Saturday, December 15, 2001, Chandigarh, India




National Capital Region--Delhi

THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
W O R L D

Marines enter Kandahar airport

Sebastian Alison and Peter Millership
Tora Bora, (Afghanistan)/Washington, December 14
US aircraft bombed cave and valley hideouts of Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaida network and possibly of Bin Laden himself today in what could become the final battle in the US-led war in Afghanistan.


The USA has released a videotape of Osama bin Laden. (28k, 56k)

Labour relaxes immigration policy
London, December 14
Rich and highly skilled foreigners including those from India, are to be allowed to enter the United Kingdom to seek jobs under a new scheme heralding the biggest relaxation in immigration policy for 30 years.

Bush announces withdrawal from ABM Treaty
Washington, December 14
US President George W.Bush today served formal notice to Russia that Washington was withdrawing from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in order to deploy a national missile defence.

It’s a mistake, says Putin
Moscow, December 14
Russian President Vladimir Putin called up Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and Chinese President Jiang Zemin to discuss the situation emerging out of the withdrawal of the USA from 1972 ABM Treaty and evolve a common stand on future security architecture.


Russian President Vladimir Putin make his first public statement about the US intention to withdraw from the ABM Treaty, on Russian State television on Thursday. — Reuters photo

 

 

 

EARLIER STORIES

 

WINDOW ON PAKISTAN
Power politics, Islamabad-style
I
T suited both military ruler General Pervez Musharraf and former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto to strike a deal to share power. Both are uncertain of their future. They believe that political manoeuvring can alter the course of history to their advantage.

Israeli troops re-occupy refugee camp
Gaza City, December 14
Israeli tanks and troops stormed part of the Khan Yunis refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip, Palestinian security sources and the Israeli military said. The Palestinian security source said: “Israel tanks and jeeps have reoccupied the western part of the Khan Yunis refugee camp.






Palestinians search the rubble of the destroyed Voice of Palestine radio station, beside a poster of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, in the West Bank City of Ramallah on Friday. — Reuters photo



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Marines enter Kandahar airport
Sebastian Alison and Peter Millership

Tora Bora, (Afghanistan)/Washington, December 14
US aircraft bombed cave and valley hideouts of Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaida network and possibly of Bin Laden himself today in what could become the final battle in the US-led war in Afghanistan.

On the other side of the world, President George W. Bush released a videotape described by US officials as the “smoking gun” which proved Bin Laden was the mastermind of the deadly September 11 suicide attacks on New York and Washington.

As the net closed around Bin Laden, hundreds of heavily armed US Marines swept into Kandahar airport in the heart of the southern powerbase of his ousted Taliban protectors to secure the airfield and use it for military and humanitarian flights.

Surrender talks between the mostly Arab Al-Qaida fighters and the US-backed Afghan tribal forces besieging them in the mountains of the eastern Tora Bora region collapsed on Thursday.

Frontline commander Haji Zahir said the Al-Qaida were being pushed back but showed no sign of wanting to surrender.

A tank commander with the tribal forces said he saw no early end to the fighting. “There are many mountains, and as we take one we come to another,” he added.

The whereabouts of Bin Laden and his chief protector, fugitive Taliban spiritual leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, were unclear.

US officials said they believed Bin Laden was in the Tora Bora region about 40 km south of Jalalabad.

The Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press today said that he had left the area around the 10th day on the Muslim fasting month of Ramzan, which is due to end on Sunday, and had taken refuge in an unknown location. It quoted informed sources.

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said surrender remained an option for the trapped Al-Qaida fighters but added it had to be unconditional. “The first choice clearly is surrender. It ends it faster, it’s less expensive,” he told a news briefing, but added:“This is not a drill where we’re making deals.”

A senior defence official said several dozen additional US special forces had been sent into the region to help in the fight against Bin Laden and Al-Qaida forces.

Mr Rumsfeld suggested that Washington was preparing to offer a $ 10 million reward for the capture of Mullah Omar, who disappeared after Kandahar fell to anti-Taliban troops.

Washington earlier offered rewards of up to $ 25 million for the capture of Bin Laden and top Al-Qaida lieutenants. The videotape of Bin Laden showed him smiling as he explained how the hijackers assembled, some oblivious to their mission until the last moment, to stage the attacks which triggered the US-led war in Afghanistan.

The Pentagon issued the hour-long amateur tape, found in Afghanistan, and provided an English translation in which Bin Laden is quoted as saying: “We calculated in advance the number of casualties from the enemy, who would be killed based on the position of the tower.”

The comment apparently referred to hijacked airliners that plowed into and destroyed the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York. Another plane smashed into the Pentagon near Washington and a fourth crashed in Pennsylvania after passengers struggled with the hijackers.

Almost 3,300 people died in the attacks. “We calculated that the floors that would be hit would be three or four floors. I was the most optimistic of them all,” the relaxed and bearded guerrilla chief was quoted as saying, adding the total collapse of both towers was more than he had hoped for.

