THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
W O R L D

Bill to endorse Musharraf’s Presidency
Islamabad, December 26
The Pakistan government, which entered into a deal with Islamist parties to get endorsement for Gen Pervez Musharraf’s Presidency and constitutional amendments, today presented the agreed package to the National Assembly in the form of a Bill.

Attacks on Pervez stage-managed?
Even as Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf survived a second attempt on his life in 10 days, media reports have suggested that the assassination bids could be “stage-managed” while some others have suspected that these could be the handiwork of people in his inner circle or religious extremists and their sympathisers in the army.

Vajpayee may be flown from Rawalpindi
Islamabad, December 26
Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee is likely to be flown by helicopter to Islamabad from Rawalpindi when he arrives on January 3 for the SAARC summit, officials said.

Phalcon deal to be signed in January
Jerusalem, December 26
Israel and India are set to sign an agreement next month for the supply of three Phalcon early warning radar systems, produced by the Israel Aircraft Industries for the Indian Air Force.



 
10,000 show symptoms of poisoning
Beijing, December 26
More than 10,000 persons with symptoms of poisoning sought medical assistance at hospitals following gas poisoning in an attempt to extract natural gas extraction in southwest China.


A military officer (left) checks his colleague’s gas mask before they depart for Kaixian county, 337 km north-east of Chongqing in south-west China, on Friday. Some 1,500 rescuers were sent to the scene of a gas well blast on Friday.
— Reuters photo
A military officer checks his colleague’s gas mask before they depart for Kaixian county

US forces launch offensive
Baghdad, December 26
US-led forces launched offensive operations in the Iraqi capital last night after rebel rockets and mortars pounded Baghdad in the insurgents’ most serious attacks since the capture of former dictator Saddam Hussein, the military said.

In this image from television, the cockpit of a Boeing 727 lies on a beach in Cotonou, Benin, following the crash of United Transit Airlines Flight 141 from Cotonou to Lebanon
In this image from television, the cockpit of a Boeing 727 lies on a beach in Cotonou, Benin, following the crash of United Transit Airlines Flight 141 from Cotonou to Lebanon, on Thursday. At least 111 persons died in the crash in which the passenger plane clipped a building after takeoff in Benin and smashed into the Atlantic Ocean. — AP/PTI

2 US soldiers killed in Baghdad
Tikrit (Iraq), December 26
Two US soldiers were killed and four others wounded in a mortar attack on an army base near Baquba, northeast of Baghdad, a US military spokeswoman said today. “Four additional soldiers were wounded in the attack. All are in stable condition,” she added.

Indonesia bans US beef imports
Jakarta, December 26
Indonesia has joined other Asian countries in temporarily banning imports of US beef because of mad cow disease fears, media reports said today.

Tel Aviv suicide attack kills 4
Petah Tikvah, December 26
Four people were killed yesterday in the first suicide attack in Israel in nearly three months, shortly after a top Palestinian militant was assassinated in the Gaza Strip, as the Holy Land witnessed an explosion of violence on Christmas Day.
Top








 

Bill to endorse Musharraf’s Presidency
K.J.M. Varma

Islamabad, December 26
The Pakistan government, which entered into a deal with Islamist parties to get endorsement for Gen Pervez Musharraf’s Presidency and constitutional amendments, today presented the agreed package to the National Assembly in the form of a Bill.

The draft Bill, titled Constitution 17th Amendment Bill, was introduced in the National Assembly for approval by the Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs, Raza Hayat Hiraj.

As per the Bill which seeks to amend nine articles of the constitution, General Musharraf would be deemed as elected President after winning the confidence vote in Parliament and Provincial Assemblies.

Other amendments included granting of powers to the President to dismiss Parliament, which would, however, be subjected to a review of the Supreme Court.

It also allows establishment of the National Security Council, dominated by military officials by an Act of Parliament and gives powers to the President, instead of the Prime Minister to appoint chiefs of army, navy, air force and other top military jobs.

While mainstream opposition parties declined to endorse his attempts to get his Presidency ratified by a confidence vote in Parliament and four Provincial Assemblies, the Islamist alliance Muthahida Majlis Amal agreed to provide the support after General Musharraf agreed to its demand to quit as army chief by the end of December, 2004.

The draft amendment Bill also seeks to validate all orders proclaimed by General Musharraf from the date of his military coup, in October, 1999.

As per the Bill, these orders would not be questioned by any court on any ground.

The Jamali government which has a bare majority in the National Assembly is expected to secure the two-third majority for the passage of the Bill with the support of the Islamist parties.

