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EDITORIALS

Abuse of language
Lalu Prasad can’t be above law 
T
HE manner in which Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav had delivered a hate speech at an election meeting of his Rashtriya Janata Dal party at Kishanganj in Bihar is unbecoming of him. 

Pen mightier than shoe
Congress must drop Tytler, Sajjan
N
O sane person can approve of – leave alone justify — a Delhi journalist choosing to hurl a shoe at Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram during a Press conference on Tuesday.

No room for complacency
Huge challenges lie ahead for Sri Lanka
T
HE Sri Lankan army may claim that it has broken the back of the LTTE by wresting control of the north-eastern district of Mullaitivu which it says was the Tamil militant outfit’s “last bastion”, but until its leader Prabhakaran is capured dead or alive, there can be no finality about it. 




ARTICLE

Rule of Law must prevail
It’s a basic tenet of democracy
by B.G. Verghese
H
ow often have we heard not just politicians but others loftily intone that the law must take its course? The rule of law is a basic tenet of democracy and posits equality for all and subordination to certain universal standards without exceptions in the name of wealth and influence. Yet we remain a feudal society in constantly seeking to privilege self and real or assumed status. We have seen a good deal of that in recent times even if articulated in terms of democratic norms.

MIDDLE

Barefoot reporters?
by Amar Chandel

Active journalism may undergo a sea change all over the country — may be in the entire world — in the near future, in keeping with the needs of the times.

OPED

Population growth hurts development
Bihar, UP, MP and Rajasthan are chief culprits
A
t the time of elections it is imperative that people deliberate on issues of prime importance to the development of the nation. That the population issue has an inextricable link with the development of the country is an undisputed fact.

Obama for greater US role
by Michael D. Shear and Kevin Sullivan
P
RESIDENT OBAMA concluded his inaugural overseas tour on Tuesday after presenting to the world a starkly different image of the United States than his predecessor had, returning home from encounters with exuberant U.S. troops in Iraq, fawning crowds in Europe and Turkey, and foreign leaders who welcomed a new partnership with the country but did little to support its goals.

Zardari wants drones to fight militants
by Andrew Buncombe
P
akistan’s president has called on America to provide his country with an arsenal of drones and missiles to target militants blamed for a wave of violence rather than carrying out independent operations that violate the nation’s sovereignty.




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Abuse of language
Lalu Prasad can’t be above law 

THE manner in which Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav had delivered a hate speech at an election meeting of his Rashtriya Janata Dal party at Kishanganj in Bihar is unbecoming of him. TV channels showed him warning that had he been the Home Minister, he would have “run a roller” over Varun Gandhi, the BJP candidate from Pilibhit in Uttar Pradesh. After protests, he has now retracted, but few can endorse it. The Bihar administration has justifiably taken cognisance of Mr Lalu Yadav’s speech after watching the CD. According to the Kishanganj Superintendent of Police, an FIR has been lodged against him under the Indian Penal Code and the Representation of the People Act. The district authorities have already issued a warrant of arrest which is bailable under the law.

The law should take its own course in Mr Lalu Yadav’s case and the authorities should ensure that no one violates the Election Commission’s code of conduct. What is the use of it if the political parties do not follow it in letter and spirit? While Andhra Pradesh Congress Committee president D. Srinivas has also used objectionable language like Varun Gandhi in an election speech, Ms Rabri Devi has abused Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. Clearly, dividing people and communities to win elections through hate speeches is a disturbing trend. Worse, this tends to vitiate the electoral process and hinder the smooth conduct of free and fair elections.

The Election Commission has rightly advised the Samajwadi Party supremo, Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav, to be “more cautious” and “exercise restraint” after it held his reply to its notice as “unsatisfactory”. He had threatened the Mainpuri District Magistrate when she cancelled the gun licences of many people in his constituency. Unfortunately, the tone and tenor of political debate in the country is being increasingly debased. This needs to be checked firmly. Political parties would do well to maintain decorum in their campaigns. They ought to follow the rules of the game. Surely, there is no need for them to stoop to vulgar name-calling or abusive language.

