Comply or face “further measures”, Security Council tells Iran
Pak violating citizens’ religious freedom:
Elections will be held on time: Pervez
Picasso painting fetches
$ 95.2 m
9/11 plotter gets life term
United Nations, May 4
The resolution, backed by the US, threatens Iran with unspecified further measures as may be necessary to ensure compliance — a language that could be used to impose sanctions or even take military action at a later stage.
Russia and China had a lot of difficulty with the tough language in view of its implications, diplomats said. But they were not sure how far Moscow, which supplies arms to Iran, and Beijing would go if the Western power press the resolution as they are threatening.
Western diplomats say they would like the resolution to be adopted before next Monday’s meeting of their foreign ministers in New York.
The Western powers have the requisite nine votes to get the resolution through the 15-member Council and Moscow and Beijing would have to use veto to block it if no common ground is found, diplomats say.
China’s UN Ambassador Wang Guangya used somewhat ambiguous language, saying the draft would not produce good results. But he also said his country objected to the resolution branding the Iranian nuclear programme as a threat to peace and security — a language that was necessary for invoking mandatory provision of Chapter Seven of the Charter.
The resolution calls for the UN nuclear watchdog — International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) — to report on the compliance but does not give any timeframe. However, Western diplomats say they expect the report to be available by early June.
The draft also demands that Iran stop construction of a heavy water reactor. It would also mandate that all states to exercise vigilance and prevent transfer of technology and goods which can help Iran in its nuclear programme.
Iran is constructing a heavy water reactor at Arak, about 200 km form Tehran which could produce weapon grade uranium.
Tehran has maintained that it has no intention of producing nuclear weapons and the aim of its uranium enrichment programme is to produce fuel for its civilian nuclear power reactors. — PTI
Washington, May 4
The commission, which released its annual report here on Tuesday, has added Afghanistan to its ‘watchlist’ of countries that violate religious freedom and said Iraq and Afghanistan pose growing threats to the freedom of worship.
The report has recommended 11 countries to be designated as “countries of particular concern” by the State Department, for being the worst violators of religious freedom, meaning they could face sanctions.
Those countries are China, North Korea, Vietnam, Burma, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Iran, Eritrea, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.
The findings of the commission come in the congressionally mandated group’s annual report for 2006. The agency’s findings and recommendations go to the White House, the State Department and to Capitol Hill.
In a letter to Ms Rice, included in the report, Commission Chairman Michael Cromartie said the panel is trying to draw attention to “countries, whose governments have engaged in or tolerated systematic and egregious violations of religious freedom.” “The situation in Afghanistan and Iraq serve to underscore the precarious state of this fundamental freedom,” Mr Cromartie wrote.
The report said Afghanistan and Iraq were two countries where “the universal right to religious freedom is imperiled.” “Religious extremism, even in official circles, is an increasing threat to democratic consolidation in Afghanistan,” the report added.
Commissioner Preeta Bansal said Afghanistan has been added to the group's watch list, which is made up of countries where the commission has concerns about the future of religious freedom.
“The principal concern of the commission consists of flaws in the country’s new Constitution,” she said, adding, “the Constitution does not contain clear protections for the right of freedom of religion or belief for individual Afghan citizens.” Citing an example, she pointed to the recent high-profile case of Abdur Rahman, an Afghan citizen, who was threatened with the death penalty for converting from Islam to Christianity.
Afghanistan joins Bangladesh, Belarus, Cuba, Indonesia, Nigeria and the US ally Egypt as nations where, “discrimination, intolerance and other human rights violations affect a broad spectrum of religious groups,” including Coptic Christians, Bahais, Jews and members of minority Muslim communities, the report said. Meanwhile, Nina Shea, another member of the Commission, called on the US government to take action against Saudi Arabia, which the State Department named as a so-called country of particular concern in its annual religious freedom report in November 2005.
“Since religious freedom conditions in Saudi Arabia have not substantially improved in the last year, the US government must not hesitate in taking aggressive action to demonstrate that it will not disregard the persistent and egregious religious freedom violations committed by the Saudi government,” she said.
Ms Shea noted that a waiver period, Washington initially granted to Riyadh, which allowed the two sides to discuss the issue, has expired. She also urged that any agreement reached between the US and Saudi governments be made public. — UNI
Islamabad, May 4
“I had made a pledge to the nation that a better and real democratic system will be introduced in the country. This pledge is going to be fulfilled as Parliament will complete its tenure next year,” Musharraf said during a visit to his Presidential office in the Parliament building here yesterday.
During the visit, he met National Assembly Speaker Amir Hussain and some other Parliamentarians, including a few minority MPs like M P Bhandara. He assured them that the general elections would be held in the country on time.
The completion of assemblies’ tenure would restore people’s confidence in democratic institutions, Musharraf was quoted as saying by ‘The Post’ newspaper.
Referring to the instances in the past when Parliament was not allowed to complete its tenure, he said the tradition of dissolution of assemblies after two or three years no longer existed.
Musharraf claimed that democratic institutions flourished during his Presidency due to “friction-free atmosphere”. The President’s visit to Parliament was a rare event as he has addressed its combined session only once in the last four years. As per the Constitution, he should formally address a combined session of the National Assembly and Senate every year. He last addressed the joint session of Parliament amid uproarious scenes in 2003. — PTI
Picasso painting fetches
$ 95.2 m
New York, May 4 The 1941 portrait of Maar, a photographer who became Picasso’s lover, is so precious that Sotheby’s did not print a price estimate for the work in its auction catalogue. Picasso’s 1905 masterpiece “Boy with a Pipe” remains the most expensive painting ever sold since it went under the hammer at a New York auction for $ 104.2 million in May 2004.
New York, May 4
The 1941 portrait of Maar, a photographer who became Picasso’s lover, is so precious that Sotheby’s did not print a price estimate for the work in its auction catalogue.
Picasso’s 1905 masterpiece “Boy with a Pipe” remains the most expensive painting ever sold since it went under the hammer at a New York auction for $ 104.2 million in May 2004. — AFP
Washington, May 4
On the seventh day of trial yesterday, the jury of nine men and three women told the presiding judge that a verdict has been reached. It came after a six week trial and more than four years of legal manoeuvring.
Moussaoui, a French national of Moroccan descent, is the only person charged in this country for the 9/11 attacks. Last month, the jury came to the conclusion that he was eligible for the death penalty for plotting the attacks.
Part of the trial involved painful images of the attacks of 9/11, including the first ever playing of the cockpit voice recorder of United Airlines Flight 93 whose passengers struggled with the hijackers that eventually brought down the passenger jet over Pennsylvania.
Moussaoui was in jail on September 11, 2001, after being picked up on immigration violations. But the jury ruled that he lied to investigators that prevented them from identifying and stopping some of the hijackers on that fateful day.
Defence attorneys focussed on Moussaoui’s mental health, calling experts who testified him as being a delusional paranoid schizophrenic. While some of the jurors found that mental illness ran in Moussaoui’s family, none found him to be so mentally ill to consider it a mitigating factor for trial.
On the witness stand, Moussaoui displayed a complete lack of remorse for the deaths he had caused, saying he was sorry only that the attacks weren’t more lethal.
“America, you lost... I won,” Moussaoui shouted after the jury rejected the death sentence. — PTI