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    International News - MAY

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    Re: International News - MAY

    Post  Abhishek on Sat May 07, 2011 12:14 am

    Another violation by the U.S. will lead to review of ties, says Pakistan

    With the ISI being accused of both complicity and incompetence in Pakistan's inability to nab al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, the civil and military leadership of the country on Thursday picked up cudgels for the beleaguered spy agency and sought to remind the world that its achievements in nabbing terrorists had no parallel.

    At the same time, Pakistan Army admitted shortcomings in developing intelligence on Osama's presence in the country and ordered an investigation into the circumstances that led to the situation where the Central Intelligence Agency — after developing intelligence based on information provided by the ISI —did not share further leads contrary to the existing practice between the two services.

    A decision to this effect was taken by the Army at the Corps Commanders meeting convened by Chief of Army Staff Ashfaq Parvez Kayani on the one-point agenda of the Osama killing. According to a statement put out by the Inter Services Public Relations, another such violation of Pakistan's sovereignty by the U.S. would warrant a review of the level of military/intelligence cooperation with Washington.

    Meanwhile, describing the charge that the ISI was in cahoots with the al-Qaeda as a false hypothesis, Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir said “this cannot be validated and flies in the face of what the ISI has been able to accomplish against terrorism”.

    More details

    Giving more details about what transpired in Abbottabad in the early hours of May 2, Mr. Bashir said the first inkling of the operation came when one of the U.S. helicopters “crashed, mal-functioned or was destroyed”. Since helicopters normally do not fly in the dead of the night, relevant departments were alerted and it was established that it was not a Pakistani chopper. The General Headquarters then issued instructions to forces in the area to rush to the spot and two F-16 fighters were airborne.

    The first Pakistani units reached the spot within 15 minutes by when the U.S. helicopters were on their way out. “That is how we found out from bin Laden's family members that he had been killed. Around 3 a.m., U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen telephoned Gen. Kayani and disclosed that this was a U.S. operation…. Subsequently President Obama spoke to President Zardari.”

    Time and again, Mr. Bashir drew attention to the fact that this was a covert operation carried out by the U.S. and “had something gone wrong, it could have led to a terrible catastrophe”.

    Though he flagged legal questions raised by such unilateral action against a sovereign country, he remained non-committal to a direct question on whether Pakistan considered the raid legal. “I'm not saying if it is legal or illegal; that is for historians to judge.”
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    Re: International News - MAY

    Post  Abhishek on Sat May 07, 2011 12:14 am

    Hillary warns Qadhafi

    United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has refused to rule out an Abbottabad-like covert-operations strike against Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi.

    At a news conference in Rome, where Ms. Clinton is attending a meeting of the Libya Contact Group, she was asked whether it was imaginable that an operation such as the one conducted in Pakistan to take out Osama bin Laden could take place in Tripoli, given the National Transition Council rebel formation considered Mr. Qadhafi a legitimate target.

    In response, Ms. Clinton did not categorically rule out a military strike similar to the attack.

    Instead, she said: “We are implementing United Nations security resolution with respect to protecting civilians. We have made it abundantly clear that the best way to protect civilians is for Qadhafi to cease his ruthless, brutal attacks on civilians from the west to the east, to withdraw from the cities that he is sieging and attacking, and to leave power.”
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    Re: International News - MAY

    Post  Abhishek on Sat May 07, 2011 12:15 am

    China for global support to Pakistan

    China on Thursday called on the international community to continue supporting Pakistan, amid increasing criticism of the country's efforts to tackle terrorism following the killing of Osama bin Laden near a military academy.

    Even as a growing number of lawmakers in Washington called for a review of the substantial financial assistance to Pakistan, China mounted a strong defence of its “all-weather” strategic ally and neighbour, describing it as being “at the forefront of international counterterrorism efforts”.

    “The international community should understand and support Pakistan,” said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Jiang Yu. “We support Pakistan's position, and understand and support Pakistan formulating and implementing a counterterrorism strategy based on its own national conditions.”

    She added: “We also appreciate Pakistan's active participation in international counterterrorism efforts.”

    China's vote of confidence comes against a rising tide of criticism from the West. British Prime Minister David Cameron said the Pakistani government had “a lot of questions” to answer.

    Ms. Jiang on Thursday did not reply to questions on whether China would step up assistance to Pakistan if the U.S. decided to scale back aid.

    China is concerned that instability in Pakistan could spill over to its far western Muslim-majority Xinjiang region, where the government says Islamist terrorist groups with links to groups in neighbouring Pakistan, are operating.

    “China also suffers from terrorism,” said Ms. Jiang. “Some terrorist forces are engaged in a great many violent, terrorist activities for the purpose of splitting China, and seriously threaten China's national security, and regional peace and security.

    “Combating East Turkestan terrorist forces [in Xinjiang] is an important part of the international counterterrorism campaign,” she said. “The international community should step up cooperation.”
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    Re: International News - MAY

    Post  Abhishek on Sat May 07, 2011 12:18 am

    Talks with Dhaka focus on progress made on January 2010 road map

    The scourge of terrorism, India and Bangladesh agreed, must be fought with determination, even as the two countries acknowledged that the strength of disruptive forces and extremists was often assumed to be larger than it actually was.

