Sunday, November 25, 2001, Chandigarh, India





National Capital Region--Delhi

W O R L D

UN finalises meeting for Afghan conference
Bonn, November 24

Taliban’s forces are putting up a fierce struggle to hold onto their last bastion in Afghanistan as final preparations are made for next week’s United Nations-sponsored conference on the country’s political future.

Rabbani ‘ready’ to step down
London, November 24
Anti-Taliban Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani said in a newspaper interview here today that he had “no personal ambitions,” seen by the Daily Telegraph as a clear willingness to relinquish his position. 
Taliban ‘didn’t spare’ infants
Washington, November 24
Infants and young children were victims of torture and atrocities perpetrated by Afghanistan’s Taliban militia in the garb of religion and strict adherence to the faith during its five-year rule, an official website has said.


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The coffin of Italian journalist Maria Grazia Cutuli is carried after her funeral in Catania Cattedral on Saturday. Cutuli, a reporter with Corriere della Serra, and El Mundo's Julio Fuentes were killed with Reuters photographer Aziz Haidari and cameraman Harry Burton when unidentified gunmen stopped them on the road to Jalalabad to Kabul on November 19. —Reuters

Talks yes, but focus on Kashmir: Musharraf
Islamabad, November 24
Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf said today that he was ready to discuss all pending issues with India but insisted that the focus of the talks should be on Kashmir.

BNP somersault on gas export to India
Dhaka, November 24
The proposal for gas export to India during the Awami League rule from June, 1996, till July 13, 2001, was opposed by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and, interestingly, the proposal is being opposed by the Awami League itself now. 


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UN finalises meeting for Afghan conference

Bonn, November 24
Taliban’s forces are putting up a fierce struggle to hold onto their last bastion in Afghanistan as final preparations are made for next week’s United Nations-sponsored conference on the country’s political future.

Between 20 and 30 Afghan leaders are to gather on Tuesday in the west German city of Bonn for the conference, which was to be held Monday.

The UN said the conference has been delayed a day to allow for late arrivals and for pre-summit talks.

The Taliban militia has not been invited to the meeting to be held at the hotel of Petersberg, Konigswinter, which is on the edge of the former German Capital.

The conference is aimed at building consensus among the often quarrelsome Afghan factions to lay the foundations to build a broad-based multi-ethnic government for the war-shattered country, following the collapse of the Taliban regime.

Those attending the conference include representatives of the opposition Northern Alliance, still battling the Taliban in parts of Afghanistan.

Also attending the conference will be supporters of the deposed Afghan King, Mohammed Zahir Shah and two groups of Afghan leaders based in Cyprus and the Pashtoons, the largest ethnic tribe in Afghanistan.

The 87-year-old former King lives in Rome and is to be represented at the Bonn talks by a key adviser, Abdul Sattar Sirat. The King’s delegation is expected to include at least one woman.

The so-called Cyprus delegation represents a group of Afghan exiles and refugees, who have held several meeting in Cyprus.

“Getting people from all over the world has its difficulties and therefore, we want to allow enough time for people to arrive,” said Ahmad Fawzi, spokesman for Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN special envoy for Afghanistan, on the reason for postponing of the opening of the meeting until Tuesday.

The second reason for switching to Tuesday, Fawzi said, is to allow both the delegations to confer and for UN to confer with the delegations ahead of the conference which is to be simply called, “Talks on Afghanistan.”

Brahimi is to chair the talks, although the UN had stressed that its role at the meeting is to be limited to facilitating the discussions. Diplomats from Germany, Britain, the USA and Pakistan are also expected to attend. DPA
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Rabbani ‘ready’ to step down

London, November 24
Anti-Taliban Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani said in a newspaper interview here today that he had “no personal ambitions,” seen by the Daily Telegraph as a clear willingness to relinquish his position. “As far as my future is concerned, the people will determine the role of every personality concerned . I will accept the decision of the (Bonn) meeting. I have no personal ambitions,” he told the paper.

The Bonn conference aims to bring all Afghan ethnic groups together to begin paving the way for a broad-based administration. “We want peace and security and a government of national unity in the country so that people do not face hardships and problems,” Mr Rabbani said.