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Pen mightier than shoe
Congress must drop Tytler, Sajjan

NO sane person can approve of – leave alone justify — a Delhi journalist choosing to hurl a shoe at Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram during a Press conference on Tuesday. This has become a reflection on the entire journalistic community which is counted among the intelligentsia and is least expected to behave like an uncouth ogre. Neither the forum nor the mode of protest is acceptable. A journalist is supposed to show his resentment through his writing, and not in such a demonstrative manner and misuse an occasion to gather news. The Editors Guild of India has rightly condemned the journalist’s action. The CBI’s clean chit to Mr Tytler and Mr Sajjan Kumar’s role in 1984 riots have been a sore point with most people in Punjab who have been waiting endlessly for punishment being given to culprits of 1984 anti-Sikh riots.

The two Congressmen have become the symbol of defiance by the Congress of the public opinion. Only the party knows why they are quite so indispensable for it that it has been hell-bent to give them a clean chit. This despite the fact that the Nanavati Commission had severely indicted them in 2005. Trying to rehabilitate them despite all that is nothing less than shameful. The way the CBI has acted as a hand-maiden of the government in the matter has made the resentment go deeper.

The closing of the ranks by many segments – including non-Sikhs — has put the Congress in a quandary. Unnerved by the groundswell, it may even be moved to undo its thoughtless decision and drop the two controversial candidates. It was wise and politically correct on Mr Chidambaram’s part not to over-react to the journalist’s losing control of his emotions. This cannot be said of his party’s brazen decision to give party ticket to Jagdish Tytler, as also to Sajjan Kumar. No prestige is involved in having second thoughts, particularly when the earlier decision was patently wrong.

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No room for complacency
Huge challenges lie ahead for Sri Lanka

THE Sri Lankan army may claim that it has broken the back of the LTTE by wresting control of the north-eastern district of Mullaitivu which it says was the Tamil militant outfit’s “last bastion”, but until its leader Prabhakaran is capured dead or alive, there can be no finality about it. True, the Tamil Tigers are battered and on the run but Prabhakaran has the potential to re-build the once-awesome force if he is not tracked down. That despite the loss of thousands of cadres over the last 26 years, the LTTE supremo was able to motivate Tamil youth to fight for “Eelam” or independence is a measure of his rabble-rousing ability, his organising skills and the deeply embedded feeling among a sizable section of Sri Lanka’s Tamil minority that they had been wronged by the majority Sinhalese. It is reprehensible that he has chosen to use innocent Tamils as human shields as reports by independent observers indicate.

While President Rajapakse has shown grit in dealing with the LTTE, his regime’s responsibility does not end there. The challenges before him are manifold. The thousands of erstwhile LTTE sympathisers would need to be weaned away from the path of violence. This would require fairness in dealing with them. The Tamils who have lost their means of livelihood and their homes in the fratricidal war between the army and the LTTE are sorely in need of rehabilitation.

India has always stood for a united Sri Lanka. It must now ensure that the Tamils are not left high and dry. We have seen in the past how Lankan Tamils pour into South India when there is repression or instability in Sri Lanka. India, therefore, has a stake in devolution of powers to local authorities in the Tamil-dominated areas and ensuring a better deal for them in their country. The worst may be over in Sri Lanka, but there is still much to do.

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Thought for the Day

Alone and warming his five wits,/ The white owl in the belfry sits. — Lord Tennyson

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Rule of Law must prevail
It’s a basic tenet of democracy
by B.G. Verghese

How often have we heard not just politicians but others loftily intone that the law must take its course? The rule of law is a basic tenet of democracy and posits equality for all and subordination to certain universal standards without exceptions in the name of wealth and influence. Yet we remain a feudal society in constantly seeking to privilege self and real or assumed status. We have seen a good deal of that in recent times even if articulated in terms of democratic norms.

