Monday, January 12, 2009

Israel's Olmert says Rice embarrassed over UN resolution vote; US disputes his account

Associated Press Writer
6:12 PM EST, January 12, 2009
JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel's prime minister said Monday that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was embarrassed by orders to abstain from voting last week on a U.N. truce resolution for Gaza that she helped arrange.Israel had argued that the Security Council measure calling for a halt to the Gaza fighting — which passed Thursday in a 14-0 vote with the U.S. abstaining — was unworkable because it did not guarantee Israel's security.Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said he called President George W. Bush to seek an abstention from the U.S., a key Israeli ally at the United Nations."I said: 'Get me President Bush on the phone,'" Olmert said in a speech in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon. "They said he was in the middle of giving a speech in Philadelphia. I said I didn't care: 'I need to talk to him now.' He got off the podium and spoke to me."Olmert said he argued that the United States should not vote in favor, and the president then called Rice and told her not to do so."She was left pretty embarrassed," Olmert said.A senior U.S. official in Washington disputed the account."The plan had been all along, as agreed by the secretary and the president, that if all of the pieces fell into place, we would abstain," the official said on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue."The government of Israel does not make policy for the United States," the official added.The approved resolution called for "an immediate, durable and fully respected cease-fire, leading to the full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza."Rice said later that the United States "fully supports" the resolution but abstained because it "thought it important to see the outcomes of the Egyptian mediation," referring to an Egyptian-French initiative aimed at achieving a cease-fire.Still, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki said he was surprised by the U.S. abstention."We were told that the Americans were going to vote in favor," he said Friday, a day after the vote.But when Rice came in to the Security Council chamber, she informed the Saudi foreign minister with an apology that she would abstain and would clarify later that the U.S. supported the resolution nonetheless, according to Malki."What happened in the last 10 or 15 minutes, what kind of pressure she received, from whom, this is really something that maybe we will know about later," he said.___
AP writer Matthew Lee in Washington and Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations contributed to this report.

Elite Police Force commandos refuse to serve in Swat

PESHAWAR: Around 600 specially-trained commandoes of the newly established Elite Police Force (EPF) have refused to get posted in the turbulent Swat Valley, saying they would prefer sacking to being made “scapegoats”, a source told The News.“The services of around 600 commandoes of Platoon No-1 to Platoon No-13 were placed at the disposal of district police officer of Swat. They were supposed to join duty during the first week of January. However, none of them left for the troubled town,” source disclosed.The source added that parents of the newly trained commandoes had also refused to send their sons to the war-hit town where cops had been slaughtered and strangulated publicly in the recent past.“We are not afraid of being killed but have certain reservations over the role that the police force has been assigned in the town. If we alone are permitted to clear the Swat valley, we are ready to take over and join our duty,” a commando, requesting anonymity, told this scribe.The cop added that there must be a mechanism of providing ration and other facilities to the EPF cops like army men so none of them would have go to bazaars for shopping and be trapped there.Another EPF commando recalled a number of incidents of beheading of cops in public in Swat. “But none of those involved in the slaughtering of policemen could be rounded up or punished to this date. This has brought the morale of the force to its lowest,” opined another cop, who is among the lot that has refused to perform duty in Swat.Four cops were brutally murdered in Swat last week. The body of one Gul Islam was mutilated and his face disfigured. The head of Javed was cut with a drill machine while Aziz, a police driver, was slaughtered after his family could not arrange ransom money. Another unidentified cop was also slaughtered during the last week.A large-scale desertion was witnessed in police and other security forces during the recent months. “Many cops had to place advertisements in local newspapers to assure the militants that they were no more part of security forces,” a local from Swat Valley told this correspondent.Once a lucrative job for local youth, police had more attraction for the Swati people and that was why the authorities had to relax rules for recruiting cops due to shortage of manpower. Even then, people are not ready to get jobs for their children in police.In recent weeks, female education institutions were threatened with bombing while several other government institutions also received threats. To secure the government buildings and installations, the security forces had to deploy personnel there who, military sources said, created troops shortage. However, these military sources were hoping to cope with the situation after the deployment of the EPF.Refusal of such a large number of policemen to join duty in Swat has put the authorities in a fix. It would also add to the problems of the security forces. The authorities have now decided to deploy the EPF cops in Peshawar, Dera Ismail Khan, Kohat and Hangu.Attempts to contact the EPF head, DIG Mohammad Suleman, failed because his cellular phone remained switched off.Another official of the Frontier Police, when approached, did not offer comments on the issue but said they had spent over Rs10 million on 4-month training of 1,022 cops of the EPF. These cops would also be given Rs3,000 in addition to their salaries.Though the EPF launch has not been formally sanctioned, the NWFP chief minister approved, as a special case, the creation of the Elite force comprising 2,500 commandoes.Special training was imparted to 1,022 cops by army men at the Punjab Regiment Centre in Mardan while 521 others were trained at Karachi. Also, the entire police force is being given 5-week Anti-Terrorist Squad training to equip them with techniques of fighting terrorism.“Those who are being imparted training in Karachi would return in March after which they would be deployed in different troubled towns,” an official opined. He argued that the morale of police force across the Frontier was high and they were playing an important role in fighting terrorism.

