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Islamic World News ( 15 March 2011, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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CIA contractor leaves Pakistani prison after $2.3 million ‘blood money’ deal, officials say

New fire deepens disaster-hit Japan’s nuke crisis

State of emergency declared in Bahrain

Gaddafi taunts critics, dares them to get him

Clashes erupt as Bahrain declares state of emergency

US-Saudi divide revealed in Bahrain

Thousands of Palestinians rally for reconciliation

Jordan Islamists to boycott dialogue with govt

US Justice Dept sues California over Sikh religious rights

Surrender or flee: Gaddafi to rebels

Qaddafi forces push towards rebels, no UN move yet

Indo-Pak peace dialogue extremely important: Pentagon

Pakistan court indicts Raymond Davis for double murder

US missile kills 5 in NW Pakistan

Palestinian unity rally in Gaza ends in violence

PM Manmohan Singh isolated in govt on Pakistan

PTI Ex-NSA said Singh was a ‘believer’in Indo-Pak dialogue

Qaddafi forces seize key town

Filipino militant linked to airport blast captured

PC told US of Pak plan to kill Qasab

Germany eyes first nuclear plant closures

Israel navy seizes weapons boat 'en route to Gaza'

Philanthropist pays blood money, four Indians on death row pardoned

US to focus on Afghanistan to make Pakistan do more

Fight against Taliban making progress: Petraeus

All Saudis in quake-hit Sendai shifted to safer areas

Saudia plane evacuated after bomb hoax

Activist dies in Yemen clashes

SC to examine Yunus verdict

Three killed in clash in Southeast Turkey

Clinton voices support for post-Mubarak Egypt

Ex-minister Kazmi arrested after rejection of bail plea

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

Photo: Motorists passed through the ruins of Minamisanriku, Japan, on Tuesday.

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/cia-contractor-leaves-pakistani-prison-after-$23-million-‘blood-money’-deal,-officials-say/d/4291

 

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CIA contractor leaves Pakistani prison after $2.3 million ‘blood money’ deal, officials say

March 17, 2011

WASHINGTON — Pakistan abruptly freed the CIA contractor who shot and killed two men in a gunfight in Lahore after a deal was sealed Wednesday to pay $2.34 million in “blood money” to the men’s families. The agreement, nearly seven weeks after the shootings, ended a tense showdown with a vital U.S. ally that had threatened to disrupt the war on terrorism.

In what appeared to be a carefully choreographed conclusion to the diplomatic crisis, a U.S. official said Pakistan had paid the families whose pardoning of Raymond Davis set the stage for his release. That arrangement allowed Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to assert in a news conference the U.S. didn’t pay compensation.

But the American government “expects to receive a bill at some point,” said the official, who spoke only on condition of anonymity because the situation was so sensitive. The payments to families in Pakistan are roughly 400 times as high as the U.S. has paid to families of many civilians wrongfully killed by U.S. soldiers in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Under negotiations to free Davis, the U.S. Embassy in Lahore said the Justice Department had opened an investigation into the Jan. 27 shootings. In a statement, the embassy thanked the families for their generosity in pardoning Davis but did not mention any money changing hands.

The deal to secure Davis’ release had been in the works for some time, with the most intense negotiations over the past three weeks, another U.S. official told The Associated Press.

The arrangement deliberately bypassed the question of whether Davis was immune from prosecution because of diplomatic status, the official said. That had been a central legal issue in the case, but by negotiating Davis’ release under Islamic sharia law the issue could be resolved outside the jurisdiction of the police and court system that arrested and held him on suspicion of murder.

Davis, 36, left the country immediately for Kabul in neighboring Afghanistan, where he was expected to be debriefed extensively about his time in custody, Pakistani and American officials said.

In the U.S., an elated Rebecca Davis learned of her husband’s release in a phone call at 6:30 a.m. She never blinked, she said, always believing her husband would be set free.

“I knew. I just didn’t know how long,” she said, speaking outside her home near Denver. “I just knew in my gut that he’d be home.”

The killings and then the detention of Davis triggered a fresh wave of anti-American sentiment in Pakistan and tested the sometimes shaky alliance that is seen as key to defeating al-Qaida and ending the war in Afghanistan.

Antagonism has been especially sharp between the CIA and Pakistan’s powerful Inter Services Intelligence, its spy service, which says it did not know Davis was operating in the country. One ISI official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said the deal was reached as way of soothing tensions.