The Varun Gandhi episode is an instant case. The man indulged in reckless rabble rousing calculated to inflame communal passions, at one stage even calling for the sterilisation of Muslims and recalling his father’s vicious programme in this regard during the Emergency, though that was not aimed at any specific community. His subsequent denials remain unproven and he has not adduced any evidence to justify his statement that the tape broadcast was tampered with. Subsequent arguments on his behalf constitute special pleading — that he is a young man, new to politics, meant no harm and even if he said what he says he did not say, he was merely uttering what was in the minds of “everybody”, or a large number of others.

Two issues have since arisen. First that he has been charged under the National Security Act, which provides for detention on grounds of likely infringement of public order. If this is considered excessive or unjust, the remedy lies with the Advisory Board which is enjoined to review all NSA detentions within three weeks. The law will take its course. After the Gujarat killings of 2002 large numbers of Muslims were detained under POTA, some merely on suspicion, and languished in jail for months and years. Those who applauded and supported this treatment cannot plead a different standard for their friends.

Secondly, Varun’s removal from Pilibhit to another place of detention has been criticised. Those who caused violent disturbances when he surrendered and then planned bandhs and protest demonstrations in Pilibhit in his support have only themselves to blame for his precautionary re-location.

Further, his mother has complained that she was prevented from meeting her son. The fact, as explained, is that a certain number of jail visits are allowed and Maneka Gandhi had exhausted her quota. So, the law took its course. For her to argue that Mayawati, UP’s Chief Minister, does not know a mother’s anguish, is irrelevant. If every mother were permitted to bend the due process, the rule of law would long back have ended. No mother is above the law, which has been bent time and again to privilege the crooked and well heeled, including those who drive killer-BMWs.

In another case of abuse of the rule of law, certain fervent “nationalists” in Mumbai tried to prevent Anjali Waghmare from taking up a brief for Ajmal Kasab, the only Pakistani terrorist to survive the 26/11 encounter. She did so as a member of the court’s legal aid panel in the absence of any advocate coming forward. This is to uphold the rule of law and not to show sympathy for any wrongdoer. For Kasab to be unrepresented could result in his being set free on appeal for mistrial. This is not the fist time that ultra-nationalism has run wild to subvert the rule of law.

A fourth case relates to barring Sanjay Dutt from contesting a Lok Sabha seat from Lucknow. The EC and the court merely followed the law. Citing misleading analogies, rightly been set aside, and then alleging mala fides as done by the Samajwadi Party and others, is again to devalue principles and seek wrongful favours for favourite sons. Sanjay Dutt is a popular actor with an impeccable family background, but he was found guilty of a heinous crime in 1993 that cannot be brushed aside.

In a fifth case, as senior and suave a politician as Jaswant Singh was caught on camera distributing cash to folk singers in Rajasthan. The bland statement that this was in keeping with the traditional practice will scarcely wash when the venue was a constituency meeting after elections had been called. Tradition has its place but cannot be permitted to override electoral norms.

The last week also saw the release of the BJP manifesto — a bundle of populist giveaways without financial or social accounting. The armed forces deserve many things but not exemption from income tax. This is questionable vote-banking. Likewise, the unilateral abrogation of Article 370 is fraught with danger as it amounts to reneging on a solemn undertaking and betrays confused reasoning.

Article 370 has nothing to do with national integration. Article 1 is what is relevant. The championing of a uniform civil code is in turn a piece of humbug as it lies in the constitutional power of every state to legislate a UCC as Goa has done. Doing so would be greatly desirable and would not impinge on personal laws, just as the Special Marriage Act does not obliterate the Hindu Marriage Act.

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Barefoot reporters?
by Amar Chandel

Active journalism may undergo a sea change all over the country — may be in the entire world — in the near future, in keeping with the needs of the times.

Like bullet-proof glasses, shoe-proof glasses may become a common sight in front of the podiums at Press conference venues. Till such time that these are installed, security men may be deputed at all Press conferences to remove the shoes and sandals of journalists and keep them in safe custody. Anybody sporting a Size 10 shoe may be treated as a prime suspect.

Security men may also confiscate all other fliable items like pens, paperweights and notebooks.

Since the US is also a co-sufferer, it may deploy an anti-shoe umbrella all over the country. Press conference venues may be armed with smell-sensing missiles to intercept and destroy shoes mid-flight.