NA passes unanimous resolution against Israel

ISLAMABAD: National Assembly passed a unanimous resolution against Israel on Monday.
The resolution, which was tabled by Federal Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Dr Babar Awan, calls for an immediate stop of the ongoing Israeli attacks in Gaza strip. The resolution also stressed Israel to open all routes so that relief goods and medicines could be provided to the innocent Palestinians.During the session, parliamentarians strongly condemned the Israeli aggression in Gaza and called on all concerned international bodies to adopt binding resolutions calling for an immediate stop of Israeli attacks in Gaza.Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani thanked the parliamentarians for endorsing the resolution unanimously.

Pakistan cognizant of responsibilities as nuke power: PM Gilani

Pakistan cognizant of responsibilities as nuke power: PM Gilani
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani has said, Pakistan is fully aware of its responsibilities as a nuclear power and informed National Assembly that United States has many times applauded Pakistan’s measures taken to halt nuclear proliferation.

This Prime Minister said during his speech in National Assembly on Monday. He added that U.S.’s sanctions upon 13 people were to do nothing with Pakistan.

PM Gilani also said that Dr. Abdul Qadir Khan’s chapter had been closed.

More funds needed to rid Afghanistan of mines: UN

KABUL (Reuters): Afghanistan will not be able to reach its goal of being free from landmines and unexploded bombs by March 2013 unless urgent funding is received, the United Nations said on Monday. After nearly 30 years of war, Afghanistan is one of the most heavily mined countries in the world with more than 640 km square (247 square miles) of land still contaminated, the U.N. said. Afghanistan signed the Ottawa Treaty in 2003, committing itself to ridding the country of all mines by March 2013. In a separate agreement with the international community, 70 percent of the country is to be cleared by March 2011. "In order to reach these objectives ... over the next five years, based on our calculations, the programme needs another $500 million," Mohammad Haidar Reza, programme director for the U.N. mine clearing agency (UNMACA) told a news conference. "We're at a very critical point and we cannot, and this country and the people cannot, afford ... to see a kind of devastating situation where not much money will come," he said. The UNMACA has had to reduce operations in parts of Afghanistan despite having the capability to reach its targets due to a recent drop in international funding for mine clearance in the country. "If we just take right now, as we speak, 2009, because of the availability of funds and resources, ... we have reduced the activities ... of certain demining teams in certain places within the country," said Reza, adding "if we had the money we would go full speed." Reza said the drop in funding has also caused UNMACA to search for new donors. "Our traditional donors have been extremely generous ... but we have to go to new donors. We are hoping, to be able to attract the generous donations from the Gulf States as well," he said. Up to a 150,000 people have been killed or wounded by landmines or explosive remnants since 1989. On average, 45 to 50 people are killed or wounded by landmines in Afghanistan every month, compared to 150, three years ago.

