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Iran: UNSC members hold talks
London, January 16
Senior officials from the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany were holding talks in London today regarding Iran’s resumption of controversial nuclear activities.

Israel grounds Dhruv
Jerusalem, January 16
In a major setback to India's ongoing efforts to market its Advanced Light Helicopter Dhruv worldwide, Israel has decided to ground the fleet of ALHs it inducted to ferry VIPs and defence officials, barely weeks after the Indian armed forces did the same following a crash.

52 Indians killed in Haj stampede
Dubai, January 16
At least 52 Indians were among the 363 people who died in a stampede during Haj in Mina, near Mecca. At least two pilgrims remained missing and efforts were on to trace them, Indian Consul-General Ausaf Sayeed said.

Night curfew in Kathmandu
Kathmandu, January 16
The government today imposed a night curfew in Kathmandu in the wake of the weekend killing of 12 policemen by Maoists near the Nepalese capital and the rebels’ threat to intensify their attacks.

Strike disrupts European ports
Amsterdam, January 16
Europe's biggest ports face disruption today as dock workers go on strike to protest against European Union plans to liberalise port industry services, trade unions said.

Saddam case judge stands by resignation
Baghdad, January 16
The chief judge in the trial of Saddam Hussein is standing by his resignation and efforts by Iraqi officials to dissuade him are not expected to reach a conclusion today, a spokesman for the court said.

Indonesian girl dies from bird flu
Jakarta, January 16
An Indonesian girl has died from bird flu, a senior health ministry official said today, citing local test results. Two other members of the dead girl’s family are hospitalised with symptoms of bird flu, but test results have not come back on those cases, said Hariadi Wibisono.



A girl lights a candle for those killed in the 1995 Kobe earthquake at a park in Itami, near city of Kobe, on Monday
Prayer: A girl lights a candle for those killed in the 1995 Kobe earthquake at a park in Itami, near city of Kobe, on Monday. The earthquake which hit western Japan killed more than 6,400 persons. — Reuters

EARLIER STORIES

THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS

Comet-dust capsule lands safe
Los Angeles, January 16
A space capsule loaded with comet dust yesterday completed a 4.7-billion-km journey, landing safely in the Utah desert and ending a seven-year wait for clues to the solar system’s origins.

Japan may make holidays mandatory for workers
Tokyo, January 16
Japan’s image as a nation of workaholics who rarely take holidays could change if the government enacts a proposed law that would force companies to encourage people to take their vacations.

Confession of a cannibal
Frankfurt, January 16
A man who has admitted to being a cannibal repeated a detailed confession today during a retrial triggered by prosecutors seeking a tougher sentence.
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Iran: UNSC members hold talks

London, January 16
Senior officials from the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany were holding talks in London today regarding Iran’s resumption of controversial nuclear activities.

Representatives of Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the USA were expected to discuss a date for an emergency meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) 35-nation board of governors, which could refer Iran to the UN Security Council.

A British Foreign Office spokeswoman refused to provide details about the meeting, which was taking place at the level of political directors, saying only that it was to discuss “next steps” regarding Iran.

Britain, France and Germany, which led drawn-out negotiations with Iran over its nuclear programme, said last week the talks were dead and called for UN referral after Tehran broke IAEA seals at three nuclear plants to resume uranium enrichment research.

Enriched uranium can fuel nuclear reactors, but if highly enriched it can also form the explosive core of an atomic bomb.

The USA suspects that Iran’s nuclear programme is aimed at building a nuclear weapon, a charge that Tehran has repeatedly denied.

Tehran has threatened to withhold cooperation with IAEA inspectors if it is referred to the Security Council, and warned it would not submit to any decisions imposed on it.

Russia, which has offered to let Iran enrich uranium on its territory as a possible solution to the crisis, has hinted it may not object to referral.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urged the UN nuclear watchdog today to speed plans for an emergency meeting on Iran to keep up the momentum in efforts to thwart Tehran’s suspected weapons ambitions.

Rice said she would like the board of the Vienna-based IAEA to meet “as soon as possible” to take up possible referral of Iran to the UN Security Council.

“The problem with waiting for the regular meeting in March or waiting for a long time is that I think the Iranians will try to take advantage of it to start to throw chaff now and to obfuscate” on its nuclear intentions, she told reporters en route to Liberia. — AFP

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Israel grounds Dhruv

Jerusalem, January 16
In a major setback to India's ongoing efforts to market its Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) Dhruv worldwide, Israel has decided to ground the fleet of ALHs it inducted to ferry VIPs and defence officials, barely weeks after the Indian armed forces did the same following a crash.

Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI), which provided the avionics system for the international version of the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited's ALH and has a joint marketing agreement of the product, said, "It operates in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions and Civil Aviation Authority's regulations," hinting at a possible HAL decision to withdraw.

Earlier this month, the Indian Armed Forces had decided to ground the ALHs following a technical advisory issued by the HAL after a Dhruv chopper crashed in Andhra Pradesh.

While efforts are on to promote the worldwide sale of the helicopter, the reports of the crash due to a severe malfunction seems to have forced the manufacturers to redesign the copter's tail, a defence source here said.

Dhruv is a multi-role, multi-mission new generation helicopter in the 5.5 tonne weight class. It had set a new world record by flying at an altitude of around 8,000 meters in the Himalayan mountain ridge. — PTI

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52 Indians killed in Haj stampede

Dubai, January 16
At least 52 Indians were among the 363 people who died in a stampede during Haj in Mina, near Mecca.

At least two pilgrims remained missing and efforts were on to trace them, Indian Consul-General Ausaf Sayeed said.

The burial process continued yesterday and all the burials were expected to be completed in the next two or three days after completion of formalities by Saudi authorities.

The mission had issued 39 no-objection certificates needed for the burials.

Nine flights, including four of Air India, would ferry back 2,500 pilgrims to India.

At least 42 of the dead, including 24 women, had gone for the pilgrimage through the Haj Committee of India and four through private operators. — PTI

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Night curfew in Kathmandu

Kathmandu, January 16
The government today imposed a night curfew in Kathmandu in the wake of the weekend killing of 12 policemen by Maoists near the Nepalese capital and the rebels’ threat to intensify their attacks.

The curfew would remain effective from 11 pm to 4 am, a Royal Nepalese Army spokesman said, adding that it had been imposed in view of the growing Maoist threats in the capital.

New Delhi: As the security situation in Nepal showed a deteriorating trend following an upsurge in Maoist violence, India’s Ambassador to Kathmandu Shiv Shanker Mukherjee arrived here on Monday evening to brief the government about the latest developments in the Himalayan kingdom.

Mukherjee would meet Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Home Minister Shivraj Patil, Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran and other senior officials to present an update on the situation in Nepal, official sources said.

India described the withdrawal of ceasefire by the Maoists as an “unfortunate decision” and asked them to abandon violence and terror, accept the discipline of multi-party democracy and work for a political settlement that contributed to the political stability and economic prosperity of Nepal. — PTI

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Strike disrupts European ports

Amsterdam, January 16
Europe's biggest ports face disruption today as dock workers go on strike to protest against European Union plans to liberalise port industry services, trade unions said.

Some 600 dockers are expected to go on strike for four hours at the port of Rotterdam, Europe's busiest, affecting work at several container, bulk and ferry terminals, a spokesman for the biggest Dutch trade union FNV said.

No oil terminals will be disrupted at Rotterdam, port and trade union officials said.

Dock workers across the EU are protesting against a bill aimed at opening up port services across the 25-nation bloc to greater competition. The issue is due to be debated by the European Parliament tomorrow.

The port of Antwerp, Europe's second biggest by volume, was at a standstill after a strike began that was expected to last 24 hours.

A coalition of socialists, communists and liberals is expected to reject the legislation, strongly backed by industry, in a vote on Wednesday, parliamentary sources said.

Thousands of workers at Europe's biggest ports went on strike last Wednesday, with container terminals at Germany's main port of Hamburg most severely affected. — Reuters

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Saddam case judge stands by resignation

Baghdad, January 16
The chief judge in the trial of Saddam Hussein is standing by his resignation and efforts by Iraqi officials to dissuade him are not expected to reach a conclusion today, a spokesman for the court said.

“It will not be settled today,” said the spokesman, who in keeping with tribunal practice, declined to give his name.

He declined to name the senior high tribunal judge who was dispatched to judge Rizgar Amin’s Kurdish home city of Sulaimaniya to negotiate after the Iraq Government rejected the resignation he submitted last week.

In the first direct comment from the US-sponsored high tribunal’s administration since the head of the five-judge panel made public his resignation on Friday, the spokesman said, “The administrative magistrates responsible for Cabinet issues has delivered the resignation request. It will take some time before a final decision.”

The trial of Saddam and seven others for crimes against humanity was due to resume on January 24 after a month-long recess.

Amin had made no formal statement, but had made it clear that he was unhappy about interference in the trial and pressure put on him personally by the government and other Shi’ite political leaders, who accused the Kurdish judge of being soft on Saddam.

“It is a question of integrity. I am not sure if he will go back on his decision. I do not think that it is possible” a source close to the judge said on Saturday.

“He had complaints from the government that he was being too soft in dealing with Saddam. They want things to go faster,” he added.

The source said Amin was willing to chair the hearing on January 24 and was then prepared to explain why he would step down.

It remained unclear how far the 48-year-old magistrate truly wished to quit and how far the resignation offer was designed to negotiate greater independence for the court.

Technically the departure of the presiding magistrate on the five-judge panel could be overcome by appointing a substitute, but even if he would stay, the complaints about government interference from Amin, the much-televised face of the court, might do lasting damage to the credibility of the high tribunal.

Only one other judge had allowed his face to be shown on television, and only Amin had let his name be published.