After nightfall Wednesday, small groups of protesters took to the streets in major cities, briefly clashing with police outside the U.S. consulate in Lahore, where officers fired tear gas at men burning tires and hurling rocks. There were calls for larger protests Friday after noon prayers.

Fearing a backlash, U.S. officials planned to close consulates in Pakistan on Thursday.

In the U.S., the deal for the release drew some criticism. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., complained that Pakistan already receives billions of dollars in U.S. aid. During a congressional hearing, he said the U.S. should look at whether foreign aid recipients “are treating us like suckers.”

Davis said he had acted in self-defense when he killed the two men on the street in the eastern city of Lahore. The U.S. government initially described him as either a U.S. consular or embassy official, but officials later acknowledged he was working for the CIA, confirming suspicions that had aired in the Pakistani media. He was working as a security contractor in Lahore, protecting other CIA employees as they gathered intelligence, officials say.

The State Department had insisted Davis was covered by diplomatic immunity. But Pakistan’s weak government, facing intense pressure from Islamist parties, sections of the media and the general public, did not say whether it agreed this was the case.

Given the high stakes for both nations, few imagined either side would allow it to derail the relationship. The main question was how long it would take to reach a deal.

Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah said Davis was actually charged with murder Wednesday in a court that was convened in a prison in Lahore, but was immediately pardoned by the families of the victims after the payment.

Reporters were not allowed to witness the proceedings.

“This all happened in court and everything was according to law,” he said. “The court has acquitted Raymond Davis. Now he can go anywhere.”

Raja Muhammad Irshad, a lawyer for the families, said 19 male and female relatives appeared in court to accept the $2.34 million. He said each told the court “they were ready to accept the blood money deal without pressure and would have no objection if the court acquitted Raymond Davis.” The practice, which comes from Islamic law, is common and legal in Pakistan, though criticized by human rights groups.

Separately, one Pakistani official said the sum was just under twice that total, while other news organizations cited anonymous sources to report the amount was between $700,000 and $1.4 million.

Clinton, in Cairo, denied the U.S. had made any payments, but she didn’t dispute that the men’s families were compensated. Representatives of the families had previously said they would refuse any money.

Asad Mansoor Butt, who had earlier represented the families, accused Pakistan’s government of pressuring his former clients; he gave no details.

CIA Director Leon Panetta and ISI chief Gen. Shuja Pasha talked in mid-February in an effort to smooth out the friction between the two spy agencies, according to Pakistan and U.S. officials Pasha demanded the U.S. identify “all the Ray Davises working in Pakistan, behind our backs,” the Pakistani official said.

The same official said Panetta agreed “in principle” to declare such employees but would not confirm whether the agency had done so. A second official in Pakistan said as a result of that conversation the ISI — which along with the army is a major power center in the country — then backed an effort to help negotiate payments to the families.

A U.S. official denied there had been any quid pro quo between the two spy agencies in Pakistan over CIA employees, and said the agency had continued to work with the ISI during the crisis. Since Davis was arrested, the CIA has launched drone strikes in the lawless tribal areas of Pakistan.

CIA spokesman George Little said the two agencies have had a strong relationship.

“When issues arise, it is our standing practice to work through them,” he said. “That’s the sign of a healthy partnership, one that is vital to both countries, especially as we face a common set of terrorist enemies.”

Former agency officers had watched the case closely.

“I think that the everybody was pinned into a corner, and this is a way of working their way out,” said Robert Grenier, a former CIA station chief in Islamabad and director of the agency’s Counterterrorism Center. “Both sides had a compelling interest in finding some way to get beyond this.”

Grenier said the amount paid didn’t raise any concern in his mind.

“I would be less concerned about this setting a precedent,” he said, “because the details of this case are so extraordinary.”

http://www.washingtonpost.com/cia-contractor-leaves-pakistani-prison-after-23-million-blood-money-deal-officials-say/2011/03/16/ABQN3Vd_print.html

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New fire deepens disaster-hit Japan’s nuke crisis

March 16, 2011

SENDAI: Japanese crews grappling with the world’s worst nuclear incident since Chernobyl contended with a new fire and feared damage to a reactor containment vessel Wednesday as the nation reeled from a quake-tsunami disaster.

With nerves on edge across the world’s third-biggest economy and beyond, people across Asia have been stripping shelves of essentials for fear of a major emission of radiation from the stricken Fukushima nuclear power plant.

However, after the Tokyo stock exchange’s biggest two-day sell-off in 24 years sparked a global market rout, the headline Nikkei share index recovered 4.37 percent on Wednesday morning as investors snapped up bargains.