It may invite other countries to fight shoe terror unitedly.

If the hero-worship of shoe-throwers continues, this unusual form of journalism may become a cottage industry. Shoe-throwing may turn as popular as cricket among those wanting to become journalists, with academies coming up everywhere to teach them how to take better aim. It may even be a regular subject in journalism institutes.

There may be signed articles in the Press demanding inclusion of shoe-throwing in the Commonwealth Games.

Newspapers and periodicals on their part may give preference to barefoot reporters. Journalists may be given appointment only after the police, the CBI and RAW have checked their antecedents and cleared their names.

Employers may insist that anyone trained by them will be prohibited from taking up any assignment with any religious or social organisation offering alternative employment in case they are thrown out.

Under the model code of conduct, advertisements given by parents of girls desirous of marrying a shoe-thrower may not be inserted.

The Indian Penal Code may have to be amended to make shoe-throwing a non-bailable offence.

The Election Commission may suggest that they should not be given ticket by any political party.

Video Press conferences may come into vogue and may even replace actual Press conferences.

Hopefully, journalists will not have to go on their assignments barefoot.

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Population growth hurts development
Bihar, UP, MP and Rajasthan are chief culprits

At the time of elections it is imperative that people deliberate on issues of prime importance to the development of the nation. That the population issue has an inextricable link with the development of the country is an undisputed fact.

And yet, these issues take a back seat just when they should be discussed and highlighted. In order to bring these issues to the fore, eminent members of the Governing Board of the Population Foundation of India have issued the following statement highlighting the need to focus on population:

The country is readying for the polls. Issues are being debated. What is missing is the focus on the core population issue. According to the 2001 census, India’s population was 102.9 crore. Viewed globally, India constitutes 16.9 per cent of the world’s population and 2.4 per cent of the global land area.

During the last elections in 2004, we were 108 crore – an increase of over five crore over the census figure.

Today in 2009 we are 116 crore – an absolute increase of over 13 crore from the 2001 level and by the next national elections in 2014, we will be 124 crore.

These are not sustainable numbers, given environmental pressures, climate change and the need to escape the poverty trap.

The consequences of the current trends will be distress migration, the pressure of numbers on the land, employment and the environment; prolonging poverty and changes in the demographic balance.

Fortunately, the overall population growth rate in the country has declined since 1981. However, in the four large states – Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan – the population growth rates continue to be high (in fact, it has remained more or less stagnant for the last two decades).

Thus, the crux of India’s population problem lies in these four states. These states account for nearly 40 per cent of the country’s population and will contribute well over 50 per cent of the population growth in the coming decades.

The performance and demographic outcomes of these states will determine the timing and the size of population at which India will achieve population 
stabilisation.

These four states with high fertility rates are the very states that have low literacy rates, low status of women, low health indicators with a high infant and maternal mortality.

People need to recognise the two-way relationship between population stabilisation and other development initiatives like health, education, nutrition and poverty alleviation programmes.

Priorities must be set for talking these issues within a non-coercive, rights-based and gender-sensitive framework that is pro-people, pro-poor, pro-women and pro-youth and that addresses the issues of access to and quality of services.

The priority issues that need to be highlighted are:

l Unacceptably high numbers of maternal and infant deaths

l Improving quality health services for institutional deliveries to make it safer for both mother and child

l Meeting the unmet needs of family planning services with quality care

l Linking population programmes with other development initiatives like health, education, nutrition and poverty alleviation

l Empowering the poor and marginalised to have a small but a happy and healthy family by choice and not through coercion, incentives, disincentives or imposition of a two-child norm from above

l Increasing the focus on health needs of each area with the involvement of the community

l Focussing on adolescent and youth (10-30 years) to make them healthy and productive through gender sensitive and value-based family life education, including sexual and reproductive health.