“But this meeting is only the first step and no doubt it is very useful and auspicious, but we hope this will be the last gathering outside the country and the next meeting will be inside the country”, he added. AFP
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Pak asks US Embassy to follow procedure

Islamabad, November 24
Pakistan has taken a serious note of the functioning of the US Embassy here for bypassing the Foreign Ministry in seeking appointments for US dignitaries with President Pervez Musharraf, The News said today.

The newspaper said the Foreign Ministry has asked the US embassy here to follow procedure and not bypass the ministry in seeking appointments for the meeting of US dignitaries with the President and others.

It said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had taken a serious note of the “direct approach” and sent a letter (dated November 15) to the US Embassy providing fresh directives. UNI
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Taliban ‘didn’t spare’ infants

Washington, November 24
Infants and young children were victims of torture and atrocities perpetrated by Afghanistan’s Taliban militia in the garb of religion and strict adherence to the faith during its five-year rule, an official website has said.

Among the accounts of mutilations, beatings and arbitrary executions by the militia, there was evidence of a new abomination — torture of children, the website of the US State Department’s Office of International Information Programs said, quoting British and US media reports.

An unknown number of infants were savagely beaten during the Islamic militia’s 14-month occupation of Taloqan, the former headquarters of the Northern Alliance, usually for the supposed crimes of their parents, it said.

“The barbarity of the Taliban plumbed new depths when troops shot dead eight boys” in Kunduz recently “for daring to laugh. The teenage lads had been chuckling at the soldiers who raised their Kalashnikov rifles and gunned them down,” the website said.

“The Taliban is jailing children as young as 10 years old in Kabul to root out dissent... According to French journalist Michel Peyrard, who was held by the Taliban for 25 days, the biggest threat to the extremist regime is its own paranoia. He said his fellow detainees included several children,” it said.

“The Taliban commanders killed 100 of our friends. They hung their bodies from lamp posts as a warning to the rest of us,” it quoted a defector as saying.

According to the reports, Arab and Pakistani soldiers with the Taliban have also begun shooting young civilian men of Uzbek and Tajik ethnic groups suspected of trying to escape to territory controlled by the Northern Alliance.

The website said foreign Taliban soldiers also killed dozens of Afghan-Taliban soldiers in Musazai village, near the Kunduz airport.

Refugees fleeing Kunduz said foreign Taliban soldiers had gunned down 125 Afghan-Taliban soldiers who had been stopped on their way to the frontlines.

“The BBC has confirmed that the central Afghan town of Bamiyan was totally destroyed by the Taliban before they fled from there. Evidence has also emerged of Bosnian-style ethnic cleansing in the region, involving the execution of hundreds of local ethnic Hazara men,” the website said.

The website said in September, 1996, after capturing Kabul, the Taliban castrated the then President Najibullah, dragged his body behind a jeep for several rounds of the palace and then shot him dead. His brother was similarly tortured and then throttled to death.

In January, 1998, in the western province of Faryab, the Taliban massacred about 600 Uzbek villagers. PTI
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Talks yes, but focus on Kashmir: Musharraf

Islamabad, November 24
Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf said today that he was ready to discuss all pending issues with India but insisted that the focus of the talks should be on Kashmir.

“Kashmir undoubtedly remains the main dispute adversely affecting Pak-India relationship, and we are and remain prepared to discuss each and any issue, but the focus should be on Kashmir,” he said at a joint news conference with the visiting European Union (EU) delegation.

President Musharraf said during his talks with the EU leaders here he maintained that Pakistan was ready to discuss all outstanding issues with India.

He alleged that ever since the Agra summit, India gave an impression that Pakistan was not ready to discuss any other issue except Kashmir.

Belgian Prime Minister and EU President Guy Verhosftadt urged both India and Pakistan to resolve the Kashmir issue bilaterally.

“The September 11 (attack on the USA) has led to a new global environment which offers new chances and challenges. We need to push issues for peaceful resolution,” he said, adding that “the time is ripe and the environment is there.”