    This point was made in the course of wide ranging discussions between Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Vice-President M. Hamid Ansari, shortly after he arrived in Dhaka on Thursday morning to represent India in the joint celebrations to mark Rabindranath Tagore's 150th birth anniversary, which commenced here on Friday.

    “Extremist forces,” Mr. Ansari told Sheikh Hasina, “always appear larger than life and their support base is more limited and narrow, if you were to test it.” The Bangladeshi Prime Minister, on her part, Indian Special Secretary (Public Diplomacy) Jayant Prasad said, was in “agreement on this.” Asked whether the subject of Osama bin Laden or terror in Pakistan was discussed, Mr. Prasad said: “No, they did not. It was a more general point as forces like this exist in all societies.”

    These comments come in the wake of Sheikh Hasina's government cracking down on extremist groups in her country and handing over wanted separatist leaders to India.

    The focus of the discussions that Mr. Ansari had with the Bangladesh Prime Minister, President Md. Zillur Rahman and Foreign Minister Dipu Moni, however, was not terror, but the progress made in the road map spelt out in the historic joint communiqué that was issued in January 2010.

    The talks, which were held in a “ friendly and relaxed atmosphere,” Mr. Prasad said, dealt with four broad themes: the joint celebrations to mark Tagore's 150th birth anniversary, a review of the road map the two sides were working on and satisfaction at the progress made, the interest expressed in an early visit to Bangladesh by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, and the stress laid on improved connectivity, which could transform the relationship between the two countries: In this context, Mr. Ansari made a commitment that India would do its best to address Bangladesh's requirement on infrastructure, power and railways.

    Referring to the joint celebrations to mark Tagore's 150th birth anniversary that will begin here on Friday, the Bangladeshi leadership spoke of the great excitement at the popular level: Sheikh Hasina stressed, according to Mr. Prasad, that it was difficult to imagine life in Bangladesh without Tagore. She said that a child here, from the first song he heard, to the first cadences that he became familiar with – all that came from Tagore. The Nobel Laureate, she pointed out, was part of the political and cultural movement in Bangladesh.

    In 1947, a newly independent India chose Tagore's Jana Gana Mana as its national anthem. Twenty four years later, another freshly minted nation, Bangladesh, chose another Tagore composition, Amar Sonar Bangla, as its national song.

    Now another 40 years on, the 150th birth anniversary of Tagore — Gurudev to his devotees on both sides of a not always stable border — has provided the two countries with an occasion not just to press the cultural button, but also to try and resolve the problems left over from the past, enhancing cooperation between the two, and venturing into new areas.

    Minister of State for External Affairs Preneet Kaur and two Members of Parliament — O. P. Mathur of the BJP and Moinul Hassan of the CPI (M) — are accompanying the Vice-President.

    The celebrations to mark the 150th anniversary of Tagore will begin at the Banga Bandhu International Convention Centre on Friday where various troupes will present a series of cultural programmes. Leader of the Opposition Khalida Zia is also scheduled to call on the Vice-President on Friday.

    Bangladesh Planning Minister A.K. Khandker will attend the inauguration of the Nobel Laureate's 150th birth anniversary celebrations in Delhi on May 7.
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    Re: International News - MAY

    Post  Abhishek on Sat May 07, 2011 12:19 am

    Khanal expands Cabinet amid controversy


    More than three months after taking office, Prime Minister Jhalanath Khanal gave full shape to his government late on Wednesday night.

    However, this triggered major intra-party differences in both the Prime Minister's Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist), and its key ally, the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist).

    Mr. Khanal swore in representatives from the Maoists, the Madhesi Janaadhikar Forum (Nepal), and other smaller outfits. He appointed Maoist leader and Deputy Prime Minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara as Home Minister — Mr. Mahara was earlier the Information and Communication Minister. MJF chairman Upendra Yadav was sworn in as Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister.

    The decision to give the Home Ministry to the Maoists provoked an outcry from a section within the UML, which claimed Mr. Khanal had acted against party direction. The faction led by the former Prime Minister, Madhav Kumar Nepal, and senior leader K.P. Oli had warned the Maoists must not be given the Home Ministry as long as they had a “private army” and did not move on the peace process.

    But after the swearing in, Mr. Khanal's media adviser Surya Thapa told reporters that Maoists were being given Home to enable movement on the peace process. On Thursday, the UML politburo met, with members divided about decision.

    The Home Ministry row had a fall-out within the Maoists too. A key aide of chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda' and Minister of Peace and Reconstruction Barshaman Pun ‘Ananta' resigned from the Cabinet after he was not given the Home Ministry as promised earlier by the party leadership. The Maoist hardline faction, led by Mohan Vaidya ‘Kiran', had also laid a claim to the Home Ministry.

    Two Ministers from Mr. Kiran's faction boycotted the swearing in, claiming past agreements had been violated. Party secretary C.P. Gajurel, representing the Kiran faction, said: “The chairman's unilateral decision will take a toll on party strength and unity.” Maoist women MPs criticised the party leadership for not selecting women Ministers on a proportionate basis.