Hari Shankar Singhania
Chairman, PFI Governing Board 
Justice Leila Seth
Member, Governing Board
Vinay Bharat Ram
Member, Governing Board
A.R. Nanda
Executive Director, PFI
Kiran Karnik
Member, Governing Board
Ranjit Roy Chaudhury
Member, Governing Board
B.G. Verghese
Member, Governing Board
Abid Hussain
Member, Governing Board
K.L. Chugh
Member, Governing Board
Nina Puri
Member, Governing Board

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Obama for greater US role
by Michael D. Shear and Kevin Sullivan

PRESIDENT OBAMA concluded his inaugural overseas tour on Tuesday after presenting to the world a starkly different image of the United States than his predecessor had, returning home from encounters with exuberant U.S. troops in Iraq, fawning crowds in Europe and Turkey, and foreign leaders who welcomed a new partnership with the country but did little to support its goals.

Obama left Istanbul shortly after 2 p.m. local time and made an unscheduled stop in Baghdad, where he addressed U.S. troops and received a briefing from Gen. Raymond Odierno, the commander of American forces in Iraq. He also met with President Jalal Talabani and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki during the several-hour stop, his first visit to the country as president.

Throughout his trip abroad, Obama portrayed a proud but flawed United States to his audiences, using a refrain of humility and partnership in an attempt to rally allies around such issues of mutual concern as the global economy, climate change and nuclear proliferation.

He talked about the nation’s “darker periods” of slavery and repression of Native Americans, and its past sanction of torture that he has ended. He also spoke with pride about the United States’ diversity and its central role in rebuilding post-World War II Europe, while condemning “anti-Americanism that is at once casual but can also be insidious.”

Despite his celebrity reception at nearly every stop on the six-country tour, Obama was unable to persuade European allies to increase fiscal stimulus spending or to send additional combat troops to Afghanistan for long-term deployments.

“Why didn’t the waters part, the sun shine and all ills of the world disappear because President Obama came to Europe this week?” said David Axelrod, one of Obama’s top aides. “That wasn’t our expectation. ... We understand ... that this involves solving the problems, the difficult, thorny problems we face in the world.”

Obama advisers pointed to the Group of 20 agreement to commit more than $1 trillion in new money to the International Monetary Fund and other programs to revive the global economy and protect the poorest nations from the economic downturn.

He announced new strategic arms-reduction talks with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. And, the advisers said, the president, through his tone and policy proposals, outlined a broad framework for improving U.S. relations with the world.

“There was a sense that America was back. So many of the leaders basically said, `It’s nice to have America back at its place,’ “said White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.

But his conservative critics at home said Obama displayed more style than substance. Thomas Donnelly, a resident fellow in foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, said the president “maintained, and if anything added to, the feeling of bonhomie that the rest of the world now regards him.”

“On the substantive front, there wasn’t all that much, and what there was, if you hold it up to the light, there should be many questions about it,” he said, referring to Obama’s goal, outlined in Prague, of eliminating the world’s nuclear arsenals. Donnelly added that “in the case of Afghanistan, the silence was deafening.”

“People already liked Obama, that’s nothing new,” he added. “And at some point there needs to be a ‘therefore’ clause. The president already had the world’s goodwill, but he has yet to translate that into action for the public good, especially on the security issue.”

Obama used his time in Istanbul on Tuesday to reach across cultural barriers – meeting with Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders, slipping off his shoes to tour a 400-year-old mosque and urging an audience of university students to “build new bridges instead of new walls” throughout the world.

“The world will be what you make of it,” Obama said in the town hall-style meeting here, where he emphasized, as he has in several earlier forums, the growing power of young people to change politics and policies.

From the moment in London last week when he handed Queen Elizabeth II an iPod, to rousing appeals to youth in speeches in Strasbourg, France, and Prague, to Tuesday’s session in Istanbul, Obama used his trip to signal a generational change in the White House and the power of youth to affect global decision making.

Echoing a theme and strategy from his presidential campaign, Obama urged young people to harness their collective power on issues as varied as climate change, nuclear proliferation and the fight against Islamic extremism. In Strasbourg, he told them that “this generation cannot stand still.”

“Each time we find ourselves at a crossroads, paralyzed by worn debates and stale thinking, the old ways of doing things, a new generation rises up and shows the way forward,” the president said, adding a favorite campaign mantra: “This is our generation. This is our time.”

