Saturday, October 20, 2001, Chandigarh, India





THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
W O R L D


Ex-king ready to take Taliban moderates in unity govt
Supreme council in three weeks: Gailani
Rome, October 19
The ex-king of Afghanistan has agreed moderates in the Taliban should play a role in the next government, a senior Afghan exile said after striking a deal with the elderly former monarch.
Sayed Ahmad Gailani (centre) , an Afghan spiritual leader, talks with Gen Abdul Wali (left), a top aide and son-in-law of the Afghan ex-king Zahir Shah in Rome. — AFP photo

Airstrikes: Rift between rulers, ruled widens  in Arab world
London
Each day of American bombing of Afghanistan is raising the temperature in the Arab and Muslim world. The gap is widening between the rulers, who have joined President George Bush’s war on terrorism, and the ruled, who are incensed by Washington’s military strikes against a poor and defenceless Muslim state.

Post-coup sanctions against Pak to stay
Washington, October 19
The USA has refused to lift sanctions enforced on Pakistan after the 1999 coup that brought General Pervez Musharraf to power until “full democracy” is restored in the country.



EARLIER STORIES

  Jiang backs Bush on steps against Al-Qaida
Shanghai, October 19
US President George W. Bush said today he was confident that Beijing would stand “side by side with the American people” during the US military strikes on Afghanistan. But Chinese President Jiang Zemin cautioned the USA to “avoid innocent casualties.”

Chinese President Jiang Zemin (right) waves as U.S. President George W. Bush looks on after their joint press conference at the Western Guest House in Shanghai on Friday. — Reuters photo


An assistant to veteran CBS News anchor Dan Rather has tested positive for skin anthrax in New York.
(28k, 56k)

British aid minister Clare Short visited a World Food Programme warehouse in Peshawar.
(28k, 56k)

Jehadis to step up J&K offensive
Lahore, October 19
Islamic jehadi groups have decided to step up their offensive in Jammu and Kashmir, distancing from the US military onslaught on Afghanistan, reports Online news agency.

Laden aide dies in grenade blast
Islamabad, October 19
An aide to Saudi-born militant Osama bin Laden has been killed in Afghanistan when a grenade exploded in his hands, and did not die in a US bomb attack, Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press said today.

Six die in Israeli attacks
Jerusalem, October 19
The Israeli-Palestinian violence surged and seven persons were killed in the bloody aftermath of the assassination of a far-right Israeli Cabinet Minister.

Indonesian Muslims march around the main roundabout in central Jakarta on Friday during a protest against the U.S.-led strikes. — Reuters photo 


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Ex-king ready to take Taliban moderates in unity govt
Supreme council in three weeks: Gailani

Rome, October 19
The ex-king of Afghanistan has agreed moderates in the Taliban should play a role in the next government, a senior Afghan exile said after striking a deal with the elderly former monarch.

The inclusion of Taliban elements in the planned administration could cause strife within the coalition former King Mohammad Zahir Shah is seeking to establish, but is seen as vital to winning the support of top regional power, Pakistan.

Sayed Ahmad Gailani, a leading Afghan religious figure who lives in exile in Pakistan, flew to Rome for talks with Zahir Shah earlier this week and to argue the case for linking up with moderate Taliban leaders.

“We have met the former king and we have reached a total agreement,” Gailani told Reuters television.

“To let moderates in Taliban inside Afghanistan's future government has always been our position and the former king has agreed with us,” he added.

The 87-year-old Zahir Shah, seen as a father figure by many Afghans, is battling against time to build a broad-based coalition that would be ready to seize power should the Taliban crumble in the face of the US-led bombing onslaught.

His main partners to date are the Taliban’s most tenacious foe, the Northern Alliance. Reports have suggested that its leadership does not want any Taliban in a future government.

However, Pakistan has demanded a role for those viewed as moderates in the hardline movement to counter the weight of the Northern Alliance, whom it deeply mistrusts because of the group’s support from India, Russia and Iran.

The USA earlier this week backed the Pakistan position, while Russia said it was firmly opposed to opening the new leadership to Taliban members.

Controversially, Gailani said he thought most of the Taliban could be considered moderates, saying the only militants were foreigners such as Saudi-born Osama bin Laden, prime suspect behind last month’s attacks on US cities, who is living in Afghanistan as a guest of the Taliban.