The Bill would then be send for approval for Senate and four Provincial Assemblies later next week and is expected to be ratified well before the SAARC summit. — PTI
Top

 

Attacks on Pervez stage-managed?

Even as Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf survived a second attempt on his life in 10 days, media reports have suggested that the assassination bids could be “stage-managed” while some others have suspected that these could be the handiwork of people in his inner circle or religious extremists and their sympathisers in the army.

The Saturday Tribune quoted “a source assigned to a high strategic position” as saying that the previous attempt on December 14 was “carefully stage-managed by Musharraf’s close staff — and at his instigation”.

Washington Times, in a recent editorial, described the circumstances of the assassination bid as “strange and alarming” and said among the possibilities would be “that someone in Musharraf’s inner circle was plotting against him, or at least plotting to warn him quite dramatically”.

Saturday Tribune, in another article, quoted Shamim Akhtar, a former head of Karachi University’s International Relations Department, as saying that “he is not only facing threats from extremists but also from their old sympathisers within military establishment who dislike his changed policies”.

He also added that the “reversal of Afghan and Kashmir policy is not possible overnight, as it is seen as a betrayal of the larger Islamic cause”.

Both Saturday Tribune and Washington Times were one in their assessment that the December 14 attempt could not have been carried out without the involvement people close to him. — PTI
Top

 

Vajpayee may be flown from Rawalpindi

Islamabad, December 26
Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee is likely to be flown by helicopter to Islamabad from Rawalpindi when he arrives on January 3 for the SAARC summit, officials said.

Mr Vajpayee was originally to have been driven to Islamabad in a heavily-guarded motorcade from the Chaklala military airbase in Rawalpindi, where his plane will land.

A day after the assassination attempt on Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, an official did not rule out the possibility of flying Mr Vajpayee to Islamabad by helicopter.

Nearly 40 security personnel would be accompanying Mr Vajpayee, the Pakistani officials said. However, unlike in 1988 when the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was here for the regional summit, the Indian security detail would not bring their bullet proof vehicles but would use those provided by the Pakistan government, they said.

“The schedule of the Prime Minister has been confirmed by the Indian authorities,” an official said.

Mr Vajpayee’s delegation includes 10 officials, among them National Security Adviser Brajesh Mishra, who is also Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister.

Indian External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha will arrive here January 2 to attend the preparatory meetings ahead of the summit. — IANS
Top

 

Phalcon deal to be signed in January

Jerusalem, December 26
Israel and India are set to sign an agreement next month for the supply of three Phalcon early warning radar systems, produced by the Israel Aircraft Industries for the Indian Air Force.

The final terms for the $1 billion deal were agreed during the discussions he had with Indian officials in New Delhi earlier this week, Israeli Defence Ministry Director-General Amos Yaron said.

Indian and Israeli negotiating teams will draft the agreement which is expected to be signed in January 2004, Haaretz newspaper reported today.

The Israel Aircraft Industries would receive an advance payment of some $350 million after the deal was signed, it said.

Meanwhile, Yaron extended an official invitation to Defence Minister George Fernandes to visit Israel.

A delegation of Indian officials was due to arrive in Israel in the coming weeks to explore new areas of cooperation, said Yaron, adding that Israeli defence-related exports to India totalled $400 million in 2003. — PTI
Top

 

10,000 show symptoms of poisoning

Beijing, December 26
More than 10,000 persons with symptoms of poisoning sought medical assistance at hospitals following gas poisoning in an attempt to extract natural gas extraction in southwest China.

The crisis centre at Kaixian, where the natural gas well erupted late Tuesday, said today that there were at least 740 patients in 10 hospitals northeast of the city of Chongqing.

According to a spokesman, the number killed by the gas is 191, however, the official press agency Xinhua reported 193 dead earlier.

Released into the air was a high concentration of dangerous natural gas and sulfurated hydrogen, with many of the victims at hospitals throughout the region suffering from stomach pain, indispostion, vomiting, cough and chemical burns.

Meanwhile, the blow-out turned a 25 sq km area into a death zone.

“The poisonous gas hovering in the air made an area of 25 sq km a death zone as many villagers wre intoxicated by the fumes in their sleep,” the China Daily newspaper said.

An operation to seal the gas well planned for today had been postponed for 24 hours for safety reasons.

About 41,000 persons, most of them farmers, were evacuated from villages within a radius of 5 km from the accident site, where the temperature at night drops to freezing. — Agencies
Top

 

US forces launch offensive

Baghdad, December 26
US-led forces launched offensive operations in the Iraqi capital last night after rebel rockets and mortars pounded Baghdad in the insurgents’ most serious attacks since the capture of former dictator Saddam Hussein, the military said.

