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Bhutto, Sharif hint at poll boycott
London, October 20
Ruling out any parleys with President Pervez Musharraf, former Pakistani premiers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif have indicated that they would boycott the 2007 elections in the country if not allowed to contest and demanded that the polls be held under an interim government.

Human remains found at World Trade Center site
New York, October 20
Human remains that appeared to be from World Trade Center victims were found by utility workers in a manhole at the southern edge of the site, a Port Authority official has said.

China, US fail to produce breakthrough
North Korean nuclear issue

Beijing, October 20
Despite intense daylong parleys, China and the United States today failed to achieve a breakthrough over North Korea’s nuclear issue and how to revive the stalled six-party talks amid fears of further atomic tests by Pyongyang.



US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (left) and China's Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing leave a joint news conference at the Diaoyutai Guest House in Beijing on Friday. — Reuters photo

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (left) and China's Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing leave a joint news conference at the Diaoyutai Guest House in Beijing on Friday.





EARLIER STORIES


Maoists kidnap 16
Kathmandu, October 20
Maoists in Nepal have abducted 16 persons, including seven party workers of the Nepali Congress (D), in two separate incidents, the police said.

2 soldiers die in Afghan suicide attack
Lashkar Gah (Afghanistan), October 20
Several Afghans and two NATO soldiers were killed when a suicide bomber threw himself at the troops in southern Afghanistan yesterday, witnesses and an army officer said.

Cloak of invisibility!
Washington, October 20
Harry Potter and Captain Kirk would be proud. A team of American and British researchers has made a cloak of invisibility.

Peshawar blast
Peshawar, October 20
At least six persons were killed and another 40 injured when a bomb planted in a handcart exploded a few minutes before Iftar near Jinnah Park here, reports said. The explosion that took place this evening triggered panic in the city. — UNI



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Bhutto, Sharif hint at poll boycott

London, October 20
Ruling out any parleys with President Pervez Musharraf, former Pakistani premiers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif have indicated that they would boycott the 2007 elections in the country if not allowed to contest and demanded that the polls be held under an interim government.

"Both of us would like to find a way to contest the elections to help Pakistan make a transition to democracy. But those elections need to be fair, free and impartial. They need to be open to all political parties. And if they are not, honestly, all options (including boycott) will be on the table for us to consider," Ms Bhutto and Mr Sharif said last night.

At a joint press conference with Mr Sharif at the end of over four-hour deliberations on the Charter of Democracy here, Ms Bhutto, leader of the Pakistan People's Party, said during the deliberations several leaders insisted that unless they were allowed to contest the elections, they should boycott the next elections.

"Because they said, people of Pakistan want one set of leaders. If they cannot contest, then at least elections are a mockery and why lend it legitimacy. Musharraf’s regime is today causing a great deal of harm to the country and, therefore, today again we decided that Musharraf will never be entertained for any contact for political purposes. There will be no negotiations or parleys," Mr Sharif said.

Referring to General Musharraf's assertion that he would not allow Ms Bhutto and Mr Sharif to come and participate in the polls, Mr Sharif said "then he is not talking about holding free and fair elections."

Mr Sharif said President Musharraf was not trying to create a level playing field for all players who are in the arena for the polls. "So we have very serious doubts and suspicions about the fact that Musharraf is going to hold free and fair elections. Both of us agree that the general elections, scheduled between October 2007 and February 2008 should be held under a neutral caretaker set-up and free and fair elections are only possible under a neutral set-up because Musharraf should not be able to influence the elections," Mr Sharif said.

The meeting between the two leaders comes amid reports of a rift between the two over suspected back-channel contacts between the PPP and the government backed by President Pervez Musharraf for a political rapproachment. Mr Sharif and Ms Bhutto allied themselves against General Musharraf in May and vowed to restore democracy in Pakistan.

Noting that there could not be fair and free elections when leaders of the two major parties were not permitted to return to the country, Ms Bhutto said international community had made a commitment to the democratisation of Pakistan.

Mr Sharif said: "We are gearing up the party and preparing for the elections. We are a major political party and we have every right to contest elections. We are not running away from elections. Our demand is that Pakistan must have free and fair elections in 2007." At the same time, he said they were holding discussions with other political parties who believed in democracy, rule of law and the Constitution of 1973.

"So there is no problem in talking to them, trying to arrive at a joint platform to get the result (ouster of Musharraf). — PTI

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Human remains found at World Trade Center site

New York, October 20
Human remains that appeared to be from World Trade Center victims were found by utility workers in a manhole at the southern edge of the site, a Port Authority official has said.

A Consolidated Edison crew doing excavation of the manhole at street level found the remains, some as big as arm or leg bones, said Steve Coleman, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the site, yesterday.

