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Pak floats new ideas on J&K
ISLAMABAD, May 9 — In a marked departure from its traditional stance, Pakistan has suggested that either a district-wise referendum be held in Kashmir to allow Kashmiris to choose between India and Pakistan or the state be declared an autonomous region.

No CTBT signing before poll: Cong
NEW YORK, May 9 — There is no chance that the Congress party would support signing of the CTBT before the coming Lok Sabha elections, the party has said.

French Govt shaky after Corsica attack
PARIS, May 9 — Socialist government in France headed by Lionel Jospin came under fire from Conservatives today after a government representative and senior officials were implicated in an attack on a restaurant in the Corsica Island.
A Serbian-American woman carries a poster of President Clinton
LOS ANGELES: A Serbian-American woman carries a poster of President Clinton outside the Federal Building in the Westwood area of Los Angeles during a protest against the NATO bombing in Yugoslavia, on Saturday. Over a hundred people protested NATO's bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade. — AP/PTI


Peace accord yet to be refined
T
he blueprint for a Balkan peace agreed in Bonn on Friday is still to be fleshed out and there remain huge gaps to be bridged between the West and Russia, particularly over the issue at the heart of the package: the international military force for Kosovo.
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Shattered, she lives in silent shame
ALGIERS, May 9 — In another world, Aicha Otemane might be hailed as a heroine. Here, she is among the banished. More than 15 months after escaping from Islamic insurgents who kidnapped her, raped her and kept her as a slave, she still lives in a nightmare.

Dirk Bogarde dead
LONDON, May 9 — British actor Sir Dirk Bogarde has died at the age of 78, his brother announced.

Maoists kill 2
KATHMANDU, May — Suspected Maoist rebels opposing Nepal’s constitutional monarchy shot and killed two soldiers in a remote Himalayan district, reports said today.

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Pak floats new ideas on J&K

ISLAMABAD, May 9 (PTI) — In a marked departure from its traditional stance, Pakistan has suggested that either a district-wise referendum be held in Kashmir to allow Kashmiris to choose between India and Pakistan or the state be declared an autonomous region.

Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz floated these new ideas on resolving the 52-year-old issue that has bedevilled bilateral ties during talks here yesterday with a 13-member team from West Bengal led by State Assembly Speaker Hashim Abdul Haleem.

The Pakistani side repeatedly told the team of Bengal industrialists and intellectuals, which called on Premier Sharif and Mr Aziz, that the Kashmir issue needed to be resolved for friendly ties between the two countries, said Mr Haleem.

Mr Haleem said that Mr Aziz, reading from a prepared note, suggested that either a referendum be held in Kashmir on a district-wise basis allowing each district to choose between India and Pakistan or the state be made an autonomous region to be financed by both nations.

Both proposals are a marked departure from Pakistan’s stand that the people of Kashmir be allowed to exercise their right of self-determination as per the UN Security Council resolutions and that the entire region should go to either Pakistan or India on the basis of the wishes of the people.

Significantly, only last week President Mandela during his visit to Pakistan had rejected the idea of mediating between the two countries saying that their political leadership would have to settle it “themselves”.

Mr Aziz also said the Kashmir issue could not be set aside and would have to be resolved first for the normalisation of ties.

India has consistently ruled out any third party mediation on Kashmir, saying that it was purely a bilateral issue and terms the UN resolutions on the state as “outdated”. It also accuses Pakistan of abetting militancy in the state.

Speaking to the team, Mr Sharif said both countries should work for a solution to the Kashmir issue. “We have to address the core issue of Kashmir with a view to resolving this dispute through dialogue and peaceful means,” he said.

“We look forward to a stable government in New Delhi,” Mr Sharif said expressing the hope that a stable government in New Delhi would help make positive moves towards resolving the issue.

After members of the delegation drew Mr Sharif’s attention to some visa problems, he instantly issued instructions to officials to sort them out without waiting for any reciprocal move by New Delhi.Top

 

No CTBT signing before poll: Cong

NEW YORK, May 9 (PTI) — There is no chance that the Congress party would support signing of the CTBT before the coming Lok Sabha elections, party’s chief foreign policy spokesman K. Natwar Singh has said.