“We can report large amounts of activity tonight. Offensive operations conducted by coalition forces include ground and air assets in cooperation with Iraqi authorities,” a coalition military spokeswoman said yesterday.

The sirens came after about four hours of sporadic loud fire reverberated across the city. Some of the firing may have come from artillery, which the US-led coalition employed two nights earlier in an anti-rebel operation known as Iron Grip.

An airplane droned over Baghdad late yesterday as it did two nights earlier when troops called in air support from a gunship.

Christmas Day ended the way it began — with explosions.

The city awakened to thunderous booms and gunfire as guerrillas roamed the city, causing mayhem as they struck a major hotel and three foreign embassies.

Four rockets struck the citadel-like main US compound in the capital and an oil ministry guard post was sprayed with bullets.

A woman was slightly wounded when a rocket tore into her family’s apartment, while a policeman’s hand was blown off as he attempted to defuse a roadside bomb on a busy commercial street.

After a lull, violence has spiked since the arrest of Saddam Hussein on December 13.

The surge in attacks was a defiant response by insurgents to the coalition’s push to smash them once and for all. — AFP
Top

 

2 US soldiers killed in Baghdad

Tikrit (Iraq), December 26
Two US soldiers were killed and four others wounded in a mortar attack on an army base near Baquba, northeast of Baghdad, a US military spokeswoman said today.

“Four additional soldiers were wounded in the attack. All are in stable condition,” she added.

The death raises to 206 the number of US soldiers killed in action in Iraq since US President George W. Bush declared major combat over May 1. — AFP
Top

 

Indonesia bans US beef imports

Jakarta, December 26
Indonesia has joined other Asian countries in temporarily banning imports of US beef because of mad cow disease fears, media reports said today.

“The decision to ban imports of US beef was taken after the ministry held an emergency meeting,” Bachtiar Moerad, a senior official at the agricultural ministry, was quoted as saying in Kompas daily.

Agriculture officials were not immediately available for comment. The report didn’t say how long the ban would be in place. — AP
Top

 

Tel Aviv suicide attack kills 4

Petah Tikvah, December 26
Four people were killed yesterday in the first suicide attack in Israel in nearly three months, shortly after a top Palestinian militant was assassinated in the Gaza Strip, as the Holy Land witnessed an explosion of violence on Christmas Day.

The bomber and his three victims died in an attack on a bus stop in Petakh Tikvah, on the northeastern outskirts of Tel Aviv, which also left 16 others injured, police said.

It was the first suicide attack in Israel since a female Islamic Jihad bomber killed herself and 22 others at a restaurant in the northern city of Haifa on October 4. — AFP
Top

 
BRIEFLY

MAN EXECUTED FOR KILLING 17 BOYS
BEIJING:
A man who murdered 17 young boys in order to experience the “sensation of killing” was executed on Friday, court officials said. Huang Yong, (29), was found guilty on December 9 of strangling the high school students and was paraded at an open sentencing ceremony to announce the verdict before being taken to the execution ground, the Xinhua news agency said. — AFP

BEAGLE 2 FAILS TO LINK UK TELESCOPE
LONDON:
The European lander Beagle 2 has failed to make contact with a British radio telescope in its second chance to call home since its scheduled landing on Mars, a project spokesman said on Friday. — AFP

US EMBASSY IN THE HAGUE CORDONED OFF
THE HAUGE:
The US Embassy in the Hague was cordoned off after a terrorist threat, media reports said. The exact nature of the threat was not known. Special units and police were seen at the Embassy. — DPA

NEPAL STUDENTS SHUT OUT OF SCHOOLS
KATHMANDU:
Thousands of children in mid-west Nepal are missing classes as Maoists forced the shut down of almost 100 schools, newspaper reports said on Friday. At least 93 schools were shut down indefinitely in Baglung district and parts of mid-west Nepal because of Maoist threats. — DPA

JAPAN’S FIRST TROOPS LEAVE FOR IRAQ
TOKYO:
Japan dispatched its first military unit for a humanitarian mission to Iraq on Friday, spearheading the country’s biggest overseas deployment since World War II, a media report said. The advance air force contingent of more than 40 personnel was expected to split up and take commercial flights to Kuwait from. — AP

FAMILY KILLED IN  HOUSE FIRE
LITITZ (PENNSYLVANIA):
A couple and their seven-year-old daughter died when a dried-out Christmas tree was apparently ignited by its lights and set fire to their home early Christmas morning, authorities said. The three family members were on the upper floor and died of smoke inhalation. — AP
Top

HOME PAGE | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Opinions |
| Business | Sports | World | Mailbag | Chandigarh | Ludhiana | National Capital |
| Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |