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Australia sending 5 lakh tonne wheat
Melbourne, June 27
Australia has decided to move ahead with a 5,00,000-tonne wheat shipment, which had been held up over quarantine concerns, after it resolved a long-running dispute with India over the (US) $ 90 million grain deal. “AWB has successfully resolved key issues relating to its current Indian contract and is now moving to finalise its shipping programme for our customer,” Australian Wheat Board spokesperson Peter Mcbride said here today.

  • UN cautions

Palestinian leaders arrive at policy deal
Gaza, June 27
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh have reached an agreement on a manifesto at the heart of a power struggle between their rival groups, officials said today. The political document, penned by Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, implicitly recognises Israel.

European secret services colluded in CIA terror transfers
Strasbourg, June 27
European secret services collaborated with CIA agents in the detention and transfer of terror suspects in or across the continent, the author of a report on the renditions told the Council of Europe rights watchdog today.

Gas lines blown up
Quetta, June 27
A paramilitary soldier was killed today when he stepped on a landmine while rebels blew up two gas pipelines in Pakistan’s restive southwestern province of Baluchistan, officials said.

Pak wants to inspect Ravi embankment
Islamabad, June 27
After objecting to the Wullar Barrage, Baglihar and Kishenganga projects, Pakistan has now voiced concern over the Uri-II power project in Jammu and Kashmir and also wants to “inspect” the newly-built embankments along the Ravi.

 

Sunita Williams enters a space suit during a training session in the Space Training Centre in Star City outside Moscow
Sunita Williams enters a space suit during a training session in the Space Training Centre in Star City outside Moscow on Monday. Sunita is due to join Expedition-14 as a flight engineer. — Reuters

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Australia sending 5 lakh tonne wheat

Melbourne, June 27
Australia has decided to move ahead with a 5,00,000-tonne wheat shipment, which had been held up over quarantine concerns, after it resolved a long-running dispute with India over the (US) $ 90 million grain deal.

“AWB has successfully resolved key issues relating to its current Indian contract and is now moving to finalise its shipping programme for our customer,” Australian Wheat Board spokesperson Peter Mcbride said here today.

About 1,00,000 tonnes of the contract has already been delivered to the southern Indian ports of Tuticorn and Chennai.

But several other shipments had been held up because of quarantine concerns. The company, however, described the problem largely as a technical issue.

Apart from filling the 5,00,000-tonne contract, the AWB has also won a second similar deal that is likely to be filled over the next four months, he said. One-million tonne will come out of the national wheat pool.

The initial contract was India’s first large grain import in nearly a decade after being self-sufficient over that time.

UN cautions

NEW DELHI: As India finalised its wheat import to meet the shortfall in buffer stocks and needs of the PDS, a senior UN official cautioned New Delhi that it should not enter the global grain market for “panic purchases”.

“The import of grain may be a legitimate short-term measure. But there is also need to increase domestic supplies,” Ms Anuradha Rajeevan, a UNDP official said at a press conference.

Observing that from being an overall exporter of food surplus, India was on the threshold of importing wheat, Ms Rajeevan said “panic purchases” and hoarding had to be avoided.

“Grain had to be differently handled... Grain is a commodity not like any other. There is need for a different strategic perspective,” she said in reply to a question.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation’s latest Food Outlook report said world wheat production was likely to decrease by 10 million tonne this year, with a strong demand set to drive up trade in 2006-07 to 110 million tonnes.

In the last few years, Indian wheat output has remained more or less stagnant, at 70-72 million tonnes, falling from a peak level of 76 million tonnes in 2000-01. However, the government has been procuring a falling proportion of the output. Between 2001-02 and 2005-06 there was a 10 percentage-point decline in procurement relative to the Indian wheat crop.

Even as the current crisis was brewing, between February and April the FCI sold seven lakh tonnes of wheat in open market operations, essentially sales to private trade. In effect, it would appear that the government worsened the problem.

Agriculture Ministry officials said the dual price system was likely to be introduced from next year, in the wake of a 38 per cent dip in wheat procurement by the Food Corporation of India (FCI) and state agencies as the private traders offered better rates to farmers this year.

Under the differential price system, the government would be fixing the minimum support price (MSP) based on cost of cultivation and would also offer a variable rate-linked to open market price behaviour, they said.

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Palestinian leaders arrive at policy deal

Gaza, June 27
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh have reached an agreement on a manifesto at the heart of a power struggle between their rival groups, officials said today.

The political document, penned by Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, implicitly recognises Israel. But the phrasing of the Abbas-Haniyeh deal appeared to leave the Prime Minister’s Hamas movement wriggle room on the issue.

‘‘All obstacles were removed and an agreement was reached on all points of the prisoners’ document,’’ Rawhi Fattouh, a senior aide to Abbas, said after factions meeting in Gaza initialed the accord.