    The United Nations Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has also expressed concern over the appointment of Maoist leader Agni Sapkota as the new Minister for Information and Broadcasting. The Office said: “Sapkota is named as a suspect in a police report in 2008 regarding the alleged abduction and killing of Arjun Lama in 2005.”

    It added the appointment of an alleged human rights violator contradicted with Nepal's commitment towards accountability for serious human rights violations and abuses committed during the conflict.

    Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Upendra Yadav, in his initial statements on Thursday, termed the Nepal-India relationship as “special” and “multi-dimensional”.

    He expressed his commitment not to allow any activities against diplomatic norms.
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    Re: International News - MAY

    Post  Abhishek on Sat May 07, 2011 12:36 am

    Italy disrupted by strike over workers' rights

    Hundreds of thousands of workers across Italy were expected to join a strike called by the largest trade union on Friday to protest against what it called attacks on workers' rights.

    The CGIL union is planning demonstrations in more than 100 towns and cities as part of its fourth general strike since the centre-right government of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi won election in 2008.

    Schools and public transport were disrupted in the morning and air traffic was interrupted by stoppages scheduled to last for four hours in the middle of the day.

    In Milan, bus services were expected to be hit in the evening, threatening misery for thousands of commuters heading into the weekend.

    Police were on high alert to prevent any repeat of the violence seen in Rome last year when protests against a victory by Berlusconi in a no-confidence motion in parliament triggered some of the worst violence seen in the Italian capital in years.

    "Today's strike is aimed at shifting the balance of force with regard to a government which thinks that nothing about the redistribution of incomes in our country needs to be changed," CGIL leader Susanna Camusso said in Naples.

    The union is demanding unemployment benefit guarantees for workers in temporary jobs and a simplification of the system of employment contracts in Italy.

    Unemployment in Italy is not particularly high by European standards at around 8.3 percent, compared with a European Union average of 9.5 percent, but youth unemployment runs at nearly 30 percent and large numbers of people are in short-term positions with little job security.
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    Re: International News - MAY

    Post  Abhishek on Sat May 07, 2011 12:37 am

    Kayani doesn't back Zardari's 'no-first-use' nuclear-policy: WikiLeaks

    Pakistan's powerful army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani does not support President Asif Ali Zardari's "no-first-use" nuclear policy, according to US diplomatic cables released by whistle-blower website WikiLeaks.

    "Although he has remained silent on the subject, Kayani does not support Zardari's statement last year to the Indian press that Pakistan would adopt a 'no first use' policy on nuclear weapons.

    "Despite increasing financial constraints, we believe that the military is proceeding with an expansion of both its growing strategic weapons and missiles," cables sent by the then US ambassador to Pakistan Anne Patterson prior to Kayani's Washington visit between February 20-27, 2009, said.

    The major US concern has not been that an Islamic militant could steal an entire weapon but rather the chance someone working in government of Pakistan's facilities could gradually smuggle enough fissile material out to eventually make a weapon and the vulnerability of weapons in transit, according to the recently released cables.

    However, they also noted that Pakistan's strategic assets are under the control of "the secular military, which has implemented extensive physical, personnel and command and control safeguards."

    The cables that were generated on February 19, 2009, just months after the Mumbai terror attacks, also talk about Pakistan military and ISI providing support to terror groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) as a foreign policy tool.

    About ISI and Pakistan military, the cables said they still view India as their principle threat and Afghanistan as strategic depth in a possible conflict with India. "They continue to provide overt or tacit support for proxy forces (including the Haqqani group, Commander Nazir, Gulbaddin Hekmatyar and Lashkar-e-Taiba) as a foreign policy tool."

    The cables said: "The single biggest message Kayani should hear in Washington is that this support must end. It is now counter-productive to Pakistan's own interests and directly conflicts with USG (US government's) objectives in Afghanistan...and the region -- where Mumbai exposed the fruits of previous ISI policy to create Lashkar-e-Taiba and still threatens potential conflict between nuclear powers."

    "We need to lay down a clear marker that Pakistan's Army/ ISI must stop overt or tacit support for militant proxies... We should preface that conversation with an agreement to open a new page in relations; Kayani, who was ISI chief from 2004-2007, does not want a reckoning with the past."

    The cables end with a section called 'bio notes' on Kayani in which the army chief is being described as "often direct, frank and thoughtful."

    They also said he values his personal relationships, particularly with US military leaders. "He smokes heavily and can be difficult to understand as he tends to mumbles."
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    Re: International News - MAY

    Post  Abhishek on Sat May 07, 2011 12:38 am

    Nepal President to inaugurate Tagore birth anniversary festival

    In the 1960s, when he was studying medicine in Calcutta Medical College and living in a hostel in Boubazar, Nepal's first President Dr Ram Baran Yadav was struck by the versatility of Rabindranath Tagore: how a man could, within a single life time, accomplish so much. "He wrote about 2000 songs, hundreds of poems, and an awe-inspiring collection of stories, novels and essays," says Yadav who went to Shantiniketan during his official visit to India in January. "In addition, he was a painter and philosopher. He also founded two universities."

    On Saturday, along with India, Bangladesh and wherever the diaspora lives, Nepal will also celebrate the 150th birth anniversary of Tagore with Yadav, aptly, inaugurating the four-day memorial festival.

