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US asks Cong to clear sale of
F-16 jets to Pakistan
The Bush administration will formally ask the U.S. Congress to approve the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan, Undersecretary of State R. Nicholas Burns said on Thursday.

Nepal’s revived Parliament meets
Koirala’s swearing-in put off due to ill health
Kathmandu, April 28
Nepal today took first step towards multi-party democracy with its Parliament holding its first meeting in four years, but Prime Minister-designate, Mr Girija Prasad Koirala, could not attend it due to ill health.

In video (28k, 56k)
Special article: Change in Nepal

Feroz Khan’s comments in Pakistan
kick off row

Islamabad, April 28
Veteran Bollywood actor Feroz Khan’s comments highlighting the comfort levels of Muslims in India in comparison to that in Pakistan set off a heated verbal exchange between him and a local compere during the premiere of ‘Taj Mahal’ in Lahore.





 
THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS

A Nepali woman ties party flags on a statue of former Nepal King Prithvi Narayan Shah, outside the gates of Parliament, in Kathmandu on Friday
A Nepali woman ties party flags on a statue of former Nepal King Prithvi Narayan Shah, outside the gates of Parliament, in Kathmandu on Friday. Thousands of Nepalese surrounded the gates of the country’s revived Parliament on Friday, waiving party flags and chanting slogans to keep up pressure for a new Constitution after weeks of street protests. — Reuters

Indian Embassy staffer
asked to leave

Tokyo, April 28
In yet another embarrassment to the Indian government, an Indian Embassy staff in Tokyo has been asked to leave Japan following a complaint of molestation by a 19-year-old Japanese college student.

3 Indians burnt to death
Dubai, April 28
Three Indians workers were charred to death while another escaped with serious injuries when a blaze gutted their labour camp. According to the sources, four other Indians had a narrow escape from the fire which spread quickly because of the textile material stored there.

7 Indians killed in S. Arabia accident
Dubai, April 28
Seven Indians were among 28 persons killed today when the bus in which they were travelling fell into a ditch in Saudi Arabia. Among the injured were two Indians, eight Pakistanis and one Bangladeshi.

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US asks Cong to clear sale of F-16 jets to Pakistan
Ashish Kumar Sen writes from Washington

THE Bush administration will formally ask the U.S. Congress to approve the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan, Undersecretary of State R. Nicholas Burns said on Thursday.

On a visit to Washington, Pakistan Foreign Secretary Riaz Khan said Islamabad had scaled down its initial request for F-16s due to financial pressures after the deadly October earthquake.

While neither Mr. Burns nor Mr. Khan disclosed the number of jets in the revised package, which would now include old as well as new aircraft, the Pakistani Cabinet earlier this month cleared the purchase of up to 77 F-16s from the U.S. Asked how many jets Pakistan sought, Mr. Khan said, “So what numbers we may have started with, I even don't know that and I have a rough idea as to what we have requested now.”

Mr. Burns said at a joint news conference with Mr. Khan that he had reassured the Pakistani official of the Bush administration's commitment “to the sale of American F-16 aircraft to Pakistan and we intend to begin our consultations on this issue with Congress shortly.” The administration notified the U.S. Congress about the sale several weeks ago and officials have since been talking to lawmakers and their staff.

A day before a United Nations Security Council deadline for Iran to end uranium enrichment Mr. Khan told Mr. Burns that Pakistan would not support the use of force to halt Iran's nuclear prgramme. “We want this issue resolved diplomatically,” the Pakistani official said.

“We want friendly relations with all our neighbours... as a neighbor and a country which has a very longstanding good relationship with Iran, we wish them well and we also want to have, as I said, peaceful involvement and friendly relations with all our neighbors,” he said.

Mr. Burns said Washington had not given up hope that there could be a diplomatic solution to the standoff.

In their meeting at the State Department on Thursday, Mr. Khan briefed Mr. Burns on the progress of the dialogue with India. The U.S. official noted that the United States hopes for progress in these talks, “especially regarding their discussions on Kashmir and about the importance of continued strategic stability between Pakistan and India.”

“For our part and on the part of the United States government, we will do what we can to encourage India and Pakistan to make progress on these issues. And we continue to be hopeful that Pakistan and India can reach a mutually acceptable settlement of the issues that -- of the issue of Kashmir that would take account of the wishes of the people of Kashmir,” Mr. Burns said, adding, “And we continue to be hopeful that there can be progress, continued progress in the very good dialogue underway between the Governments of Pakistan and India.”

Mr. Burns contended Washington would not act as a mediator between India and Pakistan. “It's not for the United States to dictate to the people of the region what that settlement should look like. This is up to the people of the region as well as to the two governments and we respect that process, but it's an important one,” he said.

On a question about the U.S.-India civilian nuclear agreement, Mr. Burns reassured Pakistan that the deal “does not speak at all of support for the nuclear weapons sector of the Indian nuclear industry, but to the civil power sector.”

“The United States is friends with both countries and we are very pleased to see the positive evolution in relations between Pakistan and India.” he said.

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Nepal’s revived Parliament meets
Koirala’s swearing-in put off due to ill health
Shirish D. Pradhan

Kathmandu, April 28
Nepal today took first step towards multi-party democracy with its Parliament holding its first meeting in four years, but Prime Minister-designate, Mr Girija Prasad Koirala, could not attend it due to ill health.

The swearing-in of 84-year-old Mr Koirala as Prime Minister was postponed and might take place tomorrow depending on his health, Nepali Congress spokesman Krishna Sitouala said.