“All Afghans, even those who are with the Taliban, are moderate but the terrorists inside the Taliban, who come from all over the world,....they are the extremists,” he pointed out.

The issue of the future role of the Taliban risks delaying efforts to take advantage of the US air strikes on Afghanistan and set up a credible government of national unity.

Gailani, who was the head of a former Mujahideen party during the war of resistance to the 1979-89 Soviet occupation, said he hoped the ex-king’s call to create a stop-gap supreme council would soon bear fruit.

“We are going to try to organise the council as soon as possible. We’ll try to do it inside Afghanistan. It’s not possible to do it right now: It will take another two or three weeks,” he said.

Diplomats have complained about the slow pace of planning for a post-Taliban leadership and members of the king’s own entourage say in private unless the Afghan parties make a move soon they will “miss the boat”.

Leading Afghan exiles had scheduled to hold a major strategy session in Pakistan on Sunday, but delayed the meeting until next Wednesday to give Gailani time to return from Rome.

Gailani’s son and adviser, Sayed Mohammad Gailani, told newsmen he understood the need for urgency. “We should not lose the momentum. We very much understand the pressure of time,” he said.

“It’s an opportunity and we should grab it and make the most of it. That’s what we are telling the (the ex-king’s) entourage. We hope they understand and that we can come to a political mechanism as soon as possible,” he added. Reuters

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Airstrikes: Rift between rulers, 
ruled widens  in Arab world
Dilip Hiro

London
Each day of American bombing of Afghanistan is raising the temperature in the Arab and Muslim world. The gap is widening between the rulers, who have joined President George Bush’s war on terrorism, and the ruled, who are incensed by Washington’s military strikes against a poor and defenceless Muslim state.

This is most obvious in Osama bin Laden’s homeland, Saudi Arabia- extraordinarily important in strategic, economic and religious terms. It occupies four-fifths of the highly strategic Arabian peninsula and shares borders with Jordan, Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

With 262 billion barrels of proven oil reserves, Saudi Arabia possesses a quarter of the global total, the highest in the world, and more than twice that of the next country down the list, Iraq.

Last year the Saudi oil production was 9.1 million barrels per day (bpd), ahead of America’s 7.7m. According to the latest BP Statistical Review of World Energy, at the present rate of extraction Saudi oil reserves will last more than 100 years, while those of the USA less than 10.

Unsurprisingly, last year the USA imported foreign oil to meet 57 per cent of its needs, nearly double the figure in 1983. And Saudi Arabia topped the list of foreign suppliers.

In the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries, Saudi Arabia is the No. 1 oil exporter. It is able to control the price of oil, a commodity on which the health of Western economies depends. Historically, when oil prices reach record highs, recession in Western economies follows 12 to 18 months later. With oil prices reaching a peak in August 2000, we are now entering a recessionary period.

On top of that, Saudi Arabia has Islam’s first and second holiest shrines in Mecca and Medina - the birth and death places of the Prophet Mohammad — the former being the site of the Kaaba, containing the sacred Black Stone, and the latter the mosque with the Prophet’s tomb.

“What many people overlook or don’t know is that Saudi Arabia is not an ordinary Islamic country,” said Wahid bin Zagar, head of an affluent merchant family of Jeddah. `It is the heartland of all Islamic countries.’ Little wonder that Saudi Arabia has emerged as the coveted prize being fought over by the USA and its radical Islamist foes in the region. This fight is being conducted in an environment of rising anger in the Arab and Muslim world — from Indonesia, where the US embassy has been shut, to North Africa via the Gulf monarchies.

An increasing number of Arabs are airing their anti-American views publicly and, shedding their fear of the local secret police, identifying themselves. “The Americans say their target is bin Laden, and then they strike at innocent people in Afghanistan who have nothing to do with terrorism,” said Samar al-Naji, a bank clerk in Amman. “They strike Muslims while ignoring the acts of Israel, a terrorist state, which is demolishing Palestinian homes and killing women and children.”

In the words of an attorney in Riyadh: “No one likes US policies, and young people see bin Laden as a hero because he is the underdog confronting the [sole] superpower.” Indeed, many Saudis, young and old, are calling Bin Laden a modern-day version of Saladin, who retook Jerusalem from the Crusaders.

Regrettably for America, Bin Laden is in a win-win situation. Those who know him say he has a large, loyal bodyguard and that he will never surrender. If he is killed, he will become a great martyr — paralleling Che Guevara in the secular world.