Traffic jam at city squares goes out of control.

The uncontrolled traffic at busy squares and spots of the city has made the life of the people miserable and due to traffic jams the commuters as well as the drivers and even pedestrians have to wait for hours. The traffic problem becomes more severe during the winter season. Some of the squares and spots where the trffic congestion is a matter of routine are Rehman Baba Square, the Warsak Road, Bacha Khan Square, Dalazak Road near Railway Crossing at Faqirabad, Kohat Road, Ring Road spots at Charsadda Road Crossing and coming down from Motorway towards G T Road, Gulbahar Squarre , Sabzi (vegetable ) market near Shahi Bagh, Hayat Avenue to University Town and Khyber Bazar near Kabli Police Station Square, Mian Iqbal square near Cantonment area. They heavy flow of the traffic remains during the peak hours, in the morning and evening. The Rehman Baba square can be considered a bottle neck as almost all vehicles have to pass through this point . the flow is heavy and the passage is narrow. Even the Malak Saad Flyover could not solve the problem. Interestingly the traffic problem is associated with the traffic police and every Tom Dick and Harry is cursing the traffic police, however several factors are responsible for the traffic problems. Some of them are, lack of traffic awareness in the masses, illegal encroachments, the ignorant drivers, using the short cuts, violation of the traffic rules, the worn and torn roads, and unnecessary speed breakers. At certain spots the traffic runs slow due to broken roads, and the donkey carts at the main roads. The carts are usually run by the young children who do not know the traffic rules. Pushcarts and vendors always always occupy Ashraf Road. Friday is considered as sacred day but it remains the worst day for the people who use the route from Hashtnagri Railway Crossing (Faqirabad) towards Bacha Khan Square or Rehman Baba square to enter or proceed towards Bacha Khan Square, the crowd of the poultry sellers, the pigeon breeders and other workless spectators assembled near the roads and make the life of the passer-by miserable. In the same area in the city vegetable Market (main Sabzi Mandi). It is also creating a lot of problems for the traffic as well as the dwellers of the nearby areas. The present location of the vegetable market is a nuisance for the smooth passage of traffic. It is a great concern that the businessmen, their agents, the wheelbarrows and the horse carts drivers, who bring different stuff of vegetable towards the market remain standing on the main road thus blocking the traffic. The traffic also remains block in front of the Press Club Peshawar near the Cantt Railways station. The obvious reason is the arrival of protest procession in lodges their protest in front of the journalist community. A few month back the authorities on such road had to divert the traffic towards the Mall Road in front of Edwards College, however, now the army officials have blocked all the roads in the cantonment area allowing only the vehicles carrying the cantonment stickers. The civilized nations of the world always abide by the traffic laws of their countries. Due to lack of education and national characters, the people are not following rules. As far as the space on some of the roads is concern, is quite spacious, their problem is created due to mismanagement. Through effective management the traffic problem can be solved.

