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Indo-Philippines ties enter new phase
Pacts on defence, tourism inked

Manila, February 4
Opening a new vista in bilateral ties, India and the Philippines, both subjected to terrorist attacks, today signed an agreement for defence cooperation and security dialogue and three other accords for collaboration in agriculture, tourism and access to this country of quality Indian medicines at affordable prices.

73 killed, 400 hurt in Philippines stampede 
Manila, February 4
At least 73 persons were killed and nearly 400 injured today in a stampede at a stadium near the Philippines capital Manila where tens of thousands had queued up to watch a popular game show similar to 'Kaun Banega Crorepati'.
Filipino family members cry inside a morgue after identifying the body of their mother who died in a stampede in Manila on Saturday.
Filipino family members cry inside a morgue after identifying the body of their mother who died in a stampede in Manila on Saturday. — Reuters
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Kalam condoles deaths


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Fury over Prophet’s cartoons; calls for restraint
Gaza, February 4
Palestinian youths tried today to storm the European Union office in Gaza in protest over the printing by European newspapers of cartoons of Prophet Mohammad that has whipped up fury across the Islamic world.
In video (28k, 56k)

Forgive the daily, urges Annan
Washington, February 4
Urging the Muslim community to accept a Danish newspaper’s apology for publishing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has cautioned media that freedom of speech is “never absolute”.

Egypt ferry disaster: 352 rescued
Safaga (Egypt), February 4
Egyptian and Saudi rescue boats have picked up a total of 352 survivors from the Red Sea ferry that caught fire and sank, government officials in the two countries said today.


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Indo-Philippines ties enter new phase
Pacts on defence, tourism inked
Pallab Bhattacharya

Manila, February 4
Opening a new vista in bilateral ties, India and the Philippines, both subjected to terrorist attacks, today signed an agreement for defence cooperation and security dialogue and three other accords for collaboration in agriculture, tourism and access to this country of quality Indian medicines at affordable prices.

The defence cooperation agreement, signed by Rural Development Minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh and Philippines Defence Secretary Avelino J Cruz, Jr, provides for exchange of military aircraft and warships, military training and instructors, as well as defence technology cooperation.

In the field of defence technology, the agreement seeks to promote interaction and dialogue between concerned agencies and research institutes of the two countries.

The signing of the defence cooperation agreement had been delayed by more than a year following change of guard in India in May 2004. In fact, the then Philippines Defence Secretary Eduardo R Ermita had invited former Defence Minister George Fernandes to sign the accord two years ago.

The MoU on tourism envisages simplification of visa procedures for tourists from India and the Philippines visiting each other's countries, joint marketing and promotion of tourism activities— one country will sell the other's tourism destinations in international markets —and formation of a Joint Working Group, including officials and private stakeholders in tourism sector.

The agreement on agriculture cooperation is aimed at promoting exchange of agriculture scientists between the two countries as also agricultural materials.

The two sides also inked an agreement to enable the Philippines to access quality Indian medicines at cheaper prices. India has been a major source of medicines to this country for the last six years.

Mr Raghuvansh Prasad Singh signed the three agreements on defence, agriculture and tourism in the presence of visiting President A P J Abdul Kalam and his Filipino counterpart Gloria Arroyo at the Presidential Palace, an architectural marvel and testimony of three centuries of Spanish colonialism of the Philippines.

In the run-up to the signing of the agreements, Dr Kalam held one-to-one talks with President Arroyo for 15 minutes before the delegation-level parleys between the two sides for about an hour.

Earlier, Dr Kalam laid a wreath on a memorial of western-educated national hero Jose Rizal whose martyrdom in 1896 sowed the seeds of Philippines' independence struggle against Spanish rulers.

Dr Kalam, who arrived here yesterday on a three-day official visit, was accorded a ceremonial reception featuring 21-gun salute and inspection of guard of honour at the Presidential Palace. — PTI

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73 killed, 400 hurt in Philippines stampede 
Pallab Bhattacharya

Manila, February 4
At least 73 persons were killed and nearly 400 injured today in a stampede at a stadium near the Philippines capital Manila where tens of thousands had queued up to watch a popular game show similar to 'Kaun Banega Crorepati', in the worst mishap of this kind in the Philippines.

The incident took place at 9 am in the morning at Pasig, 15 km from here, when the organisers of the game show announced that all entrances except one would be closed as thousands of people had lined up at the stadium to watch the game show 'Wowowee'.

