SPECIAL COVERAGE
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THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
W O R L D

Pressure mounts on Italian PM to quit
Rome, November 3
Pressure mounted on Italy's besieged Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to quit on Thursday, as six former parliamentary loyalists called for a new government and the squabbling cabinet failed to agree an urgent economic reform programme.
Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi arrives at a Euro Zone meeting before a G20 summit of major world economies in Cannes on Thursday Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi arrives at a Euro Zone meeting before a G20 summit of major world economies in Cannes on Thursday.
Reuters

Syrian troops kill 20 despite peace deal
Damascus, November 3
Syrian troops killed 20 civilians and arrested dozens today, a rights watchdog said, a day after Damascus pledged to withdraw its forces from protest hubs under a deal with the Arab League to end months of bloodshed.


EARLIER STORIES



Set free foreigners whose jail term is over, Pak govt told
Lahore, November 3
In a move that could benefit Indian prisoners languishing in Pakistani jails, the Lahore High Court has directed the authorities to speed up the release of foreigners who continue to be in prison despite having served their sentences.

Israel to freeze UNESCO funding
Jerusalem, November 3
Israel said today that it would freeze its funding to the United Nations cultural agency UNESCO following the group's decision to grant the Palestinians full membership.

Forbes power list: Sonia, Manmohan in top 20
New York, November 3
Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Sigh figure among the top 20 most powerful people on earth in the latest Forbes list that is topped by US President Barack Obama, who claimed back the spot in the glow of American successes against Osama bin Laden and Muammar Gaddafi. Gandhi has been placed at the 11th place in the list and comes out as the most powerful Indian, and Forbes described her as a politician who has "twice refused to serve as the Prime Minister, delegating that job to Manmohan Singh".

Red Sea ferry sinks, passengers saved
Cairo, November 3
Passengers escaped on lifeboats and nobody was killed when a fire broke out on a ferry carrying more than 1,200 people from the Jordanian Red Sea port of Aqaba to Egypt on Thursday, Egyptian officials said.

Self-immolation bid: 18 Tibetans detained
Kathmandu, November 3
Nepalese police has foiled a bid by 18 Tibetans, including 10 women, for trying to self-immolate here in protest against the Chinese government's continuous crackdown against the Tibetans, an official said.





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Pressure mounts on Italian PM to quit
* Berlusconi reels under new setbacks
* Cabinet fails to back measures he wanted

Rome, November 3
Pressure mounted on Italy's besieged Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to quit on Thursday, as six former parliamentary loyalists called for a new government and the squabbling cabinet failed to agree an urgent economic reform programme.

The rebel deputies, three of whom have already left Berlusconi's crumbling coalition, wrote to the premier saying Italy needed a "new political phase and a new government".

"We are asking you to take an initiative which is appropriate to the situation," the deputies wrote, according to the letter published in the daily Corriere della Sera.

"Be the backer of a new political phase and a new government which would have the task, from now until the end of the legislative term, of implementing the agenda agreed with our European partners and with it, the indications which came from the European Central Bank."

Berlusconi has rejected calls to stand aside and make way for an interim government, saying the only alternative would be to hold early elections next spring, which he says would be irresponsible while the crisis continues.

But as the number of party rebels grew, another deputy in the ruling PDL, Giuliano Cazzola, gave an interview to the online Affaritaliani daily saying Berlusconi should leave and allow another centre-right government to take power.

"The government should resign and the PDL should manage a different solution without clinging to the alternative 'Us or new elections'," he said, suggesting that Berlusconi's chief of staff Gianni Letta could lead a new administration.

President Giorgio Napolitano said on Tuesday he was sounding out support for reform from political forces outside the ruling centre right, suggesting he was contemplating the possibility of a broad-based national unity government.

But in a statement on Thursday he said the ruling coalition had insisted Berlusconi could continue, there was no alternative to him, and he could carry through on his commitment to economic reform. On the other hand, opposition leaders wanted a unity government, Napoletano said.