Obama told the students in Istanbul that he believes in setting ambitious goals, including establishing a constructive relationship with Iran, ridding the world of nuclear weapons and forging a peace between Israelis and Palestinians. He also said he would like to change the way the United States is viewed in parts of the world.

“America, like every other nation, has made mistakes and has its flaws,” he said. “But for more than two centuries, we have strived at great cost and sacrifice to form a more perfect union.”

Obama, who is relatively inexperienced in foreign policy, met over the past week with the leaders of Russia and China and others from across Europe, Asia and Africa on such topics as the global financial crisis and nuclear weapons stockpiles.

Mehmet Ali Birand, a prominent journalist and broadcaster who has covered several previous U.S. presidential visits, said Obama was impressive in Turkey.

“He said things that were not very light music to our ears, but we could swallow it,” Birand said, referring especially to Obama’s refusal to disavow his earlier statements that the mass killing of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire before and during World War I was genocide.

“He was very clear on what he expected from the Turks,” Birand said. “He is not a guy who just came in and gave us some angles.”

At each stop, Obama sought to enlist young people to shake up old political orders and assumptions.

— By arrangement with LA Times-Washington Post

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Zardari wants drones to fight militants
by Andrew Buncombe

Pakistan’s president has called on America to provide his country with an arsenal of drones and missiles to target militants blamed for a wave of violence rather than carrying out independent operations that violate the nation’s sovereignty.

In an interview with The Independent, Asif Ali Zardari said Pakistan had made it clear that it was willing to “take out high-value targets on our own, and we welcome the technology and intelligence assistance that will give us the ability to succeed”.

He added: “I cannot condone violations of our sovereignty even when they are done by allies and friends. We would much prefer that the US share its intelligence and give us the drones and missiles that will allow us to take care of this problem on our own.”

Mr Zardari’s comments, made in a wide-ranging interview in which for the first time he conceded more than one of the 10 militants who carried out the Mumbai attacks may be Pakistani, came as senior US officials visited Islamabad and called for greater trust between the two countries.

The Obama administration’s regional envoy, Richard Holbrooke, said: “The United States and Pakistan face a common strategic threat, a common enemy and a common challenge and therefore a common task.”

Pakistan is confronted by a fresh spike in militant violence. Hundreds of people have been killed and wounded in recent weeks and a senior Pakistani Taliban leader has vowed that his suicide bombers will carry out two attacks every week.

Ironically, the wave of violence, believed to have been carried out by militants loyal to the Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud, has been seen as a response to an escalation by the US in the number of missile attacks launched against militants in Pakistan’s tribal areas using pilotless drones. Mr Mehsud told journalists his recent operations were a direct act of revenge.

Pakistan is under intense pressure to deal with the militants, especially those blamed for cross-border raids against Western troops in Afghanistan. Despite public denials, it is understood Pakistan co-operates with the US drone strikes. But there is little doubt that such tactics are increasingly unpopular with the Pakistani public.

Mr Zardari said: “President Obama once said that he would act if we weren’t willing and able. We certainly are willing and with international support we will become even more able.”

The President also acknowledged that more than a year after elections, many in Pakistan are growing frustrated with a seeming lack of progress. “After a decade of dictatorship the people had enormous expectations of rapid improvement in their lives. That is still very much our priority but the enormity of the economic crisis both within Pakistan and internationally, compounded by the war that we fight within and along our borders, has made progress much slower than we hoped.”

Asked about the disputes between his party and Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-N at a time when many hoped the country’s democratic parties would be working together, he said: “The ups and downs of democracy should not be interpreted as a lack of stability ... There is the usual tug of power politics and the tendency of some observers to paint Doomsday scenarios. But I think the people appreciate that our democratic government is functioning.”

He claimed Pakistan was co-operating with India’s investigation into November’s Mumbai attacks that left 164 people dead and that a “substantial” number of arrests had been made. He said those responsible were also threatening the “very existence” of his country.

— By arrangement with The Independent

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