At least 73 persons were killed and 392 injured in the incident, according to Red Cross officials.

Mayor of Pasig, Vicente Eusebio, said the tragedy occurred as the crowd pushed towards the stadium gates thinking they were open.

The elimination round of the game show was going on in which cash prizes were being given to people giving correct answers to questions.

Nearly 100,000 people were within and outside the Uldra Savia stadium at the time of the stampede, a government spokesman said.

Most of the victims were middle-aged or elderly women. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo also expressed her condolences to the victims of the tragedy.

Mayor Eusebio said the producers and organisers of the game show might be at fault for exceeding the stadium's capacity limit, especially with the number of people who were present in the area to watch the game show.

The show's organiser ABS-CBN said the programme would not be aired until further notice. — PTI

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Kalam condoles deaths

MANILA: President APJ Abdul Kalam today condoled the loss of lives in the stampede at the game show. Dr Kalam conveyed the condolence over the tragedy to his Philippine counterpart Gloria Arroyo when the two held talks at the Presidential Palace here this morning.

The stampede had broken out two hours before the two leaders met.

Dr Kalam also wish speedy recovery to the injured. — PTI

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Fury over Prophet’s cartoons; calls for restraint

Gaza, February 4
Palestinian youths tried today to storm the European Union office in Gaza in protest over the printing by European newspapers of cartoons of Prophet Mohammad that has whipped up fury across the Islamic world.

Leaders of Muslim-majority Indonesia and Malaysia added their voices to the chorus of condemnation of the cartoons of Prophet Mohammad, one with a turban resembling a bomb, in a face-off between the freedom of speech and respect for religion.

Inserting itself into the dispute that has become a lightning rod for anti-European sentiment in Muslim countries, the United States attacked the cartoons as offensive.

There were fresh demonstrations in several cities, including Ankara and London. Around 500 students of Islamic seminaries or madrasas protested in the eastern city of Lahore today, chanting slogans of “Down with Denmark” and “Hang the culprits”.

Meanwhile, two New Zealand newspapers today reprinted the cartoons, which have appeared in newspapers in Denmark, France, Germany, Spain, Switzerland and Hungary, saying the decision was based on press freedom.

For many Muslims depicting Prophet Mohammad is forbidden and European leaders have called for restraint, expressing concern about the firestorm that has erupted over the past days.

In Gaza, protesters threw stones at the EU office, burnt tyres outside and tried to enter the compound. They clashed with security forces who intervened and arrested two youths. — Reuters

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Forgive the daily, urges Annan

Washington, February 4
Urging the Muslim community to accept a Danish newspaper’s apology for publishing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has cautioned media that freedom of speech is “never absolute”.

“I am distressed and concerned by this whole affair. I share the distress of the Muslim friends who feel that the cartoon offends their religion. I also respect the right of freedom of speech. But of course (it) is never absolute. It entails responsibility and judgement,” Annan said yesterday.

“What is important is that the newspaper that initially published the cartoons has apologised, and I would urge my Muslim friends to accept the apology, to accept it in the name of Allah the merciful, and let’s move on,” he added.

Meanwhile, chants calling for further atrocities like the July 7 London bombings echoed around central London as hundreds of Muslims gathered to protest against the recent publication of cartoons of prophet Mohammad in European newspapers, a report from London said.

Shouts of ‘7/7 is on its way’ came from some of the demonstrators who waved placards and burnt flags in a march through the capital to the Danish, French and German embassies last evening. — PTI

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Egypt ferry disaster: 352 rescued

Safaga (Egypt), February 4
Egyptian and Saudi rescue boats have picked up a total of 352 survivors from the Red Sea ferry that caught fire and sank, government officials in the two countries said today.

But more than 1,000 other passengers and crew on the ship are feared to have drowned, leading to angry scenes outside this port as hundreds of relatives demanded information from the authorities.

The Governor of Egypt’s Red Sea province, Bakr el-Rashidi, said 340 persons had been rescued from the sea by today morning. Earlier, the police had put the survivor toll at 435, but this was later retracted as a case of double-counting by staff in the rescue operation room in Safaga.

Saudis vessels have retrieved another 22 survivors — 20 Egyptians and two Saudis, a government official said speaking on condition of anonymity as he was not authorised to speak to the press. — AP

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