In a significant move to bring Maoists into the political mainstream, Koirala’s Nepali Congress party, on his behalf, tabled a motion proposing a ceasfire with the rebels and elections to the Constituent Assembly.

Mr Koirala also invited Maoists for a dialogue, Deputy Speaker Chitralekha Yadav said.

The Maoists, who have been fighting to topple the monarchy for over a decade, want the Constituent Assembly to re-write the Himalayan Kingdom’s Constitution that is likely to strip the King off his power to sack an elected government.

Yielding to large-scale protests against his direct rule after he sacked the Sher Bahadur Deuba government in February last year, King Gyanendra ordered the re-instatement of Parliament on Monday night. After the King’s announcement, the Seven-Party Alliance (SPA), which spearheaded an agitation against him, named veteran Nepali Congress leader Koirala to head the new government.

Senior CPM leader Sitaram Yechury, who was in touch with both alliance leaders and Maoists to resolve the political crisis in the Kingdom, and NCP leader D.P. Tripathi were present in the visitors’ gallery and were greeted by the members.

The Nepali Congress’ motion will come up for discussion when the lower House of Representatives meets again on Sunday. — PTI

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Feroz Khan’s comments in Pakistan kick off row

Islamabad, April 28
Veteran Bollywood actor Feroz Khan’s comments highlighting the comfort levels of Muslims in India in comparison to that in Pakistan set off a heated verbal exchange between him and a local compere during the premiere of ‘Taj Mahal’ in Lahore.

Feroz Khan, who is in Pakistan along with his family, including son Fardeen, to attend the premiere of his brother Akbar Khan’s film ‘Taj Mahal,’ got engaged in a war of words with Fakhar-e-Alam, who was anchoring the function during the movie’s release in Lahore on Tuesday.

“I am a proud Indian. India is a secular country. Muslims there are making a lot of progress. Our President is a Muslim, Prime Minister a Sikh.

“Pakistan was made in the name of Islam but look how the Muslims are killing each other,” Feroz Khan was quoted as saying during the premiere by the local daily, ‘The Nation’, today.

Not stopping at that, he went on to say: “I have not come here on my own. I was invited to come. Our films are so powerful that your government could not stop them from long,” the daily reported.

His comments set off a backstage row between him and Alam, who took up the issue with the 67-year-old actor, resulting in a heated verbal exchange. Other Indian film stars and delegates apologised to Alam over the incident, the report said.

The Indian delegation that attended the premiere included Minister for Tourism and Culture Ambika Soni and Congress MP Rajiv Shukla.

Feroz Khan later denied making any remarks against Pakistan or its people.

“I have a lot of respect for the people of Pakistan who received us with great love. It is a matter of pride for me that the film of my brother is being exhibited here and people not only gave a very warm welcome to the delegation but also an encouraging response to the film,” he was quoted as saying by another newspaper, ‘The Post’.

“Fakhar-e-Alam showed disrespect to my colleague Manisha Koirala by asking a question in an indecent manner. I asked him to be responsible and not ask such questions. I did not use even a single word to disgrace Pakistan, the Pakistani people or my hosts. Any such story can be concocted.

Feroz Khan’s comments drew a mixed reaction in the media here.

Reporting on the ‘Taj Mahal’ premiere, the ‘Daily Times’ said, “Although the announcer made glaring mistakes in pronouncing names, Feroz Khan saved the evening by taking over and delivering a grand speech. He praised the Indian and Pakistani leaders for making such an event possible. His speech was met by loud applause”.

‘The Nation’ said the incident left a “bad taste in the mouths of Pakistani audience and artistes to see the other side of the Indian hero’s personality.” — PTI

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Indian Embassy staffer asked to leave

Tokyo, April 28
In yet another embarrassment to the Indian government, an Indian Embassy staff in Tokyo has been asked to leave Japan following a complaint of molestation by a 19-year- old Japanese college student.

The student had visited the Indian Embassy last year for a visa application and later lodged a complaint against the Indian staffer, in his mid-30s, of indecent harassment, Kyodo news agency reported today.

It quoted the Japanese Foreign Ministry as saying that a notification was issued saying the staffer was unacceptable member at the diplomatic mission.

The staffer has since left for India but the ministry has made the notification in protest over what the woman had to suffer, the agency said.

The Metropolitan Police department started investigating the complaint filed earlier this year. According to it, the staffer attempted to put his hand under the woman’s skirt and committed other indecent acts. —PTI

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3 Indians burnt to death

Dubai, April 28
Three Indians workers were charred to death while another escaped with serious injuries when a blaze gutted their labour camp.

According to the sources, four other Indians had a narrow escape from the fire which spread quickly because of the textile material stored there.

Two of the victims’ bodies were badly charred. The bodies of 39-year-old Abdul Jalil Badr, 25-year-old A’ali Jola and 25-year-old Saleem are kept in the morgue.

The blaze was due to short circuit. All the workers were Indian nationals employed with a tailoring shop. — UNI

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7 Indians killed in S. Arabia accident

Dubai, April 28
Seven Indians were among 28 persons killed today when the bus in which they were travelling fell into a ditch in Saudi Arabia.

Among the injured were two Indians, eight Pakistanis and one Bangladeshi. The bus was on its way from Jeddah to Madinah, when the accident took place.

A majority of the Indians killed belong to Kerala, Indian Consul-General Ausaf Sayeed said.

The number of Indian casualties were likely to rise, he said, adding that, Indian officials were at the King Abdulaziz Hospital in Jeddah, where all the bodies are being kept to identify the victims.

Sixteen Indians were travelling in the bus, when it fell over a bridge into a ditch at Raheili near Jeddah. — PTI

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