US officials described the tape as conclusive “smoking gun” evidence that Bin Laden, who has lived in Afghanistan for several years, was behind the attacks. Reuters

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Labour relaxes immigration policy

London, December 14
Rich and highly skilled foreigners including those from India, are to be allowed to enter the United Kingdom to seek jobs under a new scheme heralding the biggest relaxation in immigration policy for 30 years.

The new “open door” policy will be based on a points system similar to a Canadian model and is intended to attract highly skilled and high-earning migrants to fill skills shortages.

The Highly Skilled Migrant Programme, which starts next month, offers admission to applicants who gain at least 75 points on its scale. Points will be awarded for educational qualifications, work experience, past earnings and achievement in a chosen field. There is also a specific category to boost the recruitment of general practitioners.

People holding a PhD will gain 30 points, those with a master’s degree 25 points and graduates 15 points. At least five years’ work experience in a graduate-level job will score 15 points.

Income points have been adjusted to take account of differing pay scales around the world. Someone earning 250,000 pounds a year in the USA would get 50 points, the same score as a 90,000 pounds annual salary in Nigeria.

An applicant from Japan or South Korea would be awarded 25 points if they earned 40,000 pounds a year, whereas someone from India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh or Zimbabwe would only have to earn 15,000 pounds to get the same number of points.

It differs from the existing system under which an employer must obtain a permit for an individual which allows them to work in the country. There will be no limit on the number allowed to enter under the system. PTI

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Bush announces withdrawal from ABM Treaty
T.V. Parasuram

Washington, December 14
US President George W.Bush today served formal notice to Russia that Washington was withdrawing from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in order to deploy a national missile defence.

Mr Bush said he had given Russia the notice on US withdrawal in accordance with the treaty which had kept peace for 30 years through the doctrine of mutually assured destruction.

“I have concluded that the ABM treaty hinders our government’s ability to develop ways to protect our people from future terrorist or rogue state missile attacks,” he said in a speech in the White House Rose Garden flanked by his top foreign policy aides.

“Defending the American people is my highest priority as commander-in-chief and I cannot and will not allow the USA to remain in a treaty that prevents us from developing effective defences,” he said.

“The old doctrine,” he said, “is no longer valid in light of the new friendly relations with Russia, when the threat to them comes not from each other but from the rogue states which may attack with missiles.”

Meanwhile, NATO has said it welcomed the US promise to work out a new programme of cooperation with Russia after Washington’s decision to pull out of the 1972 ABM treaty.

“NATO welcomes the pledge by the USA to develop a new framework of cooperation with Russia to enhance stability and re-inforce cooperation on the security issue, including a substantial reduction in strategic nuclear weapons,” said NATO Secretary-General Lord Roberston yesterday.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard said US Vice-President Dick Cheney had telephoned him last night to inform him of President Bush’s decision to withdraw from the treaty.

Mr Howard said the Australian government recognised that strategic circumstances had changed since the Cold War and those changes had been highlighted by the September 11 attacks. “We share US concerns about the destabilising impact of missile proliferation and were sympathetic to the US interest in missile defence,” he said in a statement.

France wants a new international arms agreement to replace the ABM Treaty, the Foreign Ministry said today. “Beyond the US-Russian bilateral relationship, the need to continue to ensure stability in this new global context remains a task for us all,” the ministry said in a statement. Agencies

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It’s a mistake, says Putin

Moscow, December 14
Russian President Vladimir Putin called up Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and Chinese President Jiang Zemin to discuss the situation emerging out of the withdrawal of the USA from 1972 ABM Treaty and evolve a common stand on future security architecture.

Earlier, in his TV address to the nation following US President George W. Bush’s formal announcement of scraping the ABM Treaty, Mr Putin said it was a ‘mistake’.

He said the US decision to withdraw from 30-year-old treaty to build the National Missile Defence system did not come as a surprise to Moscow and would not have any security implications for Russia.

“Unlike other nuclear powers of the world, Russia has the capability to pierce a national missile shield,” Mr Putin said.

BEIJING: Responding to US plans to scrap the ABM Treaty, Chinese President Jiang Zemin urged President George W. Bush in a phone call to preserve the international arms-control system, state media said today. PTI, AP
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WINDOW ON PAKISTAN
Power politics, Islamabad-style
Syed Nooruzzaman

IT suited both military ruler General Pervez Musharraf and former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto to strike a deal to share power. Both are uncertain of their future. They believe that political manoeuvring can alter the course of history to their advantage. Till the other day they tried to reach a quiet understanding but without success. They appear to have abandoned the idea but only for the time being.

Both are working on their alternate strategies: the ruling General has identified certain political forces to bring them on one platform to prevent Ms Bhutto from capturing power and she is busy creating an atmosphere for her triumphant homecoming. This may come about a little before the promised poll even if that amounts the PPP leader surrendering herself for arrest which she had been evading after an adverse court verdict. Ms Bhutto's strategy is based on the realisation that the PPP is better placed to wrest power in the absence of Mr Nawaz Sharif, exiled to Saudi Arabia, whose Pakistan Muslim League has suffered serious erosion of its base.