Umberto Bossi, leader of the devolutionist Northern League and Berlusconi's key ally, confirmed his opposition to a technocrat government after talking to Napoletano and said the party would prefer early elections, a year ahead of schedule.

The head of state does not have the power to dismiss a government with a parliamentary majority but as growing numbers of PDL deputies desert Berlusconi, the opposition believe they could have the numbers to topple him as early as next week.

With doubts over Greece's future in the euro zone already causing havoc in the markets, the renewed political uncertainty in Rome racked up pressure on Italian government bonds.

Yields on 10-year BTP bonds hit more than 6.3 percent, creeping closer to the level of 7 percent which many analysts believe could lead to a so-called "buyers' strike" where investors take fright and refuse to buy the paper.

The risk premium over benchmark German Bunds rose at one point as high as 462 points, the widest spread since 1995, reflecting the growing worries about the euro zone's third biggest economy. Reuters

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Syrian troops kill 20 despite peace deal

Damascus, November 3
Syrian troops killed 20 civilians and arrested dozens today, a rights watchdog said, a day after Damascus pledged to withdraw its forces from protest hubs under a deal with the Arab League to end months of bloodshed.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the victims fell in various neighbourhoods of the flashpoint protest city of Homs, in central Syria, where government forces reportedly used heavy tank-mounted machineguns.

As activists called for mass demonstrations on Friday to test the government's commitment to the peace blueprint, the largest opposition group held talks in Cairo with Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi to voice its concerns.

"We told the secretary general of our fears that the regime will not keep its promises," said Samir al-Nashar, a member of the opposition Syrian National Council.

Arabi briefed them on the peace plan, which also calls on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to engage in a national dialogue with his opponents, said Nashar, adding that the SNC does not want talks but for Assad to quit.

"We are not talking about a dialogue. We offered to engage in negotiations to move from a authoritarian regime to a democratic regime. And we ask that Bashar al-Assad resign." The SNC is the largest and most representative Syrian opposition grouping. On Wednesday it urged the Arab League to freeze Syria's membership in the 22-strong organisation and recognise it as the sole representative of the opposition.

Assad's opponents are sceptical about the regime's readiness to rein in a brutal crackdown that the United Nations says has cost more than 3,000 lives since mid-March. AFP

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Set free foreigners whose jail term is over, Pak govt told

Lahore, November 3
In a move that could benefit Indian prisoners languishing in Pakistani jails, the Lahore High Court has directed the authorities to speed up the release of foreigners who continue to be in prison despite having served their sentences.

Lahore High Court Chief Justice Ijaz Chaudhry issued the order yesterday while disposing of a petition filed by lawyer Awais Sheikh seeking the release of two Indian prisoners -- Satinder Pal Singh and Karale Bhanudas -- currently being held in Kot Lakhpat Jail. The two Indians had challenged their confinement even after they had served their prison terms.

Chief Justice Chaudhry said the Foreign Ministry should approach the countries to which the prisoners, who have completed their jail terms, belonged and resolve the issue.

A report submitted in court by the Punjab Home Department said 74 foreigners were currently being held in four prisons in the province.

Thirty-two prisoners, including four women, are from India, while the rest are from Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Iran, Burma, Tanzania, Nigeria, Azerbaijan, Iraq, South Africa and Dominica.

According to the report, there were 56 foreign prisoners in Kot Lakhpat Jail, 16 in the Rawalpindi Central Jail and one each in Kasur District Jail and Dera Ghazi Khan Jail.It could not immediately be ascertained whether all the 32 Indian prisoners had completed their sentences. PTI

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Israel to freeze UNESCO funding
Nation contributes $2 million annually

Jerusalem, November 3
Israel said today that it would freeze its funding to the United Nations cultural agency UNESCO following the group's decision to grant the Palestinians full membership.

A statement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said UNESCO's decision this week damaged chances of reaching a peace deal with the Palestinians and that Israel would halt its annual payments of $2 million.

Israel's main ally, the United States, has also stopped its financing, which accounts for 22 percent of the agency's funds.

The UNESCO vote on Monday was a diplomatic victory for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who in the absence of peace talks has pushed for recognition of a Palestinian state at the United Nations, a move opposed by Israel and the United States.

