s reform credentials could allow Republicans to compete with Mr Obama’s “change” agenda and defuse Democratic attempts to portray Mr McCain as “more of the same” after eight years of the unpopular George W. Bush.

However, this could be undermined by an investigation under way in Alaska into an alleged ethics violation involving the firing of a state official.

The choice represented an aggressive bid by Mr McCain to win over disgruntled former supporters of Hillary Clinton, undercutting Democratic efforts during this week’s convention to reunify the party.

Polls show that up to a third of Democrats who supported Mrs Clinton in the primaries planned to vote for Mr McCain even before Friday’s announcement.

Mrs Palin took office as governor in December 2006 and was previously mayor of Wasilla, a former gold-mining town of 8,500 people an hour’s drive from Anchorage.

She is the mother of five - the most recent born in April with Down syndrome - and is married to a commercial fisherman. One of her sons is in the army and is scheduled for deployment to Iraq later this year - just as one of Mr Biden’s is.

She is an outdoor enthusiast, who hunts and rides a snowmobile, allowing her to connect with the rugged lifestyle and values of the US mountain west, where Mr Obama hopes to make gains in November.

Her strong pro-life record and decision to bring her latest child to full term in spite of knowing of his medical condition makes her a hero among anti-abortion campaigners. This should help Mr McCain energise the conservative base and overcome doubts among many Republicans about his commitment to conservative causes.

Mr McCain recently floated the possibility of picking a running mate who supported abortion rights, such as Joe Lieberman, the Democrat-turned-independent senator for Connecticut, or Tom Ridge, former governor of Pennsylvania - sparking uproar among conservative leaders, who warned such a choice would split the Republican party.

Democrats are sure to argue that Mr McCain buckled under pressure from the conservative establishment not to pick a socially moderate candidate, challenging the portrayal of Mrs Palin as a maverick choice.

Analysts said Mr McCain’s choice of someone with little experience in foreign and national affairs made it clear that he would be the dominant figure in a McCain administration, in contrast to the powerful role taken by vice-president Dick Cheney in the Bush administration.

Democrats had spent weeks preparing to portray figures such as Mr Romney and Mr Pawlenty as ”the next Cheney” if they were chosen but that line of attack now looks invalid.

Mrs Palin has one of the highest approval ratings of any governor in the US at about 80 per cent and is viewed in her home state as independent-minded but solidly conservative on both social and fiscal issues.

The surprise choice dominated the conversation on US cable news networks on Friday morning - suggesting Mr McCain had largely succeded in his attempt to steal the limelight from Mr Obama and puncture Democratic euphoria.

However, she faces a big challenge when she goes to head-to-head with Mr Biden, an experienced and accomplished debater, in the televised vice-presidential debate this autumn.

Mr McCain’s choice drew widely diverging reactions from analysts, with some hailing it as stroke of genius that would transform the dynamics of the race and suck momentum from the Obama campaign.

Others said it could prove suicidal by undermining Republican attacks against Mr Obama’s inexperience and draw attention to the health concerns surrounding Mr McCain, a cancer survivor who would become the oldest first-term president if elected.

Mr McCain’s vice-presidential choice was considered more important than usual because of his age, which increases the likelihood of his vice-president having to take over as commander-in-chief.

”You could have knocked me over with a feather,” said David Gergen, a former White House adviser in both Republican and Democratic administrations, on CNN. “John McCain likes to take risks and this is one of the biggest gambles I’ve seen in a long, long time.”




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