To a question on cross-border terrorism, President Musharraf said “all three words in the claim are wrong, ab-initio.”

“It is an indigenous freedom struggle in Kashmir, so no question of crossing over. Secondly, the status is that it is LoC and not a border as claimed. Thirdly, there is no terrorism in it as a popular struggle for freedom is going on.

He said during his meeting with the EU delegation, he discussed the current situation in Afghanistan and its fallout on Pakistan.

“Both sides have let their full support to the current UN efforts to bring order to Afghanistan and usher in a broad-based multi-ethnic and representative government in consonance with the UN resolution,” he said.

He said Pakistan welcomed the UN initiative of calling the meeting of all Afghan factions in Germany to deliberate upon future dispensation.

“Formation of a broad-based government in accordance with the wishes of Afghan people is very essential to maintain Afghanistan’s unity, political independence and territorial integrity and to bring about durable peace in the region.” PTI
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Rocket strikes Karachi college

Karachi, November 24
A rocket fired by unidentified militants hit a college in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi, causing damage to the building but claiming no lives, the police said.

“The rocket landed in one of the classrooms but luckily no one was there,” the city police chief, Mr Tariq Jamil,said yesterday.

“The rocket was foreign-made and it was definitely a terrorist act”, he said. The college is located near the headquarters of the paramilitary Rangers. AFP
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BNP somersault on gas export to India
Atiqur Rahman
Tribune News Service

Dhaka, November 24
The proposal for gas export to India during the Awami League rule from June, 1996, till July 13, 2001, was opposed by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and, interestingly, the proposal is being opposed by the Awami League itself now. The opposition Awami League is trying to whip up opinion against the proposed gas export. A six-hour strike was observed last week in the country by the Left political parties and supported by the Awami League. All these developments have made the prospect of gas export to India uncertain although initially the new BNP government publicly committed in favour of the export.

However, the changed stand of the BNP government, headed by Ms Khaleda Zia, on the export of gas from Bangladesh to India has created confusion over the past week. Immediately after assuming power on October 10, the PM, the Finance Minister and the state Minister for Energy in public speeches made a political somersault changing their opposition to the proposal for gas export to favouring immediate steps for the export of gas to India.

Gradually the government leaders are changing their stand. In the recent weeks, the Finance Minister, the state Minister In Charge of Energy and Mineral Resources and even the Foreign Minister said that the assessment of the recoverable reserve and domestic reserve for more than 35 years had to be made and then only a decision on export might be taken.

However, the government has openly admitted that the USA and the Asian Development Bank had put pressure to export gas to India through a pipeline. The US Government has made it a precondition for giving facilities of quota-free access of Bangladesh garments to US markets. The ready-made garment sector is the largest foreign exchange earner of Bangladesh. On Thursday, the visiting World Bank Vice-President, Ms Mieko Nishimizu, told media that Bangladesh could benefit from gas export to India.

Former Prime Minister and Awami League President Sheikh Hasina denied the Finance Minister Mr M. Saifur Rahman’s allegation that the past Awami League government had signed profit-sharing contracts (PSCs) with exploration companies to export gas. She said her government had signed no such PSC.

The gas export proposal became a political issue when UNOCAL, an American exploration company disclosed its plan in 1999 to export gas to India. Another company which had signed a profit-sharing contract (PSC) and later withdrew was headed by Mr Dick Chaney, the present US Vice-President. He was also negotiating some deal like this and having failed to convince the Hasina government, his company withdrew from the project.

Their argument is that the Bangladesh Government’s utilisation of gas is very slow and they want to recover their invested money as early as possible.

Even former US President Bill Clinton during his visit to Dhaka on March 20 last year mentioned in his speech the possibility of exporting gas to India. At a press conference addressed jointly by Mr Clinton and Ms Hasina, the latter set a condition. She said an assessment would be made of the economically exploitable deposit, domestic requirement for 50 years and if there was any additional quantity of gas, then only it would be exported.

A survey published in the local press today, which was conducted in the capital, showed that 60 per cent of the respondents opposed gas export to India.
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