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Saddam’s immunity plea dismissed
Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein testifies after chief judge Raouf Abdel-Rahman  read his charges during his trial in Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone on MondayBaghdad, May 15
Saddam Hussein angrily refused to enter a plea today after hearing a full, formal list of charges of crimes against humanity read to him in court.





Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein testifies after chief judge Raouf Abdel-Rahman read his charges during his trial in Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone on Monday. 
— AP/PTI photo

UN right forum to deal with Iran
Washington, May 15

Brushing aside calls for direct talks with Iran over its controversial uranium enrichment programme, a top US official has asserted that the United Nations is the "right forum" to deal with the issue.



 
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TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS

N. Korea restarts N-reactor ?
Seoul , May 15
North Korea appears to have resumed operations at its atomic reactor suspected of producing fissile material for the communist state's nuclear weapons programme, an online US-based media service covering security issues said.

NATO to open office in Pak to fight terror
Islamabad, May 15
NATO has decided to establish a military liaison office in Pakistan to strengthen cooperation with the country’s military in combating terrorism and plans to open military schools and academies to deepen defence ties.

Pervez may resign for re-election
Islamabad, May 15
General Pervez Musharraf may resign as Pakistan’s President next year and get
re-elected for another five-year term by the present National and Provincial Assemblies before these are dissolved and General Election held, a close confidant of the General has indicated.

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Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif want to return to Pakistan.
(28k, 56k)

Communist Party promises democracy in China
Beijing , May 15
In a significant move, China's ruling Communist Party today promised to hold local elections for the first time in the world's most populous nation.

Cheney’s daughter hits Bush stance on gay marriages 
Washington, May 15
The lesbian daughter of US Vice- President Dick Cheney hit out at President George W Bush's support for a constitutional amendment proscribing gay marriage.
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Saddam’s immunity plea dismissed
By Alastair Macdonald

Baghdad, May 15
Saddam Hussein angrily refused to enter a plea today after hearing a full, formal list of charges of crimes against humanity read to him in court.

The judge dismissed his defence that he had immunity and was still President. He entered a ‘’not guilty’’ plea on Saddam’s behalf after giving a 15-minute recitation of killings, torture and executions that followed an attempt on the Iraqi leader’s life in the Shi’ite town of Dujail in 1982.

Seven months into the trial and after a three-week recess following the completion of the prosecution case, chief judge Raouf Abdul Rahman read out to each of the eight defendants in turn the final charge sheet against them.

All pleaded not guilty or, like Saddam, were ruled to have so pleaded after contesting the US backed court’s legitimacy.

Asked how he pleaded Saddam, 69, who stood alone at first in the metal-railed dock, complained that he could not give a simple Yes or No answer to the lengthy accusation.

“This statement cannot influence me or shake a hair of my head,’’ he said, standing erect in a dark suit, holding a Koran. ‘’I am president of Iraq by the will of the Iraqi people.’’

Replying, the judge said: ‘’You were, but not now.’’

Aside from that brief outburst, Saddam seemed relaxed. He entered court smiling, first and alone. At the lunch break, he chatted amiably with the chief prosecutor.

All the accused face hanging if convicted, but only after appeals that will probably be held up by a dozen or so other trials for Saddam. — Reuters

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UN right forum to deal with Iran issue: US

Washington, May 15
Brushing aside calls for direct talks with Iran over its controversial uranium enrichment programme, a top US official has asserted that the United Nations is the "right forum" to deal with the issue.

"We think the framework we have is even better, we have a number of countries that are engaged with Iran on this issue, we are supportive of those discussions," National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley said at a television talk show yesterday.

Despite pressure from the international community to start direct negotiations with Teheran, the US Administration insists the UN Security Council is the best forum to deal with the subject.

“The forum has now shifted to a discussion in the UN Security Council where the international community as a whole, of which the United States is a part, can make clear to Iran what it needs to do. We think that's the right forum at this time for this issue,” Mr Hadley told CNN's 'Late Edition'.

“ We are looking at the kinds of sanctions that might be applied if it does not make the right choice. We're also looking at the kinds of benefits that might be applied if Iran does make the right choice,” he said, referring to talks going on between European powers, the US, Russia and China.

“There have been a lot of opportunities for Iran to make the right choice, which responds to the will of the international community and give assurances, by getting out of the enrichment business, that it is not pursuing a nuclear bomb,” the top White House official added. — PTI 

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N. Korea restarts N-reactor ?

Seoul , May 15
North Korea appears to have resumed operations at its atomic reactor suspected of producing fissile material for the communist state's nuclear weapons programme, an online US-based media service covering security issues said.

About a year ago, North Korea said it halted operations at its Yongbyon reactor in order to extract 8,000 fuel rods. Proliferation experts have said the rods could produce enough weapons-grade material for two or three nuclear bomb.

Satellite photos from January of this year show steam coming out of one of the towers at the reactor, indicating it is active, according to images released over the weekend by Global Security (www.globalsecurity.org), which provides information on intelligence and security matters.

