Tuesday, December 11, 2001, Chandigarh, India




National Capital Region--Delhi

THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
W O R L D

Lanka Oppn rejects power-sharing offer
Colombo, December 10
Sri Lanka President Chandrika Kumaratunga’s party today rejected an offer of power-sharing in a cohabitation government headed by the former Opposition leader, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.

USA to deport Indian suspect 
September 11 attacks
Washington, December 10
Ayub Ali Khan, one of the two men from Hyderabad, India, who have been held as “material witnesses” in a Brooklyn, New York jail since September attacks, has been ordered to be deported voluntarily.

Al-Qaida stockpiled anthrax
New York, December 10
US operatives in Afghanistan have collected evidence that Al-Qaida, the terror group headed by Osama bin Laden, may have stockpiled anthrax spores in Afghanistan.

Karzai resents Qanooni’s anti-Pak remarks
Islamabad, December 10
The chairman designate of the interim government in Afghanistan Hamid Karzai has taken exception to his Interior Minister Younus Qanooni’s statement in India that Pakistan has been interfering in Afghanistan’s internal affairs.


EARLIER STORIES
 

Zahir Shah to return in March?
Rome December 10
The ex-King of Afghanistan is likely to return home next March after almost 30 years of exile in Italy, the monarch’s grandson Mostapha Zahir has said.“This is not official, but I think March 21 is a good target date. It is the first day of spring. It’s a national holiday in Afghanistan that was banned by the previous regime,” Mostapha said yesterday.
Zahir Shah

Israel rejects truce offer
Jerusalem, December 10
Israel today rejected out of hand a truce offer made by four Palestinian militant groups not to carry out suicide attacks, saying it did not deserve to be taken seriously.
Palestinians search the wreckage of a car after it was hit by Israeli missiles fired from helicopters in the West bank city of Hebron on Monday. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said after the Haifa blast that Israel might step up its strikes against Palestinian militants behind a wave of suicide bombings that have killed 29 Israelis in the past 10 days.
—Reuters
Palestinians search the wreckage of a car

Container deaths being investigated
London/ Waterford, December 10
A major police investigation was under way in the Republic of Ireland after the bodies of six men and two children were found in a cargo container, shortly after it arrived at the port of Waterford on Saturday.

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Lanka Oppn rejects power-sharing offer

Colombo, December 10
Sri Lanka President Chandrika Kumaratunga’s party today rejected an offer of power-sharing in a cohabitation government headed by the former Opposition leader, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.

Ms Kumaratunga’s People’s Alliance (PA), which was defeated at Wednesday’s parliamentary elections, said it would support “the good things” proposed by the new government but turn Cabinet portfolios.

Mr Wickremesinghe, who was sworn in yesterday by his arch rival Ms Kumaratunga, had announced that he was keen on establishing a government of reconciliation by inviting all political parties in Parliament to join the Cabinet.

A spokesman for the PA, which will now sit in the Opposition, said the party was due to hold unity talks with Mr Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP) today but ruled out accepting ministerial positions.

“We will not oppose for the sake of opposing. We will support the good things that they have promised to do, but we will not accept any portfolios,” the PA spokesman Ms Mangala Samaraweera, told reporters here.

Mr Wickremesinghe’s UNP together with its key Muslim ally won 114 seats giving them a slender two-seat majority in the 225-member parliament where the PA was reduced to 77 seats.

The UNP had vowed to press ahead with political talks with Tamil Tiger guerrillas in a bid to end decades of ethnic strife that has claimed more than 60,000 lives since 1972.

The PA said today that it would support Mr Wickremesinghe’s moves to resolve the dragging war and establish a political settlement that “will not affect the territorial integrity” of the island.

Meanwhile, Ms Kumaratunga said today that her party had suffered about 300 revenge attacks ever since it lost a bitterly contested parliamentary election last week.

The election campaign had left about 60 persons dead, making it one of the bloodiest in the history of the island, where spurts of blood letting are almost routine both before and after voting.

Meanwhile, government soldiers shot dead three Tamil Tiger rebels in Sri Lanka’s north-east today, while in the east rebels killed one army intelligence officer, the Defence Ministry and police said.

The casualties were the first since the United National Party won December 5 parliamentary elections. The United National Party wants to start peace talks to end the 18-year war.

An army patrol travelling near the town of Trincomallee opened fire on rebels from the Liberation Tiger of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), killing three, military spokesman Brig Sanath Karunaratne said.

The army seized a grenade launcher and two rifles from the rebel hideout, he said.

In eastern Batticaloa, the body of army officer K. Satkunanathne was found riddled with bullets, and the police said they suspected rebels shot him. AFP, Reuters, AP

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USA to deport Indian suspect 
September 11 attacks
Vasantha Arora

Washington, December 10
Ayub Ali Khan, one of the two men from Hyderabad, India, who have been held as “material witnesses” in a Brooklyn, New York jail since September attacks, has been ordered to be deported voluntarily.

Khan, who is also being investigated for credit card fraud, can still be held behind. So it is not as if he is fully free to leave the country, according to sources close to the investigation.

Khan, who used to live and work in Jersey City and has been held for nearly three months as a suspected second-wave hijacker and possible accomplice in the attacks, has been ordered deported, the Daily News quoting an unnamed source said.

Khan, who was picked up with $5,000 in cash, box cutters and hair dye, was ordered deported this week, said a source familiar with the case.

A federal immigration Judge said Khan could be voluntarily deported, which means he must return to his native Hyderabad, but he’s free to apply for a visa to return to the USA, the source said.