US sanctions 13 tied to Pakistan's AQ Khan

WASHINGTON, Jan 12 (Reuters) - The U.S. State Department said on Monday it had slapped sanctions on 13 individuals and three private companies because of their involvement in the nuclear-proliferation network associated with Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan."We believe these sanctions will help prevent future proliferation-related activities by these private entities, provide a warning to other would-be proliferators," the department said in a statement.The sanctions, which include financial restrictions, followed a multiyear U.S. government review of information regarding the network associated with A.Q. Khan, a nuclear scientist revered at home as the father of Pakistan's atom bomb who has been under house arrest since 2004.The sanctioned entities provided an "extensive international network" for the proliferation of nuclear equipment and know-how that offered "one-stop" shopping for countries seeking to develop nuclear weapons, the State Department said.The State Department said it did not believe the network was currently operating but that countries must remain vigilant that it or similar entities did not become a a future source for sensitive nuclear information or equipment.Last year a U.N. nuclear watchdog said the A.Q. Khan network smuggled nuclear weaponization blueprints to Iran, Libya and North Korea and was active in 12 countries."He and his associates provided Iran and Libya with centrifuge components, designs and in some cases, complete centrifuges," the State Department statement said.Khan was put under house arrest after Pakistan was confronted with evidence by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.The sanctioned individuals and companies were listed by the State Department as:
Selim Alguadis, Kursad Zafer Cire, Muhammad Nasim ud Din, EKA Elektronik Kontrol Aletleri Sanayi ve Ticaret A.S., ETI Elektroteknik Sanayi ve Ticaret A.S., Tradefin Engineering, Muhammad Farooq, Daniel Geiges, Paul Griffin, Peter Griffin, Abdul Qadeer Khan, Shamsul Bahrin bin Rukiban, Buhary Seyed Abu Tahir, Gotthard Lerch, Gerhard Wisser and Shah Hakim Shahnazim Zain.No further details were given over those affected by the sanctions or their nationalities.
California Rep. Howard Berman, a Democrat and chair of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, said the sanctions were "belated" and that those involved in the A.Q. Kahn network were party to the worst proliferation of nuclear equipment and technology in history.He urged incoming President-elect Barack Obama to redouble his efforts against international black markets in weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles."Congress should be ready to provide new funds and the legal authorities that he may need to end the activities of these merchants of mass destruction," said Berman.

Rocket hits a school in NW Pakistan

Unknown militants have fired a rocket at a school in the northwestern city of Kohat in Pakistan as sectarian fighting continues in the region.

Local police said Monday that the rocket fell at a private school in the Sinkandar Khan area in Kohat city, a Press TV correspondent reported.

The rocket damaged the school building but no human losses were reported in the attack.

Clashes that broke out between Shia and radical extremists in Hangu and Kohat on Muharram 11 still continue in the area and have forced the Pakistani Army to take control of Hangu city. Despite of the troops' presence on the Kohat-Hangu highway, unrest prevails in the area.

The clashes started on Friday when Shias from Kohat, who were protesting against the imposition of a curfew in Hangu on the eve of Ashura, were attacked by radical extremists. The two groups started targeting each other with heavy and light weapons.

Earlier on Saturday, a peace committee held talks with civil and military officials and agreed to announce a ceasefire, but non-local militants refused to accept the decision and launched fresh attacks in the area that led to the death of three people.

According to officials, the death toll in three days of clashes in Hangu climbed to 43 after another 17 people were killed on Saturday night and Sunday. Several people have been injured.

Drama artist abducted from Peshawar

PESHAWAR: Pushto stage and drama artist Alamzeb Mujahid was abducted from Peshawar’s Hayatabad area on Monday, Artists Welfare Association President Tariq Jamal told Daily Times. Jamal said Alamzeb was abducted from outside his house at around 12:30pm on Monday. He said the association was trying to locate Alamzeb, adding they had not sought police assistance so far. A source told Daily Times that Alamzeb’s family had instead approached the Bara-based militant group Lashkar-e-Islam, seeking their help for the artist’s recovery. Police officials did not confirm the abduction, saying they had no reports of the incident. manzoor ali shah

NATO terminal attacked in Peshawar

LANDIKOTAL: A terminal storing NATO supplies in Peshawar came under rocket fire on Monday as security forces expanded a military operation to Landikotal tehsil of Khyber Agency. Unidentified assailants fired six rockets at the terminal on Pusht Khera Road, said a private TV channel, adding that security personnel deployed to protect the terminal retaliated and the ensuing gunbattle lasted for almost half an hour, but there were not casualties. Meanwhile in Khyber Agency, the security forces targeted the houses of a Taliban supporter and a criminal, said an official source. The political administration has also warned eight other tribesmen supporting terrorists and criminals to surrender.