    Organised by the Indian Embassy in collaboration with the BP Koirala India-Nepal Foundation and local cultural group Anandalok, the festival includes a concert, a mini film festival and the staging of a play based on Tagore's short stories and narrative poems, Tagoreka Charitraharu (Characters from Tagore).

    The highlight of the inaugural programme is the re-publication of the first Nepali translation of Gitanjali, the offering of songs and poems that fetched Tagore the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913. The first Nepali Gitanjali, translated by Khagendra Pradhananga, turns 50 this year, his son Ashesh Malla said. Sarwanam, the Nepali theatre group founded by Malla, will perform the play on the concluding day of the festival.

    The mini film festival will screen the three evergreen classics based on Tagore's short stories: Hemen Gupta's Kabuliwala and Satyajit Ray's Charulata and Teen Kanya. The fourth film is Rituparno Ghosh's Chokher Bali based on the eponymous novel by Tagore that explores the complicated relationship between two women and their differnet worlds.
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    Re: International News - MAY

    Post  Abhishek on Sat May 07, 2011 6:45 pm

    Britain says “no” to Alternative Vote

    British voters have overwhelmingly rejected a proposal to abandon the first-past-the-post system in favour of Alternative Vote (AV), in which people rank candidates in order of preference.

    Up to 70 per cent of those who voted in Thursday's referendum said “no” to AV, according to the results announced till 6.30 p.m. local time (11 p.m. IST) on Friday.

    Although the outcome was consistent with poll predictions, the sheer scale of the defeat shocked the “yes” camp led by the Liberal Democrats, junior partners of the Tories in David Cameron's coalition government.

    Britain's first nationwide referendum in more than 30 years was called at the insistence of Lib Dems as part of their demand for broader electoral reforms and a condition for joining the coalition. The Tories campaigned on a “no” platform, arguing that AV — practised only in Australia, Fiji and Papua New Guinea —was complicated, more expensive and less fair than the first-past-the-post system.

    Insults

    The campaign was marred by personal insults between senior figures in the two parties with the Lib Dems accusing the Tories of telling “lies,” “distorting” facts and resorting to “smear” tactics.

    There were fears on Friday that the tensions of recent weeks may have irreparably damaged the already fragile unity in the coalition.

    The defeat for the “yes” campaign is a huge personal setback to Lib Dem leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, already deeply unpopular in his party for propping up a Tory government.

    The Opposition Labour party was divided on the issue with its leader Ed Miliband backing a change, while nearly half the party, including some senior figures, in the opposite bloc.

    Rout in local polls

    Meanwhile, the Lib Dems suffered a rout in regional and local elections held on Thursday as their supporters punished them for “collaborating” with the Tories in implementing unprecedented public spending cuts, resulting in millions of job losses.

    The Tory vote held in most places, while Labour made significant gains at the expense of Lib Dems.

    In Scotland, the Scottish National Party (SNP), which advocates independence from the United Kingdom, pulled off a dramatic victory, gaining a majority on its own for the first time in the devolved Parliament.
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    Re: International News - MAY

    Post  Abhishek on Sat May 07, 2011 6:45 pm

    U.K. referendum faces defeat

    British voters were on Friday set to reject the controversial referendum, held on Thursday, proposing a switch from the current first-past-the-post voting system to Alternative Vote (AV) in which voters rank candidates in order of preference. It is practised only in three countries — Australia, Fiju and Papua New Guinea.

    At the time of going to the press, counting of votes had just started but early trends appeared to confirm opinion polls that a majority of Britons were opposed to a change. Final results were not expected until late in the evening.

    Britain's first nationwide referendum in more than 30 years was called at the initiative of Liberal Democrats, junior partners in the Tory-led coalition government at Westminster, as part of their demand for broader electoral reforms and a condition for joining the coalition.

    The Tories led by Prime Minister David Cameron campaigned on a “No” platform arguing that “AV” was complicated, more expensive and less fair than first-past-the-post system. They were accused by Liberal Democrats of telling “lies” and “distorting” facts. A defeat for the “yes” campaign will be a huge personal setback for the Liberal Democrat leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, already deeply unpopular in his party for propping up a Tory government.

    The Opposition Labour party had a foot in both camps with its leader Ed Miliband backing a change while nearly half the party, including some senior figures, in the opposite bloc.

    Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats suffered heavy losses in regional and local elections held on Thursday as their supporters punished them for “collaborating” with the Tories in implementing unprecedented public spending cuts resulting in millions of job losses.

    The Tory vote, on the other hand, held while Labour made significant gains at the expense of Liberal Democrats.

    In Scotland, the Scottish National Party (SNP), which advocates independence from the United Kingdom, pulled off a dramatic victory gaining a majority on its own in the devolved Parliament.
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    Re: International News - MAY

    Post  Abhishek on Sat May 07, 2011 6:46 pm

    Singapore witnesses unusual competition in polls

    Unusually competitive political campaigns have set the stage for Saturday's general election in Singapore.

    Several opposition parties, with no name-recognition until recently, have come together — not in a coalition with an agreed prime ministerial candidate but as friends in what they see as foul political weather. Not amused by this, the long-governing People's Action Party (PAP) has vowed to retain power with whatever it might take under the rule book.

