|Friday, March 10, 2000,
Palestine to resume talks
Lamas bid to use Karmapa
|Talibans woman policy
ISLAMABAD, March 9 UN officials have said that Afghanistans ruling Taliban movement had softened its stringent attitude on womens access to education and health but had not altogether abandoned its hardline stand.
ambushed by gunman
Israel, Palestine to resume talks
JERUSALEM, March 9 (AP) Palestinians and Israelis broke the logjam in the peace talks with major concessions Israelis said yes to deeper US involvement, and Palestinians said yes for now to territory not abutting Jerusalem.
In a telling sign of the renewed US involvement, it was President Bill Clintons top envoy, Dennis Ross, who announced the resumption of talks yesterday, flanked by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
Mr Ross, who announced that peace talks will resume in Washington after the four-day Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday beginning March 16, said the sides were committed to work in the spirit of partnership and mutual confidence.
The accelerated pace aiming for the outline of a permanent agreement by May, and for a full-fledged deal by September 13 was nonetheless fraught with issues that could still sideline an agreement.
The sides are still wide apart on the status of Jerusalem, the future of Jewish settlements and the status of Palestinian refugees.
The Palestinians wanted the withdrawal to include three West Bank suburbs that abutted Jerusalem, a pullback that would enhance his stake in the disputed city. Israel resisted, offering the Palestinians unpopulated patches of land. Mr Arafat said if he could not trust the Israelis on relative minor issues, there was no way he could work with them on the major issues.
Under US pressure, Mr Arafat backed down. Palestinian officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Mr Barak had handed Mr Arafat a map featuring 10 per cent of West Bank, out of which Mr Arafat could choose the 6.1 per cent he wanted. The new map includes populous areas near, but not adjoining, Jerusalem.
Foreign Minister David Levy said the withdrawal would be soon.
Dalai Lamas bid to use Karmapa
BEIJING, March 9 (PTI) China today cautioned New Delhi against attempts by the Dalai Lama to split China by using the 14-year-old Karmapa, who fled to India early this year.
We are firmly opposed to any attempt by any person to use the Karmapa issue to engage in political activities aimed at splitting China, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhu Bangzao told reporters here.
Responding to the Dalai Lamas comments in a television interview that some Indian officials have indicated to him that New Delhi would allow the 17th Karmapa Lama to remain in the country, Mr Zhu said: The Dalai Lama clique and some other forces abroad always wanted to use the 17th Karmapa for their purpose.
However, India has not conveyed any such decision to China, Mr Zhu said.
I dont have any confirmation from the Indian side, Mr Zhu said adding that China has indicated on many occasions to the Indian side that New Delhi should keep in mind the five principles of peaceful co-existence and handle the issue with prudence in the overall interest of bilateral relations.
Exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama had said in a television interview that the Indian Government had informally and unofficially indicated to him that the Karmapa would most probably be allowed to remain in India.
The formal response has not yet come but informally, unofficially, some of my old friends in the Ministry of External Affairs have indicated that the Karmapa will most probably be allowed to remain in this country, he said when asked about the response from the government to Karmapa Lamas request to stay and study in India.
China views the Dalai Lama as a separatist who wants to divide China and has ruled out negotiations with him on the Tibet issue unless he met the Chinese conditions.
Talibans woman policy flexible
ISLAMABAD, March 9 (Reuters) UN officials have said that Afghanistans ruling Taliban movement had softened its stringent attitude on womens access to education and health but had not altogether abandoned its hardline stand.
Acting UN coordinator for Afghanistan Sayed Ahmed Farah, told a news conference on International Womens Day that he saw some flexibility in the Talibans policies towards women, which western critics have dubbed gender apartheid.
Afghan women in areas under Taliban control are largely denied formal education and jobs, except in health, although the Islamic movement says it will provide both when an economy broken by 20 years of war is put back on its feet.
In terms of attitude, in terms of approach, I am not saying there has been a 100 per cent turnaround, he said.
But yes, (we have moved) from a very tough and a difficult period to a much more flexible period, he said.
He said the Taliban had slowly allowed the reopening of some of the girls schools it closed after capturing the capital, Kabul, in 1996 and allowed restricted health facilities to women in what he saw as a positive change of attitude.
Mr Farah said the plight of the Afghan women was better now than it was during the height of the civil war, but the conflict had destroyed infrastructure and the economy and created new hardships in the home.
They (women) daily fight for survival. They must cope with a situation where basic life is precarious, he said referring to the poor living conditions in Afghanistan.
Other UN officials say the Taliban government, recognised only by neighbouring Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, knows it cannot afford sustained international isolation and has somewhat softened its stance on women.
Mr Farah said international isolation would not be in the Talibans self-interest and some concessions on womens issues might have been brought about by that realisation.
Window on Pakistan
US President Bill Clinton has finally given some cause to Pakistan to gloat over. He would be spending a few hours there when he concludes his India visit on March 24. Pakistan has indeed snatched this moment from the jaws of a strong opposition. Its Ambassador in Washington, Ms Maleeha Lodhi, was so happy that she described it as a big victory over India. India had been lobbying hard to see that President Clinton does not visit Pakistan during his South Asian trip. We have defeated that design, she declared.
