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45 die in Pak plane crash
Karachi, July 10

All 45 persons, including two senior army officers and two High Court judges , on board a Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) aircraft were killed today when the Lahore-bound Fokker plane burst into flames and crashed three minutes after taking off from Multan airport.

People gather near the wreckage of a Pakistani Fokker F-27 twin-engine passenger plane People gather near the wreckage of a Pakistani Fokker F-27 twin-engine passenger plane which crashed in Multan on Monday. — AP/PTI photo

Israel pounds Gaza; death toll mounts to 43
Gaza City, July 10

Israel pounded the Gaza Strip with fresh air strikes today as Prime Minister Ehud Olmert defended the deadly military offensive in the face of international criticism.


EARLIER STORIES


Saddam’s lawyers boycott trial
Baghdad, July 10
Saddam Hussein’s lawyers said today they would boycott the toppled leader’s trial until a sweeping series of demands are met, following the killing of a third member of the defence team last month.

Angry Putin says he will not sell fuel for “peanuts”
MOSCOW: President Vladimir Putin has accused the West of using the media to try to bully his country into selling off its huge reserves of oil and gas "for peanuts" days before he hosts a G-8 summit in St Petersburg.

Polish PM resigns
Warsaw, July 10
Polish Prime Minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz today formally submitted his expected resignation paving the way for his party boss, conservative leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski, to take over.

Chechen warlord Basayev killed
Moscow, July 10
Chechen rebel leader Shamil Basayev, the most wanted man in Russia who claimed responsibility for the Beslan school hostage massacre and was blamed for many other attacks, has been killed, Russian news agencies said today, quoting the FSB security service.

40 insurgents killed
Kabul, July 10
US and Afghan government forces today attacked an insurgent stronghold in the southern province of Uruzga, killing more than 40 of them, the US military said.

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Afghanistan gets first fashion show in decades.
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45 die in Pak plane crash

Karachi, July 10
All 45 persons, including two senior army officers and two High Court judges , on board a Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) aircraft were killed today when the Lahore-bound Fokker plane burst into flames and crashed three minutes after taking off from Multan airport.

Authorities ruled out sabotage or terrorist involvement in the crash of the turbo-prop Fokker 27, which fell into a nearby wheat field like a rock in a ball of flames at 1205 (1235 IST), three km north-east of the runway.

Air Marshal Pervaiz Akhtar, Director General of Civil Aviation Authority, said, ‘‘the plane flew for three minutes before hitting the ground’’ and there was no contact between the pilot and Air Traffic Control (ATC).

Airport officials said the plane had run into trouble soon after lift-off before one of its engines caught fire.

PIA sources said the airline, headquartered here, immediately grounded its Fokker fleet for technical inspection.

Four crew members and 41 passengers died in the mishap. They included army officers Brig Farhat Sabir and Brig Aftab, Lahore High Court judges Nawaz Bhatti and Nazir Ahmed Sodium and Bahauddin Zakaria University Vice-Chancellor Naseer Khan. Eight women, including two flight attendants, were among those killed.

PIA Chairman Tariq Kirmani said an investigation had been ordered into the crash.

‘‘It is a terrifying incident and the burn smell is spread all over the area,’’ Tariq Mahmood, correspondent of a local television channel told PTI from the crash site.

Some eyewitnesses say the plane caught fire as soon as it took-off before crashing,’’ he said.

“It is difficult to identify the passengers as the bodies are badly burnt. At the moment, we have been able to pull out 23 bodies from the plane,” a spokesman of the NGO Edhi Foundation said.

“Since the plane fell in an open area, there were no casualties on ground,” he added.

One woman was pulled out alive but she died afterwards, according to witnesses.

The flight PK-688, which took off from the airport at Suraj Miani, some five km from the centre of Multan, remained engulfed in fire for hours.

Rescue operation was conducted by Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and Pakistan Army personnel.

There are two airports in Multan, one of which is used by Pakistan Army.

This is the second air crash in three years involving a Fokker 27 aircraft. A military plane of the same make crashed in bad weather in mountains near the northwestern city of Kohat on February 19, 2003, killing Air Force Chief Air Chief Marshal Mushaf Ali, his wife and 15 others. — PTI 

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Israel pounds Gaza; death toll mounts to 43

Gaza City, July 10
Israel pounded the Gaza Strip with fresh air strikes today as Prime Minister Ehud Olmert defended the deadly military offensive in the face of international criticism.

As many as 42 Palestinians and an Israeli soldier have been killed since Israel poured tanks and troops into the Gaza Strip last Wednesday in a bid to stop Palestinian rocket attacks and to win the release of a captive soldier.

Despite the mounting death toll, Israel has warned that troops could be in for a long-haul, rejecting a call by the Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya of Hamas for a mutual ceasefire.

“I think that once the Qassam shooting will be stopped and the terrorist actions against innocent civilians will be halted altogether, there will be no need for any Israeli action in Gaza,” Mr Olmert said at a news conference.