    There is straight contest for 81 of the 87 seats at stake. And, the new climate of political debate brought the 2011 campaign trail to life. Opposition groups, with the Workers' Party serving as the informal leader, urged the people to help create “a first-world parliament”. Decoded, the message was that Singapore, with no “alternative voices” in its Parliament so far, was not “a first-world country”.

    An assertive comment by Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore's Minister Mentor (MM), caused a delicate stir during the campaign.

    He said: “If Aljunied [Group Representation Constituency] decides to go that way [in opposition's favour], well, Aljunied has five years to live and repent.”

    The comment was magnified under the opposition's political prism. This eventually prompted Foreign Minister George Yeo, leader of the PAP slate in Aljunied, to do some plain-speaking of his own. “When M.M. said, ‘You'll have to repent', this created greater anger, greater resentment in many people …. We must recognise that there is widespread unhappiness about the government. … We must not allow the emotions [of the people] to be all bottled up. We need to transform the PAP,” said Mr. Yeo.
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    Re: International News - MAY

    Post  Abhishek on Sat May 07, 2011 6:47 pm

    Japan wants three reactors halted

    Japan urged a power company on Friday to suspend all three reactors at a coastal nuclear plant while a seawall and other structures are built to ensure damage from a major earthquake or tsunami does not cause a second nuclear accident.

    Prime Minister Naoto Kan said at a news conference on Friday evening the shutdown was requested for safety reasons, citing experts' forecast of a 90 per cent probability of a quake with magnitude of 8.0 or higher striking central Japan within 30 years.

    “It was a decision made after thoroughly considering people's safety,” Mr. Kan told a news conference.

    The government asked operator Chubu Electric Power Co. to suspend two running reactors and a third already shut for a regular inspection at the Hamaoka nuclear plant in Shizuoka, 250 km west of Tokyo.

    “If an accident occurs at Hamaoka, it could create serious consequences,” Mr. Kan said.

    Chubu Electric did not immediately say if it would suspend operations at the Hamaoka plant, which is just 100 meters off the Pacific coast.

    A safety review of all Japan's 54 nuclear plants was prompted by the radiation crisis at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant. — AP
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    Re: International News - MAY

    Post  Abhishek on Sat May 07, 2011 6:47 pm

    Hamas edges toward acceptance of Israel

    Even as Israel slammed the door on any dialogue with the Palestinians after a unity deal with Hamas, the Islamist group has been slowly inching its way toward a tacit acceptance of Israel.

    In recent days Hamas leaders have spoken of accepting a Palestinian state in the 1967 borders, effectively alongside Israel. A day after the ceremony to sign the surprise reconciliation agreement between Hamas and Fatah, Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal said there was a broad consensus on the 1967 borders among Palestinian groups.
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    Re: International News - MAY

    Post  Abhishek on Sat May 07, 2011 6:48 pm

    Joint celebration of Tagore's 150th birth anniversary begins in Dhaka

    A joint celebration of the 150th birth anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore began here on Friday. It comprises elaborate programmes on the great poet, who represents much of common heritage and philosophy of India and Bangladesh.

    With Indian Vice President M. Hamid Ansari in attendance, the Bangladesh part of the three-day programme was inaugurated by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at the Bangabandhu International Conference Centre.

    At the inaugural session, a replica of ‘********* Boat,' used by Tagore during his frequent visits to Bangladesh, was handed over to Mr. Ansari, who arrived here on Thursday leading a delegation.

    Addressing the session, Mr. Ansari said: “Enchanted by the river ********* and on his ‘*********' boat, Tagore produced some of his finest works. It was here that the serene Shilaidaha, Kusthia, Patisar and Shahzadpur worked their magic on young Rabindranath, thereby becoming an integral part of his inspirational canvas.”

    The programmes in Delhi will be inaugurated by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday. Senior Bangladesh Minister A.K. Khandker will lead a delegation on behalf of the Bangladesh Prime Minister.

    The decision to jointly celebrate the 150th birth anniversary of Tagore was made during Ms. Hasina's visit to New Delhi in January last year. Tagore was born on 25th Baisakh in 1861, according to the Bengali calendar.

    Ms. Hasina, who herself is a Tagore admirer, announced that her government would set up Rabindra University at Shilaidaha in Kushtia, where the Nobel laureate spent a considerable period of his creative life. The government would also preserve the poet's memories in Patisar and Shahzadpur. It proposed to construct a Bangladesh House in Santiniketan. She also called for combined efforts in the South Asian region to alleviate poverty with the spirit of progress and non-communalism.

    As part of the joint celebrations, a special train, ‘Sonar Tori,' would run between Dhaka and Kolkata. Ms. Hasina also released four commemorative stamps marking the occasion.

    “As long as Bangladesh lasts,” she said, “Bangla language and its culture will remain, and Rabindranath will live in the heart of all Bangladeshis.”

    Mr. Ansari said both India and Bangladesh separately celebrated Tagore's birth centenary half a century ago, but “this time we are celebrating the poet's 150th birth anniversary jointly. Today's joint celebration is a momentous occasion and the first of its kind in the history of our two nations.”
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    Re: International News - MAY

    Post  Abhishek on Sun May 08, 2011 7:08 pm

    Singapore's ruling party triumphs again

    Singapore's long-governing People's Action Party (PAP) won an absolute parliamentary majority in the early hours of Sunday following Saturday's general election.

    Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong were among the winners by the time the PAP secured 44 seats out of 87 in the parliament-to-be-formed.

    Singapore's elder statesman and first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew was earlier returned unopposed on the Nominations Day.

    The main Opposition outfit, the Workers' Party, managed to win just one seat by the time the PPP crossed the half-way mark.

    At that stage, the overall outlook for the Opposition camp, buoyed by the impressionistic responses of the people on the campaign trail, looked somewhat uncertain.

    The Opposition campaigned for the creation of a “first-world parliament” with “alternative voices” to check the PAP, in power for over half a century without break.

    On Saturday, enthusiastic voting in the City-State's most keenly contested general election set the stage for some unusual political excitement.

    While the cyberspace and the new media were freely accessed during the campaign, conventional ballot boxes were used for the polls. And, counting began shortly after the balloting closed at 8 pm.

    Ranged against the PAP were six Opposition parties. Except for a triangular contest in one Single-Member Constituency (SMC), the Opposition parties challenged the PAP in straight fights in 11 other SMCs and 14 Group Representation Constituencies (GRCs).

    The GRCs are multi-member constituencies. Each party in a GRC was expected to field at least one minority candidate on its slate.

    Singapore is home to an ethnic-Chinese majority and several minority groups including in particular ethnic-Malays and people of Indian origin.

    With the Opposition parties having never won in any GRC in the past, much interest now centred on their likely performance this time.
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    Re: International News - MAY

    Post  Abhishek on Sun May 08, 2011 7:13 pm

    Protests throw up piquant situation in Maldives

    Parts of the Maldivian capital Male were paralysed yet again on Friday due to protests and counter-protests, from around the time the prayers concluded to close to midnight.

    Demonstrations are being held against the soaring prices after the government allowed the currency, the Rufiya, to float in a 20 per cent band. The protests have led to at least some travel agents advising their clients to re-consider their Maldivian holidays. With the opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) claiming that it had nothing to do with the protests, the government is left with no one to talk to.

    The government has maintained that a faction of the DRP led by the former President, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, was behind the protests.

    It said Mr. Gayoom was inspired by the Tahrir Square and that he was hoping to overthrow the government after crippling the functioning of the government.

    According to Reuters news agency, more than 300 people have been arrested so far; a figure that was disputed by Foreign Minister Ahmed Naseem. On Friday he said only 16 had been held.

    The independent Maldivian news website, Minivan News, said opposition protest near the artificial beach was dispersed by police after the group tried to make its way towards the intersection of Majeedhee Magu and Chandanee Magu, the focal point of last week's violent demonstrations. Aljazeera said that the protesters moved briefly to another location.

    The counter-protest organised by the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and addressed by Mr. Nasheed set out a robust defence of the government's economic policies. Mr. Nasheed noted that economic fundamentals such as the budget deficit and the disparity between government income and expenditure had dramatically improved since his administration came into power in the first democratic elections in late 2008. Haveeru news, a local online newspaper, reported that the President said there would be no budget deficit by 2012
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    Re: International News - MAY

    Post  Abhishek on Sun May 08, 2011 7:15 pm

    Kandahar under severe attack

    The Taliban unleashed a wave of attacks including six suicide bombings on government targets on Kandahar on Saturday, leaving at least 30 people wounded.

    Militants with guns and rocket-propelled grenades attacked the Governor's office, and 10 explosions including six suicide blasts rocked the city, the heartland of the Taliban, after violence began around 1:00 p.m. (0930 GMT).

    Gunmen occupied a hotel near the local office of Afghanistan's intelligence service, while suicide bombers tried to attack two police offices but were shot before they could reach their targets.

    In chaotic scenes, an AFP reporter said gunfire was still ringing out as ambulances evacuated the wounded, who included five policemen, from the area.
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    Re: International News - MAY

    Post  Abhishek on Tue May 10, 2011 12:27 am

    U.S. now looking for al Zawahiri

    Terming the killing of Osama bin Laden the most significant achievement against the al-Qaeda, a top White House official on Sunday said the U.S. was now looking for his deputy, Ayman al Zawahiri, who is likely to be the new chief of the terror outfit.

    “Al Zawahiri will be the next number one terrorist that we're looking for in the world. But we have a broad and global effort,” National Security Advisor Tom Donilon told CNN in an interview.

    Seeks access

    The U.S. has demanded access from Pakistan to all non-combatants, including Osama bin Laden's three wives, detained by the Pakistani authorities, and additional materials recovered from the Abbottabad compound where Osama was living for the last six years. Talking to ABC News, Mr. Donilon said: “We need to work with them [Pakistan] on assessing all the evidence….”
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    Re: International News - MAY

    Post  Abhishek on Tue May 10, 2011 12:28 am

    Pakistan bans live broadcast by foreign channels

    Pakistan's media regulatory watchdog has barred live broadcasts by international media from Abbottabad, where Osama bin Laden was killed by the U.S. forces, and almost all foreign journalists on Sunday left the garrison city on the orders of authorities.