Ms Bhutto keeps moving from one world capital to another, but her heart remains where it should be — in the cesspool of Pakistani politics. She feels like a fish out of water. The expression was first used for her illustrious father, but it is appropriate for her too. She can no longer remain away from her home turf. Moreover, there is a change in the political climate and she might have been advised by her party cadres not to let go the opportunity. Her party will profit immensely from her presence in Pakistan even if she fights her battle from jail. People hate General Musharraf as much as much they do America despite his cunning move against Afghanistan's Taliban regime, now part of history.

A liberal western-educated leader like Ms Bhutto suits the USA too. The super power may be interested in the PPP chairperson filling the void caused by the exile of Mr Nawaz Sharif but only after allowing General Musharraf to try his fresh strategy involving "like-minded" parties. There are reports that the General has approached Mr Altaf Hussain's MQM (Muttahida Qaumi Movement), the newly formed Sindh Democratic Front, the PML (Like-Minded) and the Awami National Party to form a front aimed at stopping the PPP's march to power. The MQM and the Democratic Front are capable of upsetting the PPP applecart in Sindh whereas the PML (LM) can give a tough fight in Punjab. The ANP, which has dissociated itself from the ARD (Alliance for the Restoration of Democracy) to support General Musharraf's new Afghan policy, has a dependable base in the NWFP. There is, however, a serious snag: the military can support the MQM to only a limited extent as the two have a love-hate relationship. According to a write-up carried in The Friday Times, "Musharraf would like to see them (the MQM) to share the government but not become too big" to pose a threat to stability in Sindh's urban areas.

If the General is unsuccessful in using these political forces to his advantage, he may devise another strategy involving the political structures he has created at the district and city levels. But this may not be his last-ditch attempt to stay put as President. The measured words of Ms Bhutto and General Musharraf while criticising each other these days indicate that both are still hopeful of reaching an understanding to run the administrative show together for protecting their interests. They are in the good books of Uncle Sam, who would do anything possible to frustrate the plans of the anti-American forces — religious parties, to be precise — to take up the reins of power after the coming elections.

The much-talked-about deal between them could not be finalised because of one factor — allowing Ms Bhutto to contest elections by dropping the court cases against her. She had otherwise agreed to accept General Musharraf as President without staking her claim to Prime Ministership. If her party was helped to achieve victory. A little pressure from the USA will be enough for the General to accept her condition concerning the court cases. It all depends on how seriously Washington tackles the question of facilitating the formation of an amenable government in Islamabad.

Ms Bhutto, in any case, seems certain of her party re-emerging as the most dominant force in the coming months because of the PML (Nawaz) remaining paralysed, and the PPP being a significant constituent of the popular ARD under the leadership of Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan.

If the General refuses to accept Ms Bhutto's conditions, her return to power may get delayed but cannot be stopped forever. Her e-mail interview carried in Dawn after her New Delhi visit shows that she is confident of the acceptability of her changed stance on Kashmir — stressing on confidence-building measures between India and Pakistan learning to live with their different viewpoints. She asserts that this is necessary to prevent a full-scale military conflict in the nuclearised subcontinent which will be neither in the interest of Pakistan nor India. The Pakistanis may have become wiser after seeing the devastation in Afghanistan owing to the erstwhile Taliban regime's belligerence. But the world will believe this when Ms Bhutto is finally able to sell her new "mantra" during the coming battle of the ballot. Till then one has to wait.

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Israeli troops re-occupy refugee camp

Gaza City, December 14
Israeli tanks and troops stormed part of the Khan Yunis refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip, Palestinian security sources and the Israeli military said.

The Palestinian security source said: “Israel tanks and jeeps have reoccupied the western part of the Khan Yunis refugee camp.

First they started shooting and shelling and then they entered the area and have taken up positions”.

An Israeli military source denied Israeli troops would remain in the area.

“We are carrying out an operation in Khan Yunis,” the Israeli source said. “We will leave the area as soon as we are finished.”

Palestinian witnesses said at least 15 tanks had moved into the area as well as three bulldozers which started to tear up land. Several houses were damaged by tank shells.

The spiritual leader of Hamas, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, and other senior leaders of the Islamic militant group were inside a Gaza City mosque when Israeli missiles hit its compound.

“Sheikh Yassin and some senior Hamas leaders were inside the mosque when it was shelled,” security sources said.

A Hamas source confirmed missiles had hit the prayer area, but that the building itself had not been damaged.

Israeli military sources said troops had entered the town of Salfit, about 20 km from the city of Qalqilya, and later left.

They gave no further details. Israeli media said one Palestinian was confirmed killed in the raid.

The Palestinian sources said among the dead was a militant on Israel’s ‘most-wanted’ list who was shot dead in his home. The three others were shot dead as a gunbattle flared. UNI, AFP

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