A BBC correspondent found “mild-mannered men” in the backstreet corner shops of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia’s largest port city, agreeing with his claim that the West was persecuting Muslims, and referring to Iraq as “a once proud nation pummelled by air raids and reduced to poverty by Western-backed sanctions”. Ordinary Saudis allude to the number of Iraqi children — estimated in WHO and Unicef reports at between 500,000 and one million — who have died following 11 years of sanctions, a fact that has hardly impinged on the Western psyche.

Then there are facts about the life and deeds of 44-year-old bin Laden, born into a family in Jeddah whose business assets amount to $ 5 billion. The way many Saudis see it is that, for the sake of Islam, he abandoned his affluent lifestyle at home for a peripatetic existence in the caves of Afghanistan to participate in the anti-Soviet “jehad.” This has turned him into cult hero among young Saudis. In a country where half of the 14 million nationals are under 18, this is a sign that the autocratic monarchy can ignore at its own peril.

Between the early 1980s — when Saudi Arabia’s per capita annual income was on a par with the USA s $ 28,000 — and now, the figure has fallen below US dollars 7,000. With young educated Saudi nationals struggling to find jobs, there is growing resentment at the dissolute ways of the members of the royal family, put at 30,000 at the last count. So when bin Laden and his associates attack the royals for siphoning off the oil riches of the country, and investing their huge fortunes in US stock markets and real estate in the USA and Europe, their words fall on receptive ears.

But, alarmingly for Washington, bin Laden has support also among rich Saudi commoners, some of whom contributed generously to the anti-Soviet “jehad in the 1980s through him. Most of them have continued to back his Al-Qaida movement as a hedge against the overthrow of the Saudi monarchy. It government’s inclusion on Friday of Yassin al-Qadi, a Saudi businessman and investor, in the list of those who support terrorism indicates that Washington is alert to the above fact. It alleged that al-Qadi has run a foundation whose trustees have included some of the kingdom’s most prominent families and which has funnelled millions of dollars from Saudi businesses to bin Laden.

The second plank of Bin Laden’s attack on the House of Saud is that the personal behaviour and lifestyle of many senior royals are un-Islamic. They gamble, and consume alcohol at home and abroad. They are, in Bin Laden’s terminology, “hypocrites”— those who claim to be proper Muslims but are not. As the royal house has traditionally worked in tandem with the religious establishment of the Wahhabi sub-sect of Islam, it has always managed to obtain from the 20-strong Council of Senior Ulema, any fatwa — religious decree — it wanted.

On the eve of the 1991 Gulf War, for instance, the council issued a fatwa saying that it was legitimate for the Saudi ruler to invite non-Muslim troops to help defend the kingdom.

Now, however, on the issue of the use of Saudi soil for the staging of US air strikes against Afghanistan, the ruler has not sought any fatwa from the council. Yet that did not stop the Grand Mufti of Mecca, the holiest city of Islam that is barred to non-Muslims, from declaring that “this issue [of terrorism] calls for new policies, not new wars”.

In the final analysis, the current battle in Afghanistan is about the future of Saudi Arabia — who administers it and how. The Observer, London

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Post-coup sanctions against Pak to stay

Washington, October 19
The USA has refused to lift sanctions enforced on Pakistan after the 1999 coup that brought General Pervez Musharraf to power until “full democracy” is restored in the country.

“We have been quite clear in stating the importance we place in the return of full democracy in Pakistan. I think it is a message that Secretary (Colin) Powell took with him in his meetings there (Islamabad),” State Department deputy spokesman Philip Reeker told reporters yesterday.

“I think at the time when President Musharraf announced certain steps and announced a road map back to elections and democracy, we welcomed that. We will be watching that very closely.

“And in fact there are sanctions which we are unable to lift, which we cannot change until those democratic steps are taken. So we will be watching that very closely,” he said.

Pakistan, against whom some of the sanctions were lifted after it pledged support to the US-led war against terrorism, is trying hard to get all embargoes removed against it.

Stating that Islamabad has been “an exceedingly strong partner in our coalition against terrorism”, Mr Reeker said it was in the interest of the USA to pursue measures designed to make Pakistan a stronger partner.

Washington understood the “difficult” decisions that Mr Musharraf had to take, and “we think he has taken the right decisions,” the deputy spokesman said. PTI
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Jiang backs Bush on steps against Al-Qaida

Shanghai, October 19
US President George W. Bush said today he was confident that Beijing would stand “side by side with the American people” during the US military strikes on Afghanistan. But Chinese President Jiang Zemin cautioned the USA to “avoid innocent casualties.”

