Thursday, October 25, 2001, Chandigarh, India






National Capital Region--Delhi


THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
W O R L D

Join us, exiled leader’s call to Taliban fence-sitters
* Gailani, Zahir Shah for technocrats’ govt 
* USA told to end attacks
Peshawar, October 24
Afghan exiles searching for an elusive “southern alliance” to help topple the ruling Taliban today urged the USA to stop its bombing and invited Taliban rebels to break ranks and support the return of former King Zahir Shah.

Pir Sayed Ahmad Gailani (left), organiser of the Conference for Peace and National Unity of Afghanistan, speaks to journalists after the meeting in Peshawar on Wednesday. — AFP photo

UN envoy to visit Kabul
United Nations, October 24

The the United Nations’ top envoy for Afghanistan will travel to the region to drum up support for the world body’s post-Taliban plans, beginning apparently with a broad-based government and followed by reconstruction of the war-ravaged country.

‘Rethink’ of anthrax threat needed
Washington, October 24
Some bioterrorism experts said they were surprised to hear that at least four Washington postal workers had the inhaled version of anthrax, now suspected of having killed two of them. Although postal workers say they are angry they were not warned and tested sooner, experts said they would not have predicted that inhaled anthrax was a risk for the men.

Sikh contests New York poll
New York, October 24
At a time when American Sikhs have been targets of hate attacks in the USA, Mr Inderjeet Singh is walking up to American homes here and asking people to vote for him November 6. 



At least fourteen wounded Afghan refugees, including children, have crossed the Chaman border into Pakistan to get better medical care.
(28k, 56k)


EARLIER STORIES
 

UK to cut forces in N. Ireland
Sequel to IRA’s arms destruction
Belfast, October 24
Britain today said the IRA’s decision to start scrapping the arms that have fed a 30-year conflict in Northern Ireland would trigger a cut in its garrison, but renegade guerrillas vowed to resist peace moves. British Prime Minister Tony Blair said the momentous announcement yesterday by the Irish Republican Army would prompt a cut in Britain’s 13,500-strong military presence in the province.

Israelis kill 6 Palestinians
Ramallah (West Bank), Oct 24

Israeli tanks today raided a West Bank village in defiance of a US call for a pullout from Palestinian territory, killing at least six Palestinians. The new bloodshed dealt another blow to Washington’s efforts to end a year of Israeli-Palestinian fighting, which it hopes would bolster Arab support for its campaign in Afghanistan after the attacks on New York and Washington on September 11.
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Join us, exiled leader’s call to Taliban fence-sitters
* Gailani, Zahir Shah for technocrats’ govt 
* USA told to end attacks

Peshawar, October 24
Afghan exiles searching for an elusive “southern alliance” to help topple the ruling Taliban today urged the USA to stop its bombing and invited Taliban rebels to break ranks and support the return of former King Zahir Shah.

Sayed Ahmad Gailani, a religious leader convening a major strategy session in this Pakistani frontier city, told about 800 exiles that the US-led military campaign was killing innocent civilians at a time when Afghanistan needed reconstruction after two decades of civil war.

“Afghanistan dangles between life and death,” Gailani told the religious, political, tribal and military leaders at the start of the two-day meeting, the largest of pro-king forces till now.

“Efforts should be made to stop the military operations and start work on the reconstruction of the country as early as possible,” he said in Pashto, the language of the country’s dominate ethnic group and most exiles at the meeting.

Dissenters among the Taliban could provide “significant and fruitful” help in the transition to a broad-based government, he said.

Urging Taliban dissidents to switch sides, he said: “Those among the Taliban who agree with our ideas about peace and a broad-based government should start the task (of rallying to the ex-king) immediately.”

Gailani, who wore a gold-trimmed black Arabic robe recalling his Sufi religious dynasty’s origins in Iraq, said he and Zahir Shah had agreed that a caretaker government of technocrats under the ex-king should take over from the Taliban and start drafting an Islamic constitution for the country. It should also plan a Loya Jirga (grand assembly) to choose new leaders.

“During the period of the interim government, a UN security force organised from Islamic countries should be deployed in different parts of the country, especially in big cities, to maintain law and order,” he said.

The USA has expressed wariness about rushing foreign troops to Kabul before a new leadership emerges. With the exception of Turkey, no country has come forward to offer troops for an international force.

During his 10-minute speech, Gailani made no mention of the Northern Alliance, a grouping of mostly ethnic minority forces that have been fighting the Taliban since the fundamentalist movement threw them out of Kabul in 1996.

The Pakistani-backed Pashtun tribes from south of the Hindu Kush mountains that divide the poverty-stricken country have yet to unite into an analogous “southern alliance” to challenge the Taliban effectively there.

