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THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
W O R L D

Stabilising Iraq
Blair seeks help from Iran, Syria

T ony Blair has urged George Bush to make a dramatic U-turn by drawing Iran and Syria into efforts to bring stability to Iraq and forge a long-term peace in the wider Middle East.

Shots fired at Bangla ECís residence
Dhaka, November 16
Bangladesh Election Commissioner Mahmud Hasan Mansur's residence in the city came under several rounds of gunshots early today, but no one was purportedly hurt.





CHOC-A-BLOCK: Vehicles clog a street in Dhaka after the four-day transport blockade by a 14-party political alliance, aimed at forcing the removal of controversial election officials, was lifted on Thursday. ó Reuters photo
Vehicles clog a street in Dhaka after the four-day transport blockade by a 14-party political alliance, aimed at forcing the removal of controversial election officials, was lifted on Thursday

Musharraf commutes Britonís death sentence
Islamabad, November 16 Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf today commuted the death sentence of a British national in response to appeals by top British leaders, officials said. Mirza Tahir Hussain, 36, from Leeds in northern England, will instead be given a life sentence and could be eligible for release having spent the past 18 years in prison. "President Musharraf has commuted the death sentence of Mirza Tahir Hussain into a sentence of life imprisonment," a senior government official said on condition of anonymity.

Nepal rebels, govt delay inking peace deal
Kathmandu, November 16
Signing of a historic peace accord to end a decade of bloody civil war in Nepal was postponed today as the government and Maoist rebels said they needed more time to finalise the document.


US pop star Michael Jackson performs during the World Music Awards in London on Wednesday
US pop star Michael Jackson performs during the World Music Awards in London on Wednesday. ó Reuters

EARLIER STORIES


A Pakistani nuclear-capable ballistic missile Haff 5 is test-fired at an undisclosed location on Thursday Ghauri test-fired
Islamabad: Pakistan today test-fired a new version of medium-range Ghauri V missile, which is capable of carrying N-weapons. The missile, with a strike range of 1,300 km, was launched from an undisclosed location. ó PTI








A Pakistani nuclear-capable ballistic missile Haff 5 (Gauri) is test-fired at an undisclosed location on Thursday. ó Reuters

 

 

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Stabilising Iraq
Blair seeks help from Iran, Syria
By Andrew Grice and Rupert Cornwell in Washington

Tony Blair has urged George Bush to make a dramatic U-turn by drawing Iran and Syria into efforts to bring stability to Iraq and forge a long-term peace in the wider Middle East.

The Prime Minister joined a clamour in Washington for the US President to drop his hardline approach towards what he regards as two rogue states. In his annual foreign affairs speech to the Lord Mayor's Banquet, Mr Blair offered Iran a "clear strategic choice" - a partnership if it stops supporting terrorism in Lebanon and Iraq and accept its international obligations, or isolation if it does not. His advisers said the same choice applied to Syria.

Mr Blair's spokesman denied his call meant a softening of British policy - London has always been keener than Washington on dialogue with Tehran and Damascus - and said it would not involve concessions to the two nations. But he added that this was a "moment when people are rethinking policy, and the time to articulate a way forward".

Bringing Iran and Syria in from the cold is likely to be one of the key recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, led by James Baker, the former US Secretary of State. It is also backed by Robert Gates, who will take over from Donald Rumsfeld as the US Defence Secretary after the Republicans' drubbing in last week's congressional elections.

MPs believe Mr Blair is seeking to exert leverage on President Bush over the Middle East at a time when he is weakened domestically and the influence of his neo-conservative allies has waned. One Labour source described next month's Study Group report as Mr Bush's "get out of jail card". It is also likely to call for a phased withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq.

But there are signs that the Prime Minister and the President are at odds over Iran and Syria, with Mr Bush declaring that Iran must first halt its nuclear programme. "If Iranians want to have a dialogue, they must verifiably suspend their enrichment activities," he said.

On Monday, Mr Bush met nine of the 10 members of Mr Baker's group. White House officials described the session merely as "a conversation" in which both sides had shared their views, and played down expectations the group might come up with a magic formula to restore stability to Iraq and allow the US to withdraw its troops.

But the pressures on Mr Bush to do precisely that intensified as a leading Democrat in the Senate demanded a change of course. "We must start a phased redeployment of US troops... within four to six months," said Carl Levin, who is set to take over as chairman of the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee. "We cannot save the Iraqis from themselves."

By arrangement with The Independent

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Shots fired at Bangla ECís residence

Dhaka, November 16
Bangladesh Election Commissioner Mahmud Hasan Mansur's residence in the city came under several rounds of gunshots early today, but no one was purportedly hurt.

The police said gunmen fired five rounds from shotguns that struck the sentry box and the wall of his residence at Mohammadpur at about 0530 hours local time.

The Awami League-led 14-party alliance of former Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, has been demanding resignation of Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Justice Aziz and three Election Commissioners for holding free and fair elections.

Despite the widespread demand, the CEC and his colleagues have refused to demit office. Meanwhile, the countryís seaports reopened today and traffic streamed back on highways after the 14-party alliance temporarily lifted a transport blockade aimed at forcing the removal of the controversial election officials. UNI

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Musharraf commutes Britonís death sentence

Islamabad, November 16
Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf today commuted the death sentence of a British national in response to appeals by top British leaders, officials said. Mirza Tahir Hussain, 36, from Leeds in northern England, will instead be given a life sentence and could be eligible for release having spent the past 18 years in prison.

"President Musharraf has commuted the death sentence of Mirza Tahir Hussain into a sentence of life imprisonment," a senior government official said on condition of anonymity.

Britain's Prince Charles had asked that Pakistan commute Hussain's sentence, making a request to President Musharraf while touring Pakistan late last month and writing to Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz.

A spokesman for the British High Commission (embassy) in Islamabad said he had no information on whether Hussain's sentence had been commuted but confirmed that negotiations were going on. AFP

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Nepal rebels, govt delay inking peace deal

Kathmandu, November 16
Signing of a historic peace accord to end a decade of bloody civil war in Nepal was postponed today as the government and Maoist rebels said they needed more time to finalise the document.

Neither side would enter into details about the issues holding up the signing but said these were not major.

"Both sides agreed to extend the deadline as there are some minor issues which need to be addressed properly," said government negotiating team member Pradeep Gyawali.

"There are no major problems," said rebel negotiator Dev Gurung.

A new date for the signing would be set by Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala after consulting Maoist rebel leader Prachanda, the government negotiating team member said.

Prachanda was due to fly to New Delhi from Kathmandu tomorrow to attend a media conference, the first outing stage for the reclusive rebel leader. PTI

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BRIEFLY

Duma against execution of Saddam
MOSCOW
: The lower house of Russian Parliament, Duma, on Wednesday warned that the execution of Saddam Hussein could lead to a further escalation of violence in Iraq. AP

Somalia under flood water
UNITED NATIONS
: Up to one million people in southern Somalia could be directly affected in the river basins by the worst floods there in 50 years, United Nations emergency relief officials have said. PTI

Heart valves from stem cells
CHICAGO
: For the first time, Swiss scientists have grown human heart valves using stem cells from the fluid that cushions babies in the womb - offering a revolutionary approach that may be used to repair defective hearts in the future. AP







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