    In an apparent bid to clamp down on coverage of the incident, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority announced on Saturday night that it was stopping “illegal uplinking of signals and live coverage of news from Abbottabad” by foreign satellite TV channels.

    A large number of foreign journalists, TV camerapersons and photographers, who had been staying in hotels and guesthouses to report from Abbotabad over the past week, were told on Saturday to leave by Sunday noon if they did not have special permission to be in the city, foreign journalists said.
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    Re: International News - MAY

    Post  Abhishek on Tue May 10, 2011 12:29 am

    Terrorist influx in Britain, says report

    British security officials were on Sunday reported as saying the Yemeni branch of al-Qaeda controlled by U.S.-born radical preacher Anwar al-Awlaki — dubbed the “new bin Laden” — was heavily involved in recruiting British Muslims; some of whom, it was claimed, had returned to Britain after training and could be plotting attacks.

    The Sunday Times claimed 200 British “extremists” allegedly trained in Yemen were now back and seen to pose “the single most potent threat” to Britain amid fears of a terrorist backlash after the killing of Osama bin-Laden.

    “Security services say the recruits from Britain are now either active in terrorist plotting or have been spiritually recruited to the cause of violent extremism by the Yemeni branch of al-Qaeda,” said the newspaper.

    Hundreds of Britons, it claimed, had travelled to Yemen in the past two years for “Arabic or religious training” and fallen under the influence of Awlaki. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian youth who allegedly tried to blow up an American plane on Christmas Day in 2009 by attempting to detonate an explosive hidden in his underpants, was a student in Britain when, it is claimed, he was swayed by Awlaki's internet lectures. Awlaki was also said to have been behind a failed plot last October to send two bombs disguised as printer cartridges as air cargo to various cities in America.
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    Re: International News - MAY

    Post  Abhishek on Tue May 10, 2011 12:30 am

    Indian railway project in Sri Lanka in full steam

    With an Indian de-mining team clearing the 107-km stretch of a railway alignment from Medawachchiya to Talaimannar in record time, the Indian Railway Construction Corporation (Ircon) has shifted gears on the construction of a railway line. Ircon is aiming to complete the sections allocated to it in a year-and-a-half.

    When the ISO-certified de-mining team, Horizon, began its work about eight months ago, it faced a host of obstacles. “We did not know where the alignment was,” said Shashikant Pitre, chairman, Horizon Group. The LTTE had destroyed the alignment and bridges and had taken away the railway track. “The ground was heavily compacted with gravel making the raking to a depth of 15 cm quite difficult,” he added.

    This was not the only problem. Over the years, there has been heavy water logging in some of the areas and there were metal remnants all over the alignment. “The presence of metals in such large quantities meant that we will not be able to make use of metal detectors,” said Mr. Pitre, who retired as a Major-General from the Indian Army.

    There were other problems too. All the bridges, major and minor, had been destroyed. This often meant long detours. “We faced serious logistical problems in the transport of people and heavy equipment,” said Anil Srivastava, Horizon Project Manager in Sri Lanka. The actual de-mining took only 25 per cent of the eight months. “From this you can understand how big and serious the logistical problems were. The remaining time was spent on surveys, clearance and marking,” added Mr. Srivastava, a former Colonel with the Indian Army.

    As per the contract, Horizon cleared 15 metres from a delineated centre line to either side. In places where stations have been planned this distance goes up to 50 metres clearance. The team said there were only three major confirmed hazard areas, totalling 18,000 square metres. One was between Cheddikulam and Madhu, another between Madhu and Manakkulam and a third between Manakkulam and Mannar.

    Horizon, established in 2001 by a few retired Indian Army officers, has been working in Sri Lanka since 2003. So far it has cleared an area of 96 sq.km. and released a total area of 456 sq.km. for rehabilitation. In the process, it has recovered a total of 1,00,444 devices, comprising 44,000 mines and UXOs (unexploded ordnance).

    There are two Indian de-mining teams operating in Sri Lanka. The larger of the two, Sarvatra, has so far released a land area close to 1,300 sq.km. in the districts of Mannar, Mullativu and Batticaloa.

    During 2010 Sarvatra also cleared almost three times as much as its nearest civil demining rival, the British charitable organisation called MAG.

    During 2010 alone, Sarvatra cleared more than four million square metres, destroying more than 40,000 explosive devices, said Brigadier (retired) S.S. Brar, CEO of Sarvatra.
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    Re: International News - MAY

    Post  Abhishek on Wed May 11, 2011 7:47 pm

    Angela Merkel chosen for Nehru Award


    German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been chosen for the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding for her enormous efforts toward sustainable and equitable development, it was announced here on Monday.

    The jury, chaired by Vice-President Mohammad Hamid Ansari, has decided to confer the award for 2009 on Dr. Merkel, an External Affairs Ministry release said here on Monday.

    The 57-year-old German leader is known for her efforts for good governance and understanding and for the creation of a world better positioned to handle the emerging challenges of the 21st century, it said. She has been sympathetic to developing countries and our own developmental imperatives and has led the search for a balanced solution based on principles of equity and sensitivity to the interests of the developing world, it said.

    The award carries prize money of Rs.1 crore besides a trophy and citation.