The Pashtuns, who deeply distrust the Northern Alliance, have banked on mass defections to weaken their fellow Pashtun Taliban from within, but their efforts to win turncoats have not made much progress — at least partly because tribesmen have rallied behind the Taliban against the foreign attacks.

Although Gailani is close to the former king, the ex-monarch apparently sent no representatives to the meeting despite the fact one of his closest aides, Hedayat Amin Arsala, was in Pakistan last week.

“Arsala went back to Rome and I have no information about any other representatives attending,” a Gailani aide said as he searched for a familiar face from the ex-king’s entourage among the turbans and white-bearded men packing the theatre where the meeting was held.

Despite the conference goal of unity, splits emerged as leaders criticised the ex-king’s plan to divide the proposed 120-man caretaker government equally among his entourage and the Northern Alliance.

Wakil Akbarzai, a Gailani ally, said the deal “doesn’t smell right” and this meeting should send the ex-king a message saying: “We appreciate what you did at your end, but here we are making it more representative.”

The Northern Alliance took the diplomatic step of sending as its representative Abdul Hadi Shinwari, a Pashtun cleric from near Jalalabad who once ran a madarsa (religious school) in Pakistan.

Rahmatullah Musaghazi, acting head of the party of religious leader Sibghatullah Mojededdi, said his group wanted to expand the transition team to 200 or 300 to include more diverse groups.

“This war is getting nowhere,” he added. “We hope to get to Kabul before Ramazan — the sooner, the better.” Ramazan is due from November 17. Reuters
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UN envoy to visit Kabul

United Nations, October 24
The the United Nations’ top envoy for Afghanistan will travel to the region to drum up support for the world body’s post-Taliban plans, beginning apparently with a broad-based government and followed by reconstruction of the war-ravaged country.

UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi is travelling to Afghanistan this weekend to forge a consensus among various warring Afghan factions for a “homegrown” solution to the crisis.

Mr Brahimi, who had detailed discussions with the un and American officials and the Security Council, intends to visit all the neighbouring countries and talk with as many Afghan parties as possible.

“What we need in terms of political dispensation for Afghanistan is a genuinely homegrown Afghan movement,” he told reporters after a meeting with the council on Monday.

The United Nations is, however, tight-lipped about its plans for Afghanistan but the indications are that Afghans would be involved right from beginning so that they do not get the impression that something is being imposed on them.

Exiled Afghan King Mohammad Zaher Shah too is holding discussions with various parties and plans to travel to Turkey to meet with representatives of the Northern Alliance opposed to Taliban to discuss the future political framework of the administration in Afghanistan.

Though the UN has begun efforts, diplomats say that in the final solution, the USA would have a major say.

Mr Brahimi opposes the world body or even Muslim countries deploying peacekeepers or administrations immediately after the military campaign ends and would like Afghans themselves to decide what exactly should be done. PTI
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Rethink’ of anthrax threat needed


The Justice Department released on Tuesday this picture of the anthrax-laced letter sent to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle in Washington. 
— Reuters photo

Washington, October 24
Some bioterrorism experts said they were surprised to hear that at least four Washington postal workers had the inhaled version of anthrax, now suspected of having killed two of them.

Although postal workers say they are angry they were not warned and tested sooner, experts said they would not have predicted that inhaled anthrax was a risk for the men.

The problem, they say, is more serious than anyone thought at first and should be forcing health officials to re-think how they respond to reports of a letter laced with anthrax.

Mr C.J. Peters, head of a new bioterrorism center at the University of Texas, said he would have predicted, as the CDC and postal officials did, that workers might be at risk of an anthrax skin infection.

Mr Peters, who also once worked with US Army biological weapons experts, said he would not have predicted that anthrax spores could get out of a letter and into a person’s lungs, where they cause an especially deadly and hard-to-diagnose form of disease.

“What this is telling us is that this stuff is either extra easy to get up in the air or it is in extremely small particles,’’ Mr Peters said.

“I would predict that the stuff could get out of an envelope. But I would not have predicted that the stuff that went into the envelope would be of the size to cause inhalational anthrax.’’ Processing the mail could cause spores to puff out of a sealed envelope, he said.

Postal workers at the facility in the northern Washington neighbourhood of Brentwood, which handled the Daschle letter and where the latest four victims worked, said they were angry they were not warned of the danger. Reuters
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Sikh contests New York poll
Sanjay Suri

New York, October 24
At a time when American Sikhs have been targets of hate attacks in the USA, Mr Inderjeet Singh is walking up to American homes here and asking people to vote for him November 6.

He is the first American Sikh to contest an election in New York. And he couldn’t have chosen a hotter time for it. He believes he will win. Not many others think so, but that’s not stopping him from giving it a shot.