Fattouh said Haniyeh and Abbas, a Fatah leader, would formally announce the deal later in the day. A Hamas spokesman confirmed that an agreement was reached.

But with Israel and the Palestinians preparing for a possible Israeli offensive in Gaza following the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier, there appeared to be little chance that agreement over the document could open a path towards peacemaking soon.

Officials close to the negotiations, which have dragged on for weeks, said Abbas and Haniyeh drafted a platform based on the manifesto, accepting a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Such a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would be in line with Fatah’s recognition of Israel.

But officials, speaking before Fattouh’s announcement, said the agreement stipulated that moves towards statehood, including Arab initiatives seeking peace with Israel and international resolutions on the conflict, must serve Palestinian interests.

That could allow Hamas to reject, on those grounds, any accommodation with Israel, or recognition of the Jewish state.

The deal also appeared likely to lead to the cancellation of a July 26 referendum Abbas scheduled over Hamas’s objections on the prisoners’ document.

Under the accord, Hamas, leading the Palestinian government on its own after an election victory in January, would agree to form a unity administration with Fatah and other factions, officials said before Fattouh made his statement.

Hamas had insisted it would head any governing coalition, but it was not immediately clear if it won the point in the agreement.

Abbas has sought to soften Hamas’s hardline towards Israel — the Islamist group’s charter calls for the destruction of the Jewish state — in hopes of ending a USA-led boycott of the cash-strapped Palestinian government by Western donor nations.

Israel has called the manifesto an internal Palestinian affair and has said it would have no dealings with Hamas until the group recognised its existence, renounced violence and accepted past interim peace deals.

Islamic Jehad, another militant group, said it still rejected several points in the prisoners’ document, including the concept of a Palestinian state limited to the West Bank and Gaza, land Israel occupied in the 1967 West Asia war.

Jihad Khaled al-Batsh, a senior Islamic Jehad official, said the group would issue a statement later detailing its final position. Some Palestinian sources said the tense security situation, with Israeli armour massing on Gaza’s border, had pushed the factions to intensify their efforts to reach a political agreement. — Reuters 

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European secret services colluded in CIA terror transfers

Strasbourg, June 27
European secret services collaborated with CIA agents in the detention and transfer of terror suspects in or across the continent, the author of a report on the renditions told the Council of Europe rights watchdog today.

“It has been proved that agents from national intelligence services colluded in the handing over and the transportation of persons suspected of terrorism,” Dick Marty told members of the pan-European body’s Parliamentary Assembly.

Mr Marty, a Swiss parliamentarian, drew up the Council of Europe report issued on June 7 that said 14 European countries colluded in or tolerated the secret transfer of terrorist suspects by the United States.

The report listed Sweden, Bosnia-Hercegovina, Britain, Italy, Macedonia, Germany and Turkey as “responsible, at varying degrees for violations of the rights of specific persons”.

Seven other countries “could be held responsible for collusion — active or passive”: Poland, Romania, Spain, Cyprus, Ireland, Portugal and Greece, it added.

Mr Marty said the Council of Europe’s Assembly should pass a resolution later today calling for effective measures to combat the threat of terrorism but which also respect human rights.

“We must have a judicial world order with our friends and allies the US, but it must be based on values led in particular by the Council of Europe,” he said.

The US has already criticised the Council of Europe report as a list of unproven allegations. —AFP

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Gas lines blown up

Quetta, June 27
A paramilitary soldier was killed today when he stepped on a landmine while rebels blew up two gas pipelines in Pakistan’s restive southwestern province of Baluchistan, officials said.

The soldier died after sustaining serious injuries in the landmine blast in troubled Dera Bugti district, a security official said. — AFP.

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Pak wants to inspect Ravi embankment

Islamabad, June 27
After objecting to the Wullar Barrage, Baglihar and Kishenganga projects, Pakistan has now voiced concern over the Uri-II power project in Jammu and Kashmir and also wants to “inspect” the newly-built embankments along the Ravi.

Islamabad has sought a special meeting of the Indus Water Commissioners on the 240 MW Uri-II power project being built over the Jhelum in Jammu and Kashmir and India has agreed to consider it, Pakistan’s Indus Commissioner Jamat Ali Shah said.

He stated this after the annual meeting of the India-Pak Indus Commission in Lahore yesterday. The Indian delegation at the talks was led by S.P. Gupta in the absence of Indus Commissioner D.K. Mehta, who could not attend the meeting due to bereavement in his family.

Following objections raised by Pakistan, India showed willingness to hold a special session of the commission in New Delhi to discuss construction of the project, Mr Shah was quoted as saying in the media here today.

Mr Shah also said India had accepted Pakistan’s request to inspect the newly-constructed embankments along the Ravi. Pakistan claims that the construction of such dykes can lead to alter natural course of the river. — PTI

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