    Martin Luther King, Jr., Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan, Mother Teresa, Kenneth Kaunda, Aung San Suu Kyi, Hosni Mubarak, Josip Broz Tito and Nelson Mandela are some of past recipients of the award.
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    Re: International News - MAY

    Post  Abhishek on Wed May 11, 2011 7:48 pm

    Who was responsible for the birth of al-Qaeda, asks Gilani



    The United States was reminded of its own role in the creation of the al-Qaeda by Pakistan Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani on Monday while picking up cudgels in Parliament for the armed forces and the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), which are under attack from all quarters for the presence of Osama bin Laden in the country and the covert American operation that killed him.

    Stating that Pakistan alone could not be held accountable for “flawed policies and blunders of others,” Mr. Gilani provided a crash course in history: “I talk of a bygone era. However, it is perhaps necessary to remind everyone about that era, which has been so well documented, including in the CNN series on the Cold War showing video footage of high ranking U.S. officials exhorting the Afghans and the Mujahideen to wage jihad, to go back to their homes, to go back to their mosques, in the name of Islam and as a national duty…

    “It's necessary for us to remind the international community of the decade of the nineties, which saw the Arab volunteers who had joined the Jihad mutate into the al-Qaeda? Who was responsible for the birth of the al-Qaeda? Who was responsible for making the myth of Osama bin Laden?

    “To find answers to today's question, it is necessary to revisit the not-so-distant past. Collectively, we must acknowledge facts and see our faces in the mirror of history.''

    Borrowing a quote from U.S. President Barack Obama's May 2 announcement regarding Osama's death, Mr. Gilani said his elimination was indeed “justice done,” but cautioned against declaration of victory. “The myth and legacy of Osama bin Laden remains to be demolished,” he added, elaborating that the anger and frustration of ordinary people over injustice, oppression and tyranny that Osama sought to harness to fuel the fire of terrorism in the world need to be addressed. “Otherwise, this rage will find new ways of expression.”

    Battling the charge that Pakistan was complicit in Osama's presence here, the Prime Minister said it was “disingenuous” for anyone to blame the country or its institutions, including the ISI and the armed forces, for being in cahoots with the al-Qaeda. Rejecting the charge of complicity, he asserted that detractors would not be allowed to succeed in “offloading their own shortcomings and errors of omission and commission in a blame game that stigmatises Pakistan.”
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    Re: International News - MAY

    Post  Abhishek on Wed May 11, 2011 7:48 pm

    Russia displays military might

    Russia marked victory in World War II with the biggest yet display of military might in the traditional Red Square parade outside the Kremlin on Monday.

    Twenty thousand elite troops dressed in new sleek designer uniforms strode across the historical square in precision formations to the rousing sounds of wartime marches, followed by more than 100 pieces of Russia's most modern hardware, from airdropped armoured personnel carriers to long-range mobile ballistic missiles Topol-M.

    Speaking at the parade attended by war veterans, President Dmitry Medvedev called V-Day Russia's “most sacred” holiday. He paid tribute to the 27 million Russians who gave their lives to defend “things that cannot be sacrificed under any circumstances — freedom, dignity and peace of the homeland”.

    The Kremlin resumed the tradition of V-Day military parades in 2008, a year after then President Vladimir Putin in his famous speech in Munich blasted the United States for resorting to “hyper use of force in international relations that plunges the world into endless conflicts.”

    Reflecting the new cooperative atmosphere in Russian-U.S. relations today, Mr. Medvedev highlighted Russia's “contribution to joint efforts to safeguard global stability.”

    He said the Russian armed forces “securely defend the country and its people” and promised to give the Army “the most modern weapons”.
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    Re: International News - MAY

    Post  Abhishek on Wed May 11, 2011 7:49 pm

    Religious clashes in Egypt

    Egypt's youth movement and the former IAEA chief, Mohamed ElBaradei, are calling for unity among compatriots after inter-faith clashes, over the weekend, brought into focus the threat posed by Salafi extremists to the nascent revolution.

    Mr. ElBaradei's National Association for Change (NAS) and the April 6 Youth Movement have called for a Monday evening demonstration for unity in the wake of Saturday's sectarian clashes which left 12 people dead and 240 injured.

    On Saturday, the Virgin Mary Church was attacked by suspected hard-line Muslim youth in Cairo's north-west district of Imbaba. Another set of youths also targeted an apartment building a short distance away, said eyewitnesses.

    Rejecting the violence against Coptic Christians, Mr. ElBaradei, a presidential hopeful, on his Twitter account said: “Urgent measures required to combat religious extremism and intolerance before Egypt slides into the dark ages.”

    Stung by the heavy violence, the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF), representing the military rulers, who are steering their country's political transition following exit of the former President,

    Hosni Mubarak, have pledged to take harsh measures against miscreants. SCAF has said the 190 people arrested in the aftermath of the riots will now face military trials.

    Egypt's Attorney-General Abdel Meguid Mahmoud said a team of prosecutors would be formed to investigate the cause of the clashes.

    Despite the stated intolerance towards sectarian violence, hundreds of angry Copts in Cairo were agitating near the state television building on Sunday to draw attention to the perceived passivity of the armed forces.

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