The party would not give up its demand that five nuclear-weapon power states agree to nuclear disarmament within a time frame, he told The New York Times, adding that the Vajpayee Government had not kept the Opposition well informed about the details of its talks with the USA on nuclear issues.

In another interview with the paper on Wednesday, Mr Natwar Singh was a “little less categorical”, but he still insisted that the Congress party was unlikely to support the decision if the campaign turned “vicious and personalised,” the paper said.

The USA would like India and Pakistan to sign the treaty by September when a conference of signatories to review the treaty begins.

He said the Congress was not willing to give up its demand that the USA and other major nuclear weapon powers agree to take steps towards nuclear disarmament within a defined timeframe.

Only then, he said, would India agree to sign the comprehensive test ban treaty.

“Why should we drop it? They can go on having more and more sophisticated experiments in their nuclear labs and there are enough loopholes in the CTBT for the five nuclear powers to do so,” he said.

The five also permanent members of the Security Council are the USA, Russia, France, Britain and China.

However, the US Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia, Mr Karl F. Inderfurth, was quoted by the media as saying the USA still hoped the Vajpayee Government and the Congress party would find a common ground on the treaty before the elections.

“We recognise the difficulty of moving forward with the CTBT between now and the elections but we would hope the caretaker government and the opposition would continue to see if steps could be taken,” he said.

A senior state department official was quoted as saying that he hoped the progress made in building closer ties between the USA and India did not also get lost in India’s political turmoil.Top

 

Peace accord yet to be refined

The blueprint for a Balkan peace agreed in Bonn on Friday is still to be fleshed out and there remain huge gaps to be bridged between the West and Russia, particularly over the issue at the heart of the package: the international military force for Kosovo.

All signs were that the agreement on “the civil and security” presence for Kosovo would stand or fall on the negotiations over the command, control, and composition of the international force, with Russia resisting US and British insistence on an effective lead role for NATO.

More than six weeks into the war, yesterday was the first time that Russia and the West agreed on a common line on Kosovo that included the use of outside armed forces to coerce and police a settlement.

But the accord is yet to be refined and there are many stumbling blocks ahead before the Kosovo war can end.

If it works, it will be a diplomatic triumph for Mr Joschka Fischer, the leader of the Greens, who became the German Foreign Minister seven months ago.

Since Mr Fischer tabled his six-point peace plan on Kosovo three weeks ago, there have been frantic diplomatic efforts from Bonn to narrow the gap between the Russians and the Americans.

The German Chancellor, Gerhard Schroder, alarmed at domestic opposition to the bombing campaign and its implications for the stability of his coalition of Social Democrats and the Greens, has exploited the German presidency of the European Union and G7 group of industrialised countries to draw the Russians into the peace process.

His predecessor, Mr Helmut Kohl, has been using his strong relationship with President Boris Yeltsin to keep channels open to Russia and there has been a flurry of shuttle diplomacy between Moscow and Bonn.

The result was yesterday’s agreement. At the very least, this will provide valuable breathing space for Western leaders.

British officials said the force was now likely to require some 40,000 men rather than the 28,000 envisaged under the Rambouillet accords of February.

Yesterday’s G-8 statement of “agreed principles” deliberately made no explicit mention of a role for the alliance, though member-governments are insisting that the forces’ core and command must be in NATO hands to create confidence among returning ethnic Albanian refugees.

But the qualifying phrases “effective” and “capable” were intended to signal a central role for NATO, with troops from Russia, Ukraine and elsewhere expected to join a force modelled on Bosnia’s S-For (“stabilisation force).

But playing down NATO’s role was a small price to pay to bring Moscow into the fold, and sending Slobodan Milosevic further into international isolation.

“We don’t need to fly a NATO flag from every lamp-post,” said one NATO minister. “This is not an election.”