The killing of two defence lawyers had already highlighted problems with the process amid an insurgency led by Saddam’s fellow minority Sunni Arabs against the US-backed government, run by Shi’ite Muslims and ethnic Kurds intent on quickly hanging a man they said had massacred their peoples.

A number of human rights groups had urged the government and US officials to hold a trial abroad in an international court. — Reuters

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Indonesian girl dies from bird flu

Jakarta, January 16
An Indonesian girl has died from bird flu, a senior health ministry official said today, citing local test results.

Two other members of the dead girl’s family are hospitalised with symptoms of bird flu, but test results have not come back on those cases, said Hariadi Wibisono.

Blood and swab samples taken from the girl have been sent to a World Health Organisation-sanctioned laboratory in Hong Kong to confirm the cause of death. If the result is confirmed, Indonesia’s human toll from the disease would climb to 13, said Wibisono. — AP

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Comet-dust capsule lands safe

Los Angeles, January 16
A space capsule loaded with comet dust yesterday completed a 4.7-billion-km journey, landing safely in the Utah desert and ending a seven-year wait for clues to the solar system’s origins.

The Stardust mission ended early yesterday when the 45-kg capsule landed at the US Air Force Utah Test and Training Range two minutes ahead of schedule at 3:10 am.

“We visited a comet, grabbed a piece of it and landed here,” said Don Brownlee, an astronomy professor with the University of Washington, who was the principal investigator for the Stardust mission.

The mission marked the first time since 1972 that any extra-terrestrial solid material was collected and brought back to earth and the first time ever for comet particles.

Scientists hoped that the dust collected by Stardust would give them clues about the origins of the solar system 4.5 billion years ago.

Television images showed scientists and engineers at the control room at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, cheering and applauding both at landing and earlier, when the capsule’s two parachutes deployed as it roared across the western USA towards its target.

“This thing went like clockwork,” Stardust project manager Tom Duxbury said at a press conference later.

In 2004, a capsule called Genesis carrying solar ions crashed to the earth when its parachute failed to deploy, raising concerns about Stardust’s return.

The Stardust team had spent six months reviewing its spacecraft’s design to make sure that there were no errors.

The canister entered the atmosphere at a speed of 46,440 km per hour, the fastest of any manmade object on record.

It took just 13 minutes for the capsule to travel through the atmosphere on its way to the remote military base.

Less than an hour after the landing, three helicopters retrieved the capsule from the windy and dark desert floor, helped by infra-red and radar tracking devices.

Recovery of the capsule took slightly longer than expected, officials said, because heavy winds blew it north of its exact target.

The vessel was taken to a clean room at the base, where the canister containing the particles would be removed from the capsule before being shipped to the Johnson Space Centre in Houston tomorrow for scientists to study.

The Stardust mission, which began in 1999, took it around the sun three times and halfway to Jupiter to catch particles from comet Wild 2 in January 2004.

The dust was captured by a tennis-racket-shaped space probe containing ice-cube-sized compartments lined with aerogel, a porous substance that was 99.9 per cent air.

The particles, most of which were expected to be a tenth as wide as a piece of human hair, lodged in the aerogel before being shuttered inside the capsule.

Stardust’s mother ship returned to orbit around the sun and might be used in future missions to study planets, asteroids or comets. — Reuters

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Japan may make holidays mandatory for workers

Tokyo, January 16
Japan’s image as a nation of workaholics who rarely take holidays could change if the government enacts a proposed law that would force companies to encourage people to take their vacations.

At present, heavy workloads and pressure from bosses mean less than half the average paid leave of 18 days is ever used.

The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare said today it was considering drafting a bill that would force companies to plan employees’ leave at the start of the business year and encourage them to take it.

‘’We feel that people are not taking enough leave. We need to discourage people from working too much so that they can balance work with family,’’ the official said.

The government has long tried to encourage workers to take their holidays in the hope they will spend more on leisure activities and boost the economy. But just as importantly, the government wants to make it easier for workers to juggle work and family to help halt a declining birth rate. — Reuters

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Confession of a cannibal

Frankfurt, January 16
A man who has admitted to being a cannibal repeated a detailed confession today during a retrial triggered by prosecutors seeking a tougher sentence.

Armin Meiwes (44) told the court the grisly details of how he killed 43-year-old Bernd Juergen Brandes at his home in the town of Rotenburg in March 2001 and later consumed the man’s body.

The computer technician was convicted of manslaughter in early 2004, and was sentenced to eight and a half years in prison, but prosecutors appealed the sentence as not enough.

Federal judges overturned the original ruling last year and ordered a retrial, arguing the lower court failed to give sufficient consideration to the sexual motive behind the killing.

Meiwes said Brandes who had travelled from Berlin after answering his Internet posting under the pseudonym ‘Franky’ seeking a young man for “slaughter and consumption”, wanted to be stabbed to death after drinking a bottle of cold medicine to lose consciousness. — AP

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