Opinion in Washington was divided and India too had worked hard to see that the US President did not visit Pakistan to bless a military dictator and a war-monger. It had been insisting that Pakistan should be declared a terrorist state and punished for what it was doing in Jammu and Kashmir. India has naturally expressed its regret over the proposed short visit.
This hype about Mr Clintons visit apart, it was clear even to a casual observer of Americas South Asia policy that President Clinton could not ignore Pakistan. It had never been bothered about the political complexion. Its concern has been its own geopolitical interests.
Washington has important national interests in Pakistan. These need to be safeguarded and the line of communication has to be maintained. An engagement with General Musharraf is a must. This is how State Department officials explained in Washington.
Let facts speak. America had supported Pakistan when it was ruled by General Zia. Pakistan has been a front line state and a strong ally for years. America spent nearly $ six billion on Hikmatyar Gulbuddin and his forces fighting the Russians in Afghanistan. It fathered several Islamic fundamentalist movements in Pakistan and Afghanistan over the years and supplied them both dollars and arms. Again, Pakistan helped the USA mend its fences with China. In one word Pakistan has been a strong ally in its pursuits in South Asia. It could still use Pakistan despite its recent concerns about terrorism.
In fact, as many experts pointed out, India should not have been so much worried about the Clinton visit. It should have been left to President Clinton to decide to go anywhere he wished to. India should have addressed the whole question from a position of strength.
What the American leader is going to discuss with Gen Pervez Musharraf. On March 8, Pakistan television, announcing the proposed visit with much glee, also focused on the issues likely to be raised. One, the visit would put a stamp on the current military rule. Both major political parties, Ms Benazir Bhuttos Pakistan People's Party and ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharifs Muslim League had opposed the visit. But when did the American policy makers worry about democracy anywhere in the world. They have unabashedly been supportive of the dictatorships. May these be in Asia or Africa or anywhere else. So long as the dictators served Americas interests, it did not trouble them. The new ruler of Pakistan knows this very well.
But General Musharraf is seeking more than just a stamp. He would like US economic aid to be released as also the lifting of the sanctions imposed in the wake of its nuclear explosion. Also, as Pakistan TV said clearly, he would press America to play the role of an active mediator in the Kashmir dispute. Pakistan has been trying hard to internationalise the Kashmir question and would like the world to ignore the cross-border terrorism it has been sponsoring. Increased violence in the valley shows all this.
Pakistans Chief Executive would also try to tell the American leader that he has succeed in checking the activities of Islamic fundamentalists, and arms and narcotic smugglers. Already detailed notes are being prepared in Pakistan. General Musharrafs line of argument is that only he could curb such activities if the Americans took keen interest in the subcontinent. The USA could expect some good results provided economic aid was resumed. Also, he was not a war-monger and but a man of peace and democracy and has been forced to take to present course due to his love for the people of Pakistan.
He has argued that grassroot-level democracy is being restored and elections for local self-rule have been ordered. This is at least what the commentators on Pakistan TV have been saying. After all, there could be some meeting ground for both leaders even on Chechnya. That should worry the Russians. Both the USA and Pakistan have blamed the Russian army for the excesses on Chechens. While Pakistan has been supporting those fighting in the name of Islam there the USA has been silent. Compare it with the loud protest by the USA over human rights violations in Chechnya.
But the larger question having far-reaching implications for the sub-continent is : How serious are the Americans about democracy and peace in the region? The Americans have been supporting the Pakistan point of view on Kashmir for years. By and large they still do so. Instability could be a cause for worry for the people living in the region, and not for the super power. It is a power game for Washington.
Four ambushed by gunman
MEMPHIS, Tennessee, March 9 (AP) Firefighters responding to a house fire were ambushed by a gunman who stepped out of the garage and opened fire, authorities said. Four persons were killed and two others wounded.
A sheriffs deputy and two firefighters were shot to death, Fire Inspector Richard Sojourner said yesterday. A woman was found dead in the garage, but it was unclear how she was killed.
A female bystander and the gunman also were wounded, he said. Their injuries were not life-threatening.
Firefighters had been called to the home just before 1 p.m. local time. When they arrived, witnesses said, a man came out of the garage firing a shotgun and shouting, get away! get away!
A sheriffs deputy who responded to a report of the shooting was shot as he pulled up in his patrol car, the authorities said. He crashed his car through the fence.
Memphis police officers
then arrived and tried to get the gunman to put down his
weapon. When he refused, one of our officers got
into a gun battle and the suspect was shot, Police
Director Walker E. Crews said.
Philippine volcano subsiding
MANILA, March 9 (Reuters) Philippine scientists lowered the alert around the Mayon volcano today, saying it appeared to be quietening down, but warned the danger of mudflows from its slopes remained.
The Vulcanology Institute said it had down graded the alert around Mayon in the Central Philippines to level four, meaning it was still restive, from the maximum five, which meant it was in a state of eruption.
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