A day after the vote, Israel announced it would speed up the building of some 2,000 housing units in the occupied West Bank and around Jerusalem, and freeze tax transfers to Abbas's Palestinian Authority.

"Steps like these do not promote peace but make it more distant," Netanyahu said of the UNESCO vote.

Netanyahu has called on Abbas to return without preconditions to peace negotiations that collapsed over a year ago in a dispute over Jewish settlement. Abbas says Israel must first freeze settlement activity. The Palestinians are looking to establish a state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, territories Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East War.

Israel later annexed East Jerusalem, a move that has not won international recognition. It withdrew from Gaza in 2005, and in 2007 the territory was taken over by Hamas Islamists, who are rivals to Western-backed Abbas and refuse to recognise Israel. Reuters

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Forbes power list: Sonia, Manmohan in top 20

New York, November 3
Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Sigh figure among the top 20 most powerful people on earth in the latest Forbes list that is topped by US President Barack Obama, who claimed back the spot in the glow of American successes against Osama bin Laden and Muammar Gaddafi.

Gandhi has been placed at the 11th place in the list and comes out as the most powerful Indian, and Forbes described her as a politician who has "twice refused to serve as the Prime Minister, delegating that job to Manmohan Singh".

Singh is placed at the 19th place and is described by the influential magazine as an "incorruptible" Cambridge, Oxford educated economist.

Despite a poor popularity run at home, Obama, who was last year toppled by Chinese President Hu Jintao as the most powerful person in the world is again at the helm of the list, while Hu has slipped to the third spot behind Russian strongman Vladimir Putin.

The magazine said Hu's diminishing influence as he gives up political office was part of the reason why Obama was able to reach up even while falling down in popularity charts at home, so was America's continued supremacy in the world.

"Despite faddish American declinism, the US remains, indisputably, the most powerful nation in the world, with the largest, most innovative economy and the deadliest military," it said.

The US forces' success in eliminating its enemy number one Osama bin Laden and the US-led NATO forces' success in Libya are indicators of America's continued might in the world. PTI

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Red Sea ferry sinks, passengers saved
Extensive damage to ship reported

Cairo, November 3
Passengers escaped on lifeboats and nobody was killed when a fire broke out on a ferry carrying more than 1,200 people from the Jordanian Red Sea port of Aqaba to Egypt on Thursday, Egyptian officials said.

An official from Egypt's Red Sea ports authority said the ferry sank after the fire had caused extensive damage.

The vessel had been heading for the Egyptian port of Nuweiba. It had travelled about 15 nautical miles from Aqaba when the fire took hold.

"Thanks be to God, all the passengers on the Pella ferry were saved ... There were no dead or injured," Egypt's ruling military said in a statement published on its Facebook page.

The army said passengers were brought to Nuweiba but the Egyptian official said they were taken to Aqaba. The official said there were six injured, most only lightly.

Egyptian state television said Egyptian naval launches and military aircraft were involved in the rescue. The maritime official said the passengers were mainly Egyptian expatriate workers returning home.

The vessel is owned by Arab Bridge Maritime Company (AB Maritime), a joint venture between the governments of Jordan, Egypt and Iraq. Reuters

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Self-immolation bid: 18 Tibetans detained

Kathmandu, November 3
Nepalese police has foiled a bid by 18 Tibetans, including 10 women, for trying to self-immolate here in protest against the Chinese government's continuous crackdown against the Tibetans, an official said.

The Tibetans were arrested from Lalitpur district of Kathmandu in possession of kerosene for committing self-immolation, according to Ratna Raj Pandey, chief district officer of Lalitpur district.

The police foiled the bid for self-immolation by 18 Tibetan exiles, including 10 women, and arrested them from the Bhanimandal area acting upon tip-off, he said.

Earlier on Tuesday, the police had arrested some 58 Tibetans, including 19 women, as they were conducting peaceful prayers in the Jawalakhel area of Lalitpur district to show solidarity to the Free Tibet movement. They were released later in the evening. PTI

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