After his first meeting with Mr Jiang, Mr Bush told reporters he was satisfied with Chinese cooperation on intelligence gathering and pursuing financial assets of the Al-Qaida organisation and its founder, Osama bin Laden.

The two leaders met on the eve of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit .

At the start of their one-on-one meeting, Mr Bush told Mr Jiang: “You are President of a great nation. It’s important for us to get to know each other.”

Some nations gathering for the APEC summit said they hoped the US attacks would end soon, exposing a possible split with Mr Bush who says the strikes could last one or two years.

Beijing’s leaders are reluctant to back military intervention in other nations, concerned about setting a precedent for outside action over China’s own restive regions of Tibet and Xinjiang.

Mr Bush claimed that APEC group members were “near unanimous” in their support for the US-led war on terrorism.

During a photo-taking session before a meeting with South Korean President Kim Dae-Jung, Mr Bush was asked why a planned APEC anti-terrorism declaration did not mention Afghanistan or Osama bin Laden. “I believe the APEC nations fully understand that not only terrorists should be brought to justice but those who harbour terrorists should be brought to justice as well,” Mr Bush said. AP, Reuters

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Jehadis to step up J&K offensive

Lahore, October 19
Islamic jehadi groups have decided to step up their offensive in Jammu and Kashmir, distancing from the US military onslaught on Afghanistan, reports Online news agency.

All jehadi groups in Pakistan, including those of the Pakistan-Afghan Defence Council (ADC), have reached a consensus on this issue, “in view of the fresh spurt of heavy offensive by Indian forces on the Pakistan-India border.”

Online said the decision had been conveyed to the Pakistan government.. “They have decided to limit themselves to giving moral support to Afghan people in the ongoing military strikes by the US-led forces,” it said.

The sources said the decision had been taken in the backdrop of imposition of a ban by the USA on jehadi organisations involved in protests.

“They feared that their sustained support to Afghanistan might invite a ban on more jehadi groups engaged in jehad in (Indian) Kashmir which will weaken the freedom movement in Kashmir.” IANS
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Laden aide dies in grenade blast

Islamabad, October 19
An aide to Saudi-born militant Osama bin Laden has been killed in Afghanistan when a grenade exploded in his hands, and did not die in a US bomb attack, Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press said today.

Abu Baseer al-Masri, an Egyptian, died in a Jalalabad hospital on October 13, two days after a grenade that he was holding exploded, causing extensive arm and chest injuries, AIP said. Reuters
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Six die in Israeli attacks

Jerusalem, October 19
The Israeli-Palestinian violence surged and seven persons were killed in the bloody aftermath of the assassination of a far-right Israeli Cabinet Minister.

The bloodshed yesterday and threats by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of tougher retribution could deal another blow to the US-led peace efforts that Washington had hoped could boost Arab support for its offensive in Afghanistan.

Three Palestinians, including Atef Abayat, a militant on Israel’s most-wanted list, were killed in a blast that tore through a car in the West Bank city of Bethlehem.

Israel said Abayat was responsible for the deaths of five Israelis and suggested he was preparing a car bomb that detonated prematurely.

After the explosion, gunmen in the Bethlehem suburb of Beit Jala fired at Gilo.

Straining an increasingly brittle ceasefire further, Palestinian gunmen killed an Israeli civilian and wounded two near the West Bank city of Jericho.

Earlier, a 10-year-old Palestinian girl and two Palestinian policemen died during fighting that ensued after Israeli tanks and infantry rumbled into Palestinian-controlled parts of three West Bank cities — Nablus, Jenin and Ramallah.

Prime Minister Sharon threatened even tougher action in response to the assassination of ultranationalist Tourism Minister Rehavam Zeevi by gunmen from the radical Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

The Palestinian police acting on Mr Arafat’s orders arrested five PFLP members, but Palestinian officials, who had previously refused to turn over militants wanted by Israel, showed no signs of bowing to the latest Israeli demands.

The US State Department, said both sides should avoid steps that could inflame the situation and complicate measures to achieve calm.

It also called on Mr Arafat to arrest the killers and bring them to justice, but side-stepped a dispute between Israel and the Palestinians over where a trial should take place. Reuters
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