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6 rebels blow themselves up, sink navy boat
Colombo, March 25
At least six suspected Tamil Tigers were killed and eight Sri Lankan sailors went missing after the rebels blew up their trawler and sank a navy gunboat that had approached it suspecting it of smuggling weapons.

Russia leaked military plans to Saddam: US report
Washington, March 25
Russia provided former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein with intelligence from inside the US military command on the American battle strategy and troop movements during the opening days of the Iraq war in 2003, according to an official report.

Not handing over AQ Khan to US cost us N-deal: Kasuri
Islamabad, March 25
Pakistan's decision not to hand over its disgraced top nuclear scientist A Q Khan to the United States or to any other country for nuke proliferation-related interrogation has cost the country a civilian nuclear deal similar to that signed by India, admits Foreign Minister Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri.



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TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
A Pakistani customer buys a chicken from a street vendor in Quetta
A Pakistani customer (L) buys a chicken from a street vendor in Quetta. Tests have confirmed Pakistan’s first cases of the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu at two chicken farms. Pakistani authorities have slaughtered 25,000 birds and sealed off the affected farms in North-West Frontier Province after detecting the virus. — AFP

Canadian judge meets Kanishka victims’ kin
Toronto, March 25
A retired Supreme Court judge of Canada met relatives of the Air India bombing victims to hear their views on the proposed judicial inquiry into the tragedy that left 329 people dead in 1985. “The whole purpose of it is information-gathering—to find what it is that’s been missing,” Justice John Major said after meeting the victims’ families here yesterday.

Pope, new cardinals, remember John Paul II
Vatican City, March 25
Pope Benedict and 15 new cardinals he elevated to the highest ranks of the Roman Catholic Church today paid tribute to the late Pope John Paul, who died nearly a year ago, recalling his public suffering.

Mars probe sends back first view from orbit
Los Angeles, March 25
A high-resolution camera aboard NASA’s latest spacecraft to reach Mars sent back its first view of the Red Planet from orbit, the space agency has said.
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6 rebels blow themselves up, sink navy boat

Colombo, March 25
At least six suspected Tamil Tigers were killed and eight Sri Lankan sailors went missing after the rebels blew up their trawler and sank a navy gunboat that had approached it suspecting it of smuggling weapons.

The navy mounted a massive search for the eight missing sailors after the powerful blast in mid-sea between India and Sri Lanka off the coast of Mannar in the island’s northwest.

Government sources said 11 other sailors had been rescued by local fishermen.

The incident was along the waters dividing India and Sri Lanka. Authorities here suspect that the Tigers may have been smuggling in weapons and explosives from India.

In a similar incident in January, suspected Tamil Tiger rebels blew up a similar gunboat, killing 15 sailors outside the northeastern port of Trincomalee.

On Wednesday, the navy detained a fishing trawler operated by suspected rebels off the island’s northern waters and arrested five fishermen.

Despite talks between Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and Sri Lankan government in Geneva in February, the first direct contact since 2003, tension has been rising in the troubled northeast.

The rebels accused the military of building new bunkers in violation of their four-year-old ceasefire and on last Monday accused the navy of attacking villages in the northeast. — PTI

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Russia leaked military plans to Saddam: US report
Russia denies charge

Washington, March 25
Russia provided former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein with intelligence from inside the US military command on the American battle strategy and troop movements during the opening days of the Iraq war in 2003, according to an official report.

The unclassified Pentagon report, released yesterday, did not assess the value of the information provided to the Iraqis by the Russians other than citing two captured Iraqi documents as saying that Russians had their American sources from “inside the American Central Command” and the battlefield information was passed on to Hussein through Moscow’s top envoy in Iraq.

However, a classified version of the Pentagon report titled ‘Iraqi Perspective Project’ has not been made public.

The US State Department has declined to comment on the report and the Pentagon has directed all questions to the Central Command.

According to an Iraqi document, the information that the Russians had collected from their “sources inside the American Central Command in Doha” was that the United States was convinced that occupying Iraqi cities was impossible and that as a result, the US military would avoid urban combat.

The Pentagon report also showed that Russia told Iraq that the US planned to concentrate on bombing in and around Baghdad, cutting off roads to Syria and Jordan and creating enough confusion to force residents to flee.