The decision runs contrary to the image of Khan as a key suspect with possible connections to the September 11 attacks.

He and his roommate Mohammed Jawed Azmath were taken off a train in Texas after being caught in a routine drug search the day after the attacks.

Some investigators have theorised that Khan and Azmath were second-wave hijackers whose plot was thwarted when the plane on which they flew out of Newark that morning was grounded in St Louis.

But Khan has taken FBI lie detector tests to deny involvement in the plot, and he reportedly told the investigators that he has a good explanation for his actions. IANS 

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Al-Qaida stockpiled anthrax

New York, December 10
US operatives in Afghanistan have collected evidence that Al-Qaida, the terror group headed by Osama bin Laden, may have stockpiled anthrax spores in Afghanistan.

However, intelligence sources said it was not clear if any of the anthrax was ever taken out of the country and they believed that the stockpiles were destroyed in US bombings.

The sources said one or more Russian “renegade” scientists may have worked with Al-Qaida in the project to develop biological weapons which was probably headed by Dr Ayman Al-Zawahiri, considered to be the brain behind the terror group, Newsweek reported.

Northern Alliance soldiers had raided his house in Kabul on November 13 and a senior US intelligence official told the magazine that it resembled the lair of a “mad scientist.” US intelligence later collected samples and after tests, one of the samples turned up a “positive indicator” for bacillus anthracis which causes anthrax. All samples were being retested, the report said.

Investigators also found the results of an Internet search on anthrax vaccines and a report entitled ‘Bacteria: What You Need to Know’ in the Kabul house of Pakistani nuclear scientist Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood.

Moscow: Russian specialists have cleared a strategic tunnel in central Afghanistan of 134 million landmines, making access to the strife-torn country easier.

Mines at the entrance and gallery of the Salang tunnel were defused over a week, Gen Valery Vostrotin, who is leading a Russian Emergency Ministry team in Kabul, told Itar-Tass news agency.

The opening of a road joining Tajikistan with central Afghanistan through the Salang pass will help supply humanitarian assistance and military hardware as it is the shortest route to Afghan capital Kabul. PTI, IANS

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Karzai resents Qanooni’s anti-Pak remarks

Islamabad, December 10
The chairman designate of the interim government in Afghanistan Hamid Karzai has taken exception to his Interior Minister Younus Qanooni’s statement in India that Pakistan has been interfering in Afghanistan’s internal affairs.

According to a close associate of Mr Karzai, the statement of Mr Qanooni could be his personal views and not the policy of the interim government.

Mr Karzai was also against the visits of his ministers to foreign countries. He was referring to Mr Qanooni’s visit to India where he made the above statement.

He said Mr Karzai was of the view that such visits by the ministers of the interim government before their induction into cabinet were not in the interest of the government. UNI

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Zahir Shah to return in March?

Rome December 10
The ex-King of Afghanistan is likely to return home next March after almost 30 years of exile in Italy, the monarch’s grandson Mostapha Zahir has said.

“This is not official, but I think March 21 is a good target date. It is the first day of spring. It’s a national holiday in Afghanistan that was banned by the previous regime,” Mostapha said yesterday.

Earlier, the 87-year-old former King, Mohammad Zahir Shah, met the UN envoy for Afghanistan, Mr Lakhdar Brahimi, to discuss peace prospects for the country.

The accord with rival Afghan factions stipulated that Zahir Shah should open a Loya Jirga, or grand council, within six months to chart the country’s future. Reuters

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Israel rejects truce offer

Jerusalem, December 10
Israel today rejected out of hand a truce offer made by four Palestinian militant groups not to carry out suicide attacks, saying it did not deserve to be taken seriously.

“This announcement is not serious. It shows that these terrorist organisations want to continue their operations in the way that best suits them,” said a senior defence official.

He ruled out any halt to Israel’s air and tank operations against Palestinian targets, even temporary, arguing that they were “purely self-defence.”

However, two Palestinian militant groups denied today that they had decided to suspend suicide attacks in Israel until the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Identically-worded statements from armed offshoots of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s Fatah movement, the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, and the Return Brigades, denied a joint statement yesterday that was also signed by the armed wings of the Hamas and the Islamic Jehad.

“The leadership will not announce any alleged truce with the criminal and murderous zionist enemies,” the statements said. “Resistance and armed struggle will continue on all fronts.”

Yesterday’s communique had said, “we are giving our enemy the chance to stop his assassinations, destruction, bombings, and we will equally stop our suicide bombings and armed operations in Israel starting midnight December 10 until the end of Ramadan,” said the statement. AFP
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Container deaths being investigated
Tracy Mcveigh and Nicola Byrne

London/ Waterford, December 10
A major police investigation was under way in the Republic of Ireland after the bodies of six men and two children were found in a cargo container, shortly after it arrived at the port of Waterford on Saturday.

Five other persons — four men and a woman — were on Saturday night in a hospital intensive care unit after being found by a shocked lorry driver in a semi-comatose state inside. All were thought to be Romanian refugees.

Mr Bertie Ahern, the Irish Prime Minister, last night called the deaths an “atrocity”, and pledged to find those responsible for the people- smuggling trade that he said was behind the tragedy.

The police says the group of 13 were hiding in the container of office furniture unloaded from a cargo ship at the port of Waterford in the south-east of Ireland on Friday night. It had been at sea for six days. The container began its journey in Italy, travelling to Belgium by rail and then leaving the port of Zeebrugge on November 30. Observer News Service

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