— The Guardian, LondonTop

 

French Govt shaky after Corsica attack

PARIS, May 9 (PTI) — Socialist government in France headed by Lionel Jospin came under fire from Conservatives today after a government representative and senior officials were implicated in an attack on a restaurant in the Corsica Island.

The fifth republic was shocked to hear that the Prefect, senior most government official, and chief of the para-military in Corsica were allegedly involved in the recent burning down of “Chez Francis”, an illegally built restaurant near Ajaccio, the island’s capital.

“The authority of the state and principles of the republic have been held up to ridicule in Corsica. This is unacceptable,” President Jacques Chirac told the weekly Cabinet meeting.

Three members of the gendarmerie, a special forces unit countering nationalist-inspired violence in Corsica, allegedly set fire to the restaurant, where nationalists usually met. But the undercover operation was so ill-planned with one of the commandos getting injured and leaving his belongings before escaping from the area.Top

 

Shattered, she lives in silent shame

ALGIERS, May 9 (AP) — In another world, Aicha Otemane might be hailed as a heroine. Here, she is among the banished.

More than 15 months after escaping from Islamic insurgents who kidnapped her, raped her and kept her as a slave, she still lives in a nightmare. Her honour is tarnished. Her home life lies shattered, her future uncertain.

“I had the impression that I was dead and that I was brought to life again in another world, where I hurt a lot,’’ she says.

Abducting women during attacks is a common practice of the Islamic radicals whose seven-year insurgency has led to at least 75,000 deaths.

Ms Salima Tlemcani, a reporter for the newspaper El Watan who has studied the plight of such women, said more than 3,300 women were kidnapped between 1992 and July 1998.

The number of those who escaped remains a mystery, even more so the number of babies born to them.

These kidnappings have affected the whole north of Algeria,’’ said Ms Cherifa Bouada, a psychologist who works with victims of the violence, including escapees. “These are invisible things. The girl hides it, the family hides it, the state hides it,’’ she says.

Aicha, a 44-year-old mother of eight, is among the rare survivors who have spoken publicly about their ordeals.

Kidnapped in December 1997, she escaped on her own after about three weeks and did not become pregnant from the nights of rape, she said she endured in her captors’ mountain hideout. Still, she is shunned for carrying the stigma of rape, and for identifying former villagers who had joined the insurgency and were among her captors.

Speaking in Arabic through a translator, Aicha recounted a twisted drama that hints at the complex links between insurgents and their victims and illustrates the plight of isolated and unprotected peasants.

Her husband already was in prison for giving vegetables normally sold at market to insurgents. She claimed he did so to buy protection for his family, not an uncommon practice.

Aicha, from Hamam Righa in the Chlef region, between Algiers and the western city of Oran, was grazing sheep when attacked by a gang of 11 men armed with sabers, AK-47s and hunting rifles. They took some sheep and grabbed her as she tried to flee, then led her on a daylong trek to their mountain hideout.

At the encampment, run by a man known as Emir Abdelmalek, Aicha quickly realised her captors included some men from her village.

She slept in one of about a dozen small tents with various captors who raped her, sometimes up to three in one night.

With her husband still in jail, she and five of her children left for Algiers, the capital, staying at a centre run by SOS-Women in Distress. The three oldest children were sent to the homes of uncles.

A month ago, Aicha had to move to a state shelter in Birkadem, outside Algiers, which has a three-month limit on her stay.

“The woman pays with her honour and her body. And now... she is ignored by the entire society,’’ said Ms Cherifa Kheddar, president of our Algeria, a victims’ help group.

The former Director of the SOS-Women in Distress centre, Ms, Nadia Siamer, recounted the story of a young woman kidnapped near the coastal town of Tipaza and freed by security forces. She gave birth to a baby conceived in captivity, put the infant in an orphanage and “is now in the street,’’ Ms Siamer said.

“That woman didn’t want to return to her parents. They told me, ‘Our daughter is dead’. It is the shame of the village’’, she added.

Aicha strives for normalcy, taking her 12-year-old son to school in Algiers each day by bus and roaming the streets until school ends.Top

 

Dirk Bogarde dead

LONDON, May 9 (Reuters) — British actor Sir Dirk Bogarde has died at the age of 78, his brother announced.