He is no frightened Sikh. He goes campaigning wearing a bright red turban, and where he spots an Indian — there aren’t that many in his constituency — he breaks into Punjabi to make a point.

Mr Inderjeet Singh is fighting to win as a candidate of the Independent Party from Richmond Hill, one of 50 constituencies for the New York Assembly. He faces a fight against Democrat Alan Jennings. The Republicans have not put up a candidate here at all. Mr Inderjeet Singh is claiming support from Rabbi Hecht, an influential Jewish leader from Richmond Hill.

Mr Inderjeet Singh is fighting not just the prejudice ranged against him — he is taking on the whole party system in the USA.

Just about 2,000 of the 40,000 or so voters in his constituency are south Asian. And only a few of them are naturalised Americans as yet. “But they will help me on election day to transport voters and so on.” But as in India, that is not guarantee that a ride accepted means a vote given. IANS
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UK to cut forces in N. Ireland
Sequel to IRA’s arms destruction
Paul Hughes

Belfast, October 24
Britain today said the IRA’s decision to start scrapping the arms that have fed a 30-year conflict in Northern Ireland would trigger a cut in its garrison, but renegade guerrillas vowed to resist peace moves.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair said the momentous announcement yesterday by the Irish Republican Army would prompt a cut in Britain’s 13,500-strong military presence in the province.

“It requires us now to push on with trying to normalise the security situation in Northern Ireland,” Blair said. “It allows us to make moves in that direction, and it allows us to get the political process started.”

Blair also said he thought the IRA’s move had been prompted at least in part by changes in the world brought about by the September 11 attacks on the USA.

US President George W. Bush said the IRA had made “an historic step”, adding: “The people of Northern Ireland are now measurably closer to the lasting peace which they richly deserve.”

He said he hoped other paramilitary groups in the region would follow suit. “This act of decommissioning will, I hope, lead to the full functioning of the political institutions of the Good Friday Agreement,” Mr Bush said. “All leaders should be prepared to intensify their efforts to resolve remaining outstanding issues.”

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Colin Powell and Mr Richard Haass, the US point man for Northern Ireland, met Mr Martin McGuinness, the number two in Sinn Fein, the IRA’s political wing, the State Department said.

The announcement by the IRA, which has been observing a ceasefire since 1997, also put pressure on pro-British Protestant “loyalist” militias to make a reciprocal move.

These have been carrying out more and more acts of violence and the British Government announced this month that it no longer recognised the ceasefire declared in 1994.

One of the main Protestant militias, the Ulster Defence Association (UDA), announced it would not match the IRA disarmament move by handing in any of its own guns.

A spokesman made it clear there were renegade Republican guerrillas who did not plan to lay down their arms. “There are other sections of the Republican army still opposing Britain’s presence on the island (Ireland),” said Joe Dillon of the 32 County Sovereignty Movement, which speaks for the Real IRA. “They (the Real IRA) will no doubt pick up the mantle of the IRA now and continue the challenge to Britain’s occupation,” he told BBC Radio.

While few details of the scrapping of weapons have emerged, the province’s independent disarmament body, led by a retired Canadian General, yesterday said it had witnessed arms, ammunition and explosives being put beyond use.

Pro-British Protestant leader David Trimble is now expected to re-enter the province’s government, under which the Protestant and pro-Irish Catholic communities shared power after the 1998 peace agreement. It had been on the brink of collapse after Trimble led a Protestant walkout over the IRA’s failure to disarm.

Trimble has warmly welcomed the IRA’s move but must still dispel qualms among members of his Ulster Unionist Party to be re-elected as the province’s First Minister next week.

In Belfast, the Unionist newspaper, Newsletter, splashed a picture of a balaclava-clad IRA guerrilla aiming an automatic rifle above the slightly sceptical headline “Farewell to arms?”. Reuters
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Israelis kill 6 Palestinians

Ramallah (West Bank), Oct 24
Israeli tanks today raided a West Bank village in defiance of a US call for a pullout from Palestinian territory, killing at least six Palestinians.

The new bloodshed dealt another blow to Washington’s efforts to end a year of Israeli-Palestinian fighting, which it hopes would bolster Arab support for its campaign in Afghanistan after the attacks on New York and Washington on September 11.

Israeli military officials said the Palestinians had died after the army met strong opposition entering Beit Reema under cover of darkness to root out “terrorists”.

The witnesses said they had seen seven bodies and the Palestinian authority said nine persons had been killed.

The army prevented journalists from entering Beit Reema, which was declared a closed military zone.

Israel launched the operation hours after US President George W. Bush asked it in unusually undiplomatic terms to remove its forces from the Palestinian-ruled territories.

Israel’s broadest military offensive to date against the Palestinian authority began a week ago after Palestinian gunmen shot dead far-right Cabinet Minister Rehavam Zeevi. Reuters
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