Saturday, February 21, 2009

Derailment disrupts train service in Peshawar

PESHAWAR: The railway traffic faced a three-hour suspension following an engine at the Cantonment Railway Station derailed, affecting the trains schedule and causing hardships to passengers.

Engine No 4924 derailed Saturday morning, damaging the track and suspending railway connection of the city with the rest of the country. The Railway Department officials rushed to the scene, however, they failed to repair the track and remove engine despite hours long efforts.

Passengers waiting for their trains at the Cantonment Railway Station said lack of machinery to remove the engine was the reason behind suspension, adding that they had to wait for hours. The railways officials held shunting master and driver of the engine responsible for the accident.

UN renews appeal for release of abducted official in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD, -- The United Nations Friday reiterated its appeal to kidnapper to release a UN official kidnapped in southwestern Pakistan. John Solecki, an American national working as the head of UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in southwestern Pakistan's Quetta city, capital of Balochistan province, was kidnapped by unidentified gunmen at the beginning of this month."The United Nations is aware of the message received Wednesday evening through the media, and we take it seriously," a UN statement said."The United Nations remains extremely concerned about John Solecki's health, which we are told is deteriorating," said the statement, released by Maki Shinohara, UN Spokesperson in Islamabad.A group named The Baloch Liberation United Front (BLUF) has claimed responsibility of the kidnapping and released his video with a list of demands to release hundreds of Baloch women and recovery of thousands of missing Balochs and solution to Balochistan problems through Geneva Convention, the News Network International news agency reported.The BLUF, threatening to kill Solecki, has earlier set a 72-hour deadline for acceptance of demands but later extended the deadline for a few days.The United Nations earlier appealed to the kidnappers for direct contact but the request was turned down."The United Nations once again appeals to those having John to contact us, if not directly, then through a trusted intermediary so that the situation can be resolved in a peaceful dialogue," said the UN statement on Friday.

Taliban Truce Seems in Flux in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — A provincial government official in the disputed area of Swat announced details of what he called a “permanent cease-fire” with the Taliban on Saturday.

But hours later, the most powerful Taliban leader in Swat, Maulana Fazlullah, said over his FM radio station that he had only agreed to a 10-day truce and would consider an extension at the end of that period.

The different positions suggested that the truce agreed to five days ago by the national government, under which the army would stop hostilities in exchange for being allowed to put in place a system of Islamic law, remained in flux.

That deal was widely criticized by Western governments and moderate Pakistanis who described it as a government surrender to ruthless militants. Now it appears that Mr. Fazlullah, whose forces have swept through the territory in the past six months, has not signed on to it.

The national government said Monday that it had agreed to a deal with another Taliban leader, Maulana Sufi Muhammad, who lacks the powerful forces of Mr. Fazlullah, his son-in-law. Mr. Fazlullah has the backing of the umbrella group of Pakistani Taliban, Tehrik-e-Taliban.

Mr. Muhammad has been holding talks with Mr. Fazlullah in the last two days, apparently an effort to persuade him to go along with the government deal.

At a news conference on Saturday, Syed Muhammad Javed, a newly appointed commissioner for Malakand, the region that includes the Swat Valley, said: “Today, we are announcing a permanent cease-fire. The Taliban have also endorsed the cease-fire.”

But Muslim Khan, a spokesman for the Swat Taliban, told The Associated Press that the group was not ready to announce an agreement. “We do welcome the government’s announcement of the permanent cease-fire, but as far as the cease-fire from our side, we can announce it on our own, and we will do that ourselves,” he said.

Chinese president meets U.S. secretary of state

BEIJING, Feb. 21 (Xinhua) -- Chinese President Hu Jintao met with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton here on Saturday, stressing that it is of ever great importance to further deepen and develop Sino-U.S. relations.

Hu appreciated Clinton for her inaugural visit to China and other parts of Asia since taking office, saying this reflects the importance the new U.S. administration puts on developing relations with China and other Asian countries.

Clinton said she had "very good meetings" with Chinese officials during her visit, which she called the beginning of "a new era" of Sino-U.S. relations characterized by positive cooperation.

She also conveyed President Obama's personal greetings to President Hu, saying Obama enjoyed earlier conversations with Hu and looked forward to meeting with Hu at a G20 summit in London in early April.

Clinton said the U.S. and China had agreed in principle to start a strategic and economic dialogue between the two sides. She said President Obama and President Hu are expected to formally announce the plan in London.

Clinton arrived in Beijing Friday evening. Beijing is the last stop of the Asian tour that took her to Japan, Indonesia and the Republic of Korea.