The photos also show that a dirt path at the facility has been paved as well as signs indicating an influx in recent months of vehicles and containers at the nuclear facility some 100 km north of the Capital, Pyongyang.

Last August, Japanese daily Asahi Shimbun said a US satellite had detected signs that North Korea had restarted the Yongbyon reactor, quoting unnamed sources familiar with the North's nuclear programmes.

The five-mw reactor was shut down in 1994 under the US-North Korea agreed framework when 8,000 spent fuel rods were removed. It was restarted again in February, 2003 after the deal fell apart.

North Korea has stayed away from six-party talks aimed at ending its nuclear weapons programmes since late last year, saying it will not bow to US pressure to force it back to the table. — Reuters 

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NATO to open office in Pak to fight terror

Islamabad, May 15
NATO has decided to establish a military liaison office in Pakistan to strengthen cooperation with the country’s military in combating terrorism and plans to open military schools and academies to deepen defence ties.

“The details would be discussed later with Pakistani officials,” North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) Deputy Secretary-General Allessandro Minuto Rizzo was quoted as saying in the media today. Rizzo and the grouping’s Senior Civilian Representative in Afghanistan Hikmet Cetin spoke to reporters after a meeting with President Pervez Musharraf.

Pakistan was declared non-NATO ally in June 2004.

Rizzo said NATO had decided to develop strategic relations with Pakistan, which it considered an important country in the region.

Besides military ties, NATO was also keen to initiate a public diplomacy exercise to inform the people of Pakistan about its role.

“Through greater cooperation, misperceptions about NATO and its role could be removed,” he was quoted as saying by The News.

Rizzo said NATO would like to develop relationship with Pakistan independent of Afghanistan.

“NATO wants to develop new relations with the world and are arranging a summit in November, whose main theme would be the transformation of NATO from purely military Organisation to one that would adapt itself to the new realities,” Rizzo said. He gave the example of the October 8 earthquake in which for the first time NATO forces participated in relief and rehabilitation efforts in Pakistan.

A large contingent of NATO troops worked in the remote parts of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, (PoK) which was objected to by the Islamist alliance Muthahida Majlis Amal (MMA) after which they left.

NATO representative in Afghanistan Hikmet Cetin said they wanted to have intelligence sharing with Pakistan and liked to develop military to military relationship, as terrorism was a common threat.

He said security was the biggest challenge in Afghanistan and terrorism was a global threat and it needed global efforts. NATO would deploy around 8,000 troops in Southern Afghanistan, which would petrol with the Afghan army and police. — PTI 

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Pervez may resign for re-election

Islamabad, May 15
General Pervez Musharraf may resign as Pakistan’s President next year and get re-elected for another five-year term by the present National and Provincial Assemblies before these are dissolved and General Election held, a close confidant of the General has indicated.

“If the President has to seek re-election from the present Assembly, whose term lasts till Nov 16, 2007, he can do so by resigning any time earlier than that day,” said Mr S.M. Zafar, a former Law Minister and a constitutional lawyer.

“Such a step will be in accordance with the Constitution and the law and the present Assemblies can elect the President after following the procedure of the election as envisaged in the Second Schedule of the Constitution,” he told Dawan in an interview published today. — PTI

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Communist Party promises democracy in China

Beijing , May 15
In a significant move, China's ruling Communist Party today promised to hold local elections for the first time in the world's most populous nation.

“Elections to local committees of the Communist Party of China (CPC) represent an enormous step towards the promotion of reform and democracy in China ,” an official with the party that has been ruling China since the founding of the People's Republic in 1949, said.

The elections of new leaderships at provincial, city, county and township levels will help to realise the strategic goal of building a socialist, harmonious society, the official Xinhua news agency quoted the official as saying.

However, it is not yet clear if the CPC will allow western-style democracy and multi-party or multi-candidate elections. In the past, top Chinese leaders, including President and CPC Secretary General Hu Jintao, has rejected western-style democracy in the country.

The CPC, which claims a membership of over 70 million, says that it will try to increase its governance capabilities and maintain the progressiveness of its members.

He outlined how the party would ensure new local leaders who would firmly implement the party line and policy of building socialism with Chinese characteristics.

New methods have been adopted to examine and assess candidates in a scientific way, with new criteria to evaluate their work, in accordance with the “scientific concept of development ”, the new catchphrase of Chinese leaders. — PTI 

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Cheney’s daughter hits Bush stance on gay marriages 

Washington, May 15
The lesbian daughter of US Vice- President Dick Cheney hit out at President George W Bush's support for a constitutional amendment proscribing gay marriage.

Mary Cheney, 37, told Fox News yesterday that the idea, which was backed strongly by Bush's Republican Party during his 2004 re-election campaign and continues to be promoted by many conservatives today, was “a bad piece of legislation”.

“It is writing discrimination into the Constitution and, as I say, it is fundamentally wrong. ....... I would also hope that no one would think about trying to amend the Constitution as a political strategy,” she added.

Ms Cheney, who has just published a book “It's My Turn”, covering in part her experience during the campaign, said she was troubled by the stance of the party she was backing. — AFP

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