Moving into land evacuated in September after a 38-year occupation, ground forces have been backed up by helicopter gunships and drones conducting wave after wave of air strikes for two straight weeks of overnight bombardment.

One Palestinian militant was killed and seven other people wounded in Israeli air raids over Gaza City early today, medical and security sources said. An Israeli assault helicopter also bombed a metal workshop in the city.

An Israeli military spokeswoman said aircraft carried out strikes against a weapons factory being operated by the radical Islamic Jihad movement.

Mr Olmert flatly rejected international criticism of the scale of the Israeli onslaught, claiming there had been no response to Israel’s pullout from Gaza in September other than continued violence. — AFP

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Saddam’s lawyers boycott trial

Baghdad, July 10
Saddam Hussein’s lawyers said today they would boycott the toppled leader’s trial until a sweeping series of demands are met, following the killing of a third member of the defence team last month.

In a statement issued hours after the trial began hearing final arguments in defence of one of Saddam’s minor co-accused, the defence team said: “We will suspend our attendance ... from July 10 ... until the following fair demands are met.”

The six demands included more security and a probe into the lawyer’s killing.

“The American authorities should be committed to provide adequate protection to the Iraqi lawyers and their families,” the statement said.

The defence team also slammed as ‘’striking interference in judicial affairs’’ comments made earlier this month by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, in which the Shi’ite leader said he hoped Saddam would be executed soon. — Reuters

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Angry Putin says he will not sell fuel for “peanuts”
Andrew Osborn

MOSCOW: President Vladimir Putin has accused the West of using the media to try to bully his country into selling off its huge reserves of oil and gas "for peanuts" days before he hosts a G-8 summit in St Petersburg.

A visibly angry Mr Putin used a live broadcast on the BBC website to address what he sees as the biggest injustice of Russia’s G-8 presidency so far — the European gas crisis in January.

The crisis overshadowed the start of Moscow's stint at the 
G-8 helm and erupted after a pricing row between Russia and Ukraine prompted Moscow to cut off Ukrainian gas supplies in the middle of one of Europe's coldest winters.

The switch-off was portrayed by many in the West as the callous act of a bully using its resources as a political weapon to punish Ukraine for taking itself out of Russia's orbit with a pro-Western "orange revolution". But Mr Putin claimed yesterday that his country had been unfairly vilified by the Western media and that "someone" had used the row to blacken Russia's image in order to pressure it into selling its oil and gas at bargain-basement prices.

His remarks suggest there may be stormy exchanges between G-8 leaders and that Russia will continue to refuse European demands for access to its huge oil and gas pipeline network.

"The hysteria that was whipped up by many European and North American media was an attempt to put pressure on Russia and not the Ukraine," he argued. Mr Putin alleged it was ironic that Russia had been made to look like the villain since it had merely decided to apply market principles long cherished in the West.

"The price of gas is not dictated by the Kremlin but by the markets," he said.

"Russia will not give away its resources for peanuts.

For 15 years Russia supplied its former Soviet neighbours with gas for a price well below the market. Such subsidies were costing Russia up to $5bn a year, he argued. "These subsidies are finished".

In between taking questions on North Korea and Iran's military ambitions, Mr Putin was also asked: "Why did he kiss the bare stomach of a boy in a Kremlin courtyard last week, a scene beamed around the world?"

Mr Putin said: "He seemed to me very independent, very serious but at the same time a boy is always a vulnerable. He was very sweet. I'll be honest, I felt an urge to squeeze him like a kitten and that led to the gesture that I made."
— By arrangement with The Independent, London

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Polish PM resigns

Warsaw, July 10
Polish Prime Minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz today formally submitted his expected resignation paving the way for his party boss, conservative leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski, to take over.

Jaroslaw's twin brother Lech, Poland's President, is due to accept the resignation and appoint his brother as the next Prime Minister later today.

The prospect of identical twins running a European Union member Poland has raised eyebrows at home and abroad. — Reuters

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Chechen warlord Basayev killed

Moscow, July 10
Chechen rebel leader Shamil Basayev, the most wanted man in Russia who claimed responsibility for the Beslan school hostage massacre and was blamed for many other attacks, has been killed, Russian news agencies said today, quoting the FSB security service.

Basayev was killed in an operation last night by Russian special forces in the southern Russian province of Ingushetia in the volatile North Cauasus bordering Chechnya, where Russia is engaged in its second war against Chechen rebels for the past 11 years. — AFP

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40 insurgents killed

Kabul, July 10
US and Afghan government forces today attacked an insurgent stronghold in the southern province of Uruzga, killing more than 40 of them, the US military said.

US-led troops have mounted big offensives in Afghanistan’s south and east over recent weeks in response to the most intense phase of Taliban violence since the hardline Islamists were ousted in 2001.

“Afghan national security forces and coalition troops conducted a raid on a known extremist compound, killing more than 40 extremists,” the US military said in a statement.

The US military said there were no reports of civilian casualties. — Reuters

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