Thursday, March 5, 2009

REHMAN BABA :Taliban blow up 17th century sufi shrine in Peshawar

PESHAWAR: Suspected Taliban blew an ancient shrine of a 17th century sufi poet – Rehman Baba – in Akhund Baba graveyard early on Thursday, said locals and police, with the AP news agency reporting that a letter delivered three days before the attack to the management of the mausoleum had warned against its promotion of ‘shrine culture’.

The white-marble shrine was badly damaged when explosives planted along its pillars went off at around 5:10am. There were no casualties.

Women: Locals said the administration had also been warned before the attack to stop women from visiting the shrine.

Police told Daily Times that the Taliban planted the explosives and then jumped over a wall of the shrine to escape. Hazarkhawni Nazim Hidayatullah told reporters that the building had been severely damaged in the attack, and called on the provincial government to reconstruct it. He said the Taliban were able to carry out the attack because no guards had been deployed outside the building, and called on the authorities to arrange for the security of the shrine.

He said a Khalil-Mohmand tribe jirga would be held in a few days o look into the attack, and announced a demonstration on Ring Road on Friday to protest against the attack. Prime mMinister Yousuf Raza Gilani has condemned the attack.

City SP Ijaz Abid told Daily Times, “Bara-based militants could be behind the attack, sas they are opposed to shrines and have previously attacked other shrines as well.” He, however, said that police had not been told of any threats before the attack. He said an investigation underway would be competed in two days.

Meanwhile, militants also fired 18 mortar shells at a union council officials house on Thursday, said police, but the house was not damaged and there were no casualties.

Nato woos Russia on Afghanistan

Nato has agreed to resume high-level contacts with Russia, working with what US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called a "greater unity of purpose".
Russia welcomed the move, six months after Nato froze contacts over the conflict between Russia and Georgia.
Mrs Clinton stressed Afghanistan, which she called "Nato's biggest military challenge", was a mutual concern.She has raised the idea of a conference on the issue, with the participation of "all stakeholders", including Iran."If we move forward with such a meeting, it is expected that Iran would be invited as a neighbour of Afghanistan," she said.French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said that he hoped Iran would attend such a meeting, but noted that Tehran had failed to attend recent French talks on Afghanistan."I hope Iran will be here this time," said Mr Kouchner.
"We can and must find ways to work constructively with Russia where we share areas of common interest, including helping the people of Afghanistan," said Mrs Clinton.
Nato remains the central pillar of the trans-Atlantic relationship but it is facing a critical military and political challenge in Afghanistan, where failure could call into question its whole credibility, BBC diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus reports from Brussels.US foreign policy is now very much a team game and US Vice-President Joe Biden will be in Brussels next Tuesday for a more detailed exchange of views on Afghanistan, our correspondent adds.
'Fresh start'
"We are resuming the talks within the Nato-Russia Council as soon as possible after the summit," in early April to mark the 60th anniversary of Nato, said Slovak Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak.A statement from the Russian foreign ministry said: "This decision is a step in the right direction.""It's time to explore a fresh start," Mrs Clinton said.On Friday, she will hold talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.But UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband told the BBC that it was not "business as usual" with Moscow.Mr Miliband said the resumption of ties would provide an opportunity to engage with Moscow "in a hardheaded way".He said "the invasion of Georgia and continuing infringement of its sovereignty" could not be "swept under the carpet".Mrs Clinton added that Nato "should continue to open Nato's door to European countries such as Georgia and Ukraine and help them meet Nato standards".Earlier, Russia's envoy to Nato defended the war against Georgia and said any new relationship with Nato would be on Moscow's own terms.Earlier, Nato Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said that areas of common interest included Afghanistan, counter-terrorism and non-proliferation.Some, like Germany and France, had long been pressing for the resumption of ties with Russia, arguing that their suspension has been counter-productive.
'Our terms'
Dmitry Rogozin, Russia's permanent envoy to Nato, predicted an outcome of the Brussels talks "that should, on the whole, satisfy Russia" but made clear he saw Moscow negotiating from a position of strength.
"We came out of the crisis that we had after the August 2008 events [the war with Georgia], the crisis in the South Caucasus, stronger," he told Russian channel Vesti TV."Our Western colleagues saw in Russia a partner that one cannot wipe one's feet on. We are strong... and we are restoring cooperation, including on our terms."
Nato will, nonetheless, be trying to show that more normal business with Russia does not mean that the alliance is abandoning countries like Georgia and Ukraine, our correspondent says. Their foreign ministers came to Brussels too.

Michael Jackson announces 'curtain call' concerts

LONDON, England-- Reclusive pop icon Michael Jackson will perform 10 concerts in London in July in what he described Thursday as a "final curtain call."The summer shows, Jackson's first major live performances in 12 years, will take place at the 20,000-capacity O2 Arena from July 8.Jackson, 50, appeared in front of fans and media at the venue Thursday to announce the "This Is It" shows.
"These will be my final shows performing in London. "This Is It" really means this is it," said Jackson, wearing a trademark black military-style jacket with sparkling embroidery and black sunglasses. Jackson blew kisses and saluted his fans as they chanted "Michael! Michael!"
"I'll be performing the songs my fans want to hear. I'll see you in July and I love you so much.Tickets for the shows will cost £50-75 ($70-105) and will go on sale on March 13. Fans can pre-register to purchase tickets at
The O2 Arena has acquired a reputation in recent years for staging "must-see" musical events. Last year it hosted Led Zeppelin's one-off comeback gig and in 2007 Prince staged a 21-night residency there.Britney Spears, the Pet Shop Boys and Lionel Richie are among performers due to play the venue this year.Event promoter Rob Hallett welcomed Jackson's return, saying: "We are delighted to facilitate the return of the king of pop, long may he reign! When Michael Jackson performs the eyes of the world will be watching."
Jackson's appearance Thursday was not as slick as some of his signature dance moves.
The star was held up in traffic as he traveled from his central London hotel to the venue on a peninsula of the River Thames in southeast London. An exclusive video that was to be shown before his arrival on stage then failed to play on cue.
Several hundred Jackson fans had waited up to five hours to show their support for their idol."Michael is the best performer in the world," said 28-year-old Joanne English. "I haven't seen him perform before and that's the reason why I definitely want to get tickets to go."English said she thought the media had given Jackson a hard time. "As his fans we want to say to him that we love him, he needs to be strong and give us a good show and we will always support him."
"We want to see if he's still got it," added 23-year-old Vanessa Walker.
Jackson, a child star with the Jackson Five who went onto enjoy stellar solo success with classic albums such as "Thriller" and "Bad," has rarely been seen in public since he was acquitted on child molestation charges in the U.S. in 2005.Rumors of financial difficulties and health problems -- in 2008 he was photographed being pushed in a wheelchair -- have swirled around the famously eccentric star in recent years.Last year he sold his iconic Neverland ranch and he has spent much of his time since his acquittal living in Bahrain.The auction house, Julien's, is selling Jackson's Neverland property including the gates, the singer's famed white-jeweled glove and a stretched Rolls Royce.Jackson hasn't recorded a studio album since "Invincible" -- his 10th solo record -- in 2001. His last major series of concerts was a world tour to promote the "HiStory" album in 1996 and 1997."Thriller," released in 1982 and containing classic Jackson hits such as "Beat It," "Billie Jean" and the title track, is the bestselling album of all time. Jackson is estimated to have sold more than 750 million albums in total.