Con Ed said it entered the site on Wednesday to remove material from two manholes that had been damaged and abandoned after the 2001 collapse of the twin towers.

Workers found the remains yesterday morning at the downtown Manhattan site, took them to a natural gas vehicle fueling station more than a kilometre to the north and then called the medical examiner’s office to have these identified, office spokeswoman Ellen Borakove said.

Five years after 2,749 people died in the September 11 World Trade Center attacks, families of about 1,150 victims still do not know whether their loved one’s remains were recovered.

During the excavation of the 110-story twin towers, which began the evening of the attacks and lasted for nine months, about 20,000 pieces of human remains were found. The DNA in thousands of those pieces, many small enough to slip into a test tube, was too damaged by heat, on humidity and time to yield matches in the many tests forensic scientists have tried over the years. — AP

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China, US fail to produce breakthrough
North Korean nuclear issue

Beijing, October 20
Despite intense daylong parleys, China and the United States today failed to achieve a breakthrough over North Korea’s nuclear issue and how to revive the stalled six-party talks amid fears of further atomic tests by Pyongyang.

This was evident when Chinese State Councillor Tang Jiaxuan, who has just returned from Pyongyang after meeting with North Korea’s top leader, Kim Jong-il, urged Washington to take a more flexible attitude to the Korean nuclear issue.

On the other hand, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who arrived here this morning for the most crucial part of her four-nation tour, insisted that the UN Security Council Resolution 1718, imposing sanctions on North Korea for its October 9 nuclear test, must be implemented in full by all nations.

“We talked about the importance of the full implementation of (UN resolution) 1718, so we can make certain there is not a transit and trade in illegal materials, dangerous illegal materials, concerning the nuclear programme of the DPRK,” Ms Rice said, referring to North Korea by its official acronym.

“The DPRK should return to the six-party talks without condition,” she said, adding Pyongyang should begin the implementation of the September 2005 agreement of the six-party talks.

She also said that the “Chinese made the point to us that they are scrupulous about that land border (with North Korea) and intend to be scrupulous about that land border.” —PTI

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Maoists kidnap 16

Kathmandu, October 20
Maoists in Nepal have abducted 16 persons, including seven party workers of the Nepali Congress (D), in two separate incidents, the police said.

Seven workers of the Nepali Congress (Democratic) were abducted from Budhanilkantha, 12km north of Kathmandu, yesterday, party sources said adding one of those kidnapped Raju Shreshtha was beaten up before being taken away.

The Maoists also abducted four women, two men and three minors from Balkhu area yesterday morning on charges of their involvement in drug peddling.

However, later in the evening, they were handed over to the police.

The Nepali Congress (Democratic), in a statement, condemned the abduction of their cadres by the guerillas.

The party has also urged the rebels to make public of the abducted persons and release them immediately. — PTI

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2 soldiers die in Afghan suicide attack

Lashkar Gah (Afghanistan), October 20
Several Afghans and two NATO soldiers were killed when a suicide bomber threw himself at the troops in southern Afghanistan yesterday, witnesses and an army officer said.

In a similar attack a few hours later, a police officer was killed and four others were injured outside the southeastern town of Khost, officials said. The first attack took place in Lashkar Gah, capital of Helmand province, in which a NATO vehicle was set alight.

“The bomber was on foot and hurled himself at the convoy of NATO,” said Shamsuddin, an Afghan army officer near the scene. “‘Two NATO soldiers died and two others have been wounded.” British troops were among the wounded, a Defence Ministry spokeswoman said in London.

“We can confirm that a small number of UK soldiers have been injured in an explosion in Laskar Gah ... We have no reports of British fatalities,’’ she said. She did not give information about Afghan casualties. Several bodies of civilians were scattered on the ground, some with limbs blown off, witnesses said.

British troops make up the bulk of NATO forces in Helmand, a Taliban stronghold and the heart of the illegal opium industry in the world’s biggest producer.

This is Afghanistan’s bloodiest year since a US-led invasion ousted the Taliban government in 2001. — Reuters

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Cloak of invisibility!

Washington, October 20
Harry Potter and Captain Kirk would be proud. A team of American and British researchers has made a cloak of invisibility.

Well, OK, it’s not perfect yet. But it is a start, and it did a pretty good job of hiding a copper cylinder.

In this experiment the scientists used microwaves to try to detect the cylinder. Like light and radar waves, microwaves bounce off objects making them visible and creating a shadow, though it has to be detected with instruments.

If you can hide something from microwaves, you can hide it from radar — a possibility that will fascinate the military. The new work points the way for an improved version that could hide people and objects from visible light.

Conceptually, the chance of adapting the concept to visible light is good, cloak designer David Schurig said in a telephone interview. — AP

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