He was one of Britain’s outstanding screen actors with more than 60 films to his credit. Bogarde, once dubbed the “essential Englishman” for his early clean-cut image, won fame first as a romantic heartthrob and then as an art-house figure.

He became one of the few British actors to achieve truly international standing with notable films such as “The Victim”, “The Servant” and “Death in Venice”. Top

 

Maoists kill 2

KATHMANDU, May (Reuters) — Suspected Maoist rebels opposing Nepal’s constitutional monarchy shot and killed two soldiers in a remote Himalayan district, reports said today.

The incident took place on Friday night in Rolpa district, about 450 km west of here, when suspected rebels attacked a security team Guarding ballot boxes from last week’s general election, the Nepali daily Kantipur said.Top

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Global Monitor
  Tories voted back to power
REYKJAVIK: Icelanders voted on Saturday to return Prime Minister David Oddsson’s Conservative Party to power for another four years, according to partial results released early on Sunday. The results, based on a count of more than 25 per cent of votes cast, credited the Conservatives with 40 per cent — 3 per cent more than in 1995. Their rural Centrist coalition partners had won 18.2 per cent — down 5 per cent from the last poll, the results indicated. — AFP

TV show fined $ 25m
WASHINGTON: In a landmark verdict, a Michigan jury has awarded $ 25 million to the family of a gay man murdered by a fellow guest on the Jenny Jones TV show on the ground that the television station was negligent in protecting its guests. The judgement, said The Washington Post quoting “observers”, will have a chilling effect on the format and staging of talk shows and news shows. — PTI

Pathologist dead
PONTE VEDRA BEACH: James J. Humes, the lead pathologist at President John F. Kennedy’s autopsy and a target of conspiracy theorists, has died of lung cancer at age 74. He was chief pathologist at Bethesda Naval Hospital when Kennedy’s body was flown there for an autopsy in 1963. The pathology team concluded Kennedy was killed by two bullets fired from behind, a finding disputed to this day. Humes stood by his work in his most famous case. — AP

Harassment claim
LONDON: Prince Charles has approved a payment of some 50,000 ($80,000) to a former secretary who alleged that one of his top officials sexually and mentally harassed her, The Sunday Times reported. The out-of-court settlement was agreed with Juliet Franks (28), a personal assistant, following claims against Nick Archer, Assistant Private Secretary to the Prince of Wales, it reported. It means the case will not be publicly heard at an employment tribunal at which the Prince might have had to give evidence. — AFP

Scribes beaten up
ZAGREB: Two reporters of an independent Croatian daily were abducted from their hotel rooms and brutally beaten by unknown assailants in the Croat-controlled region in southwestern Bosnia, the paper reported on Saturday. The assailants told reporters Robert Frank and Ronald Brmalj they did not approve of the writing in their paper, Novi List, which is largely critical of Bosnian Croat nationalists. The assailants, who carried guns, beat and kicked the reporters, hit them with stones and burned their ears with cigarettes. — AP

Tipper’s disclosure
WASHINGTON: Ms Tipper Gore, wife of US Vice-President Albert Gore, has disclosed in “USA Today” that she once had treatment for depression some time after her young son recovered from a near-fatal accident. She said on Friday she underwent counselling and took medication for want she described as situational depression. — PTI

Russia pro-West: poll
MOSCOW: A wide majority of Russians think their country is dependent on the West, according to a poll released on Friday. The number has decreased somewhat in recent months as Russia has harshly criticised NATO. A poll conducted by the Independent Public Opinion Fund in January indicated that 75 per cent of Russians thought their government’s policies were excessively influenced by the West. — AP

Rare wine auctioned
NEW YORK: Sixty bottles of the rarest wine in the world were auctioned on Friday for $ 140,000 and putting the two-day auction total at $ 3.4 million. Among the bottles included in the auction were two full cases of Vintage 1945, Chateau Mouton-Rothschild and a case of 1947 Chateau Cheval-Blane. The wines were bought by anonymous bidders. — APTop

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