The study’s main author Kevin Woods said he was surprised to learn that Moscow had passed on intelligence to Hussein but that he did not doubt the authenticity of the documents.

Meanwhile, Russia dismissed the Pentagon report that claimed Russia’s ambassador in Baghdad gave intelligence on US military movements to the Iraqi government.

“Time and again, we hear these sorts of groundless accusations against Russian intelligence,” the Interfax news agency quoted Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) spokesman Boris Labusov as saying.

“We do not think it necessary to comment on these sorts of insinuations,” he told Interfax. — PTI, Reuters

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Not handing over AQ Khan to US cost us N-deal: Kasuri

Islamabad, March 25
Pakistan's decision not to hand over its disgraced top nuclear scientist A Q Khan to the United States or to any other country for nuke proliferation-related interrogation has cost the country a civilian nuclear deal similar to that signed by India, admits Foreign Minister Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri.

Kasuri, however, beliefs that Washington will come around sooner than later on the issue, as Pakistan would be engaging US officials for this purpose in the days to come.

"We are not disappointed and we have alternate sources for civilian nuclear technology," The Nation quoted Kasuri, as saying.

He also agreed with the view that the public at large in Pakistan was disappointed with the outcome of President Bush's visit to Pakistan, but added that this perception was self contradictory.

He termed the Bush visit as fruitful in more ways than one, saying that an agreement had been reached to allow Pakistani products access to the US market for the first time.

It had also been agreed that Pakistani students could avail scholarship in the US as well, while the US co-operation in the field of science and advanced education was also being enhanced.

Kasuri opined that in international relations, no country could expect an approach of selflessness. It was natural for all nations to look out for their self-interests, he said. — ANI

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Canadian judge meets Kanishka victims’ kin

Toronto, March 25
A retired Supreme Court judge of Canada met relatives of the Air India bombing victims to hear their views on the proposed judicial inquiry into the tragedy that left 329 people dead in 1985.

“The whole purpose of it is information-gathering—to find what it is that’s been missing,” Justice John Major said after meeting the victims’ families here yesterday.

“Obviously everything that has been attempted has sort of ended up in an unsatisfactory way, one way or the other. So what finally can we do to relieve the suffering and get rid of this stain that seems to cover the matter and the government’s performance in it?”

Prime Minister Stephen Harper appointed Major earlier this month to come up with the parameters for the judicial inquiry.

Harper had held a private meeting with representatives of families of the Air India victims last weekend in Ottawa, said an official in the Prime Minister’s office.

Ripudaman Singh Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri, the main accused in the June 1985 bombing of Air India’s Kanishka flight off the coast of Ireland, were acquitted in March last year after a lengthy trial. All 329 people aboard the flight were killed in the bombing. — PTI

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Pope, new cardinals, remember John Paul II

Vatican City, March 25
Pope Benedict and 15 new cardinals he elevated to the highest ranks of the Roman Catholic Church today paid tribute to the late Pope John Paul, who died nearly a year ago, recalling his public suffering.

Benedict, dressed in resplendent gold vestments, led the new “princes of the Church” in a solemn mass attended by tens of thousands of people assembled in St Peter’s Square.

The new cardinals from around the world, joining the exclusive group that advises the Pope and will one day elect his successor, received rings of office from the Pope a day after they were elevated to the rank at another ceremony.

In his homily, the German-born Pope urged them to see the ring as a sign of their commitment to spreading the message of Jesus and their closeness to him as members of the “senate” of the successor of St Peter. — Reuters

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Mars probe sends back first view from orbit

Los Angeles, March 25
A high-resolution camera aboard NASA’s latest spacecraft to reach Mars sent back its first view of the Red Planet from orbit, the space agency has said.

The crisp test image from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter was taken late Thursday at an altitude of 2,490 km and shows a 50 km by 19 km area of the planet’s mid-latitude southern highlands. The mosaic of 10 side-by-side exposures shows a cratered surface with ravine- or canyon-like channels on both sides.

The spacecraft reached Mars on March 10 and went into a giant elliptical orbit. Over a period of months it will dip into the upper atmosphere in a process called aerobraking to reach altitudes between about 320 km and 254 km and to make its orbit more circular. The science phase of the $ 720 million mission should begin in November. — AP

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