The Bank of Japan pumped another 3.5 trillion yen into the financial system, adding to trillions spent this week since Friday’s 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami crippled a large swathe of the economy.

Authorities are staring at a staggering death toll. The devastation in tsunami-hit areas such as the small fishing town of Minamisanriku is absolute, with the northeastern settlement missing about half of its 17,000 residents.

“Ten of my relatives are missing. I haven’t been able to get in contact with them,” 54-year-old Tomeko Sato, who lost her house in the disaster, told AFP.

“I was very surprised by the power of the tsunami, next time, I will live on the hill and hope it never happens again.”

At the crippled Fukushima atomic plant 250 kilometres northeast of Tokyo, live TV footage showed a cloud of white smoke rising high into the clear blue sky.

The containment vessel around reactor number three may have suffered damage, and the “likeliest possibility” for the white cloud was that steam was escaping from the vessel, chief government spokesman Yukio Edano said.

The number-three reactor was hit by a blast Monday that tore off the outer structure of the reactor building.

Fire crews fought a new blaze early Wednesday at reactor number four, operator Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) said, but it was later extinguished.

Engineers have been desperately battling a feared meltdown at the 40-year-old plant since the earthquake and tsunami knocked out cooling systems and fuel rods began overheating.

There have now been four explosions and two fires at the complex, with four out of its six reactors in trouble.

France’s Nuclear Safety Authority said the disaster now equated to a six on the seven-point international scale for nuclear accidents, ranking the crisis second only in gravity to the level-seven Chernobyl disaster in 1986.

Yukiya Amano, the Japanese chief of the UN’s atomic watchdog, said Tuesday there might be limited core damage at the second reactor but repeated that he did not think the situation could escalate to rival Chernobyl in Ukraine.

“I continue to think that the Chernobyl and Fukushima reactors are different,” the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency said.

Amano reiterated that unlike Chernobyl, the Fukushima reactors have primary containment vessels, and had also shut down automatically when the earthquake hit, so there was no chain reaction going on.

Japanese crews said they may pour water from helicopters, if necessary, to stop spent fuel rods at Fukushima from being exposed to the air.

Eight experts from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission were heading to Japan Wednesday to help advise on the crisis.President Barack Obama, who has dispatched a naval flotilla led by a US aircraft carrier to aid in the quake-tsunami rescue operation, said he was “deeply worried” about the potential human cost of the crisis.Obama also vowed to “further improve” the safety of US atomic facilities, while several European nations announced reviews of their own nuclear installations and Germany temporarily shut down seven reactors.

http://www.dawn.com/2011/03/16/new-fire-deepens-disaster-hit-japan%E2%80%99s-nuke-crisis.html

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State of emergency declared in Bahrain

March 16, 2011

Bahrain state TV reported that a three-month state of emergency has been declared to try to quell political unrest threatening the monarchy.

The statement from Bahrain’s king said the nation’s armed forces chief is authorized to take all measures to stamp out protests that have gripped the island nation for the past month.

Tuesday’s move comes a day after Saudi-led military forces arrived to help prop up the U.S.-backed regime.

Bahrain’s Shiite majority is seeking sweeping reforms in protests against the country’s Sunni rulers.

Violence meanwhile escalated in the capital Tuesday, with wire services giving conflicting reports on alleged killings. A security official told the Associated Press that a Saudi soldier who was part of the troops deployed to Bahrain to put down an opposition uprising was shot dead Tuesday by a protester in the capital.

A Saudi official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media, said the shooting took place when a person from the crowd of protesters shot at the Saudi troops. The official said the victim, Ahmed al-Raddadi, was a sergeant in the Saudi military.

A member of Bahrain’s security forces was killed when he was run down by a protester driving a car in the country’s south, the ministry of interior said Tuesday, according to reports from Agence France-Presse.

“A member of security force passed away in Maameer this evening when deliberately run over by one of the rioters,” the ministry wrote in an English-language post on the social-networking website Twitter.

On Tuesday, Bahrain also recalled its ambassador to Iran in protest of Tehran’s “blatant interference” in its internal affairs, the state news agency reported. Iran’s foreign ministry responded, saying military intervention by Gulf troops in Bahrain was “unacceptable,” state television’s website reported.

http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/n.php?n=state-of-emergency-declared-in-bahrain-2011-03-15

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Gaddafi taunts critics, dares them to get him

16 March 2011

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi lashed out at backers of a no-fly zone over his country and urged Libyans to take up arms and prepare to confront a possible invasion by the West.

“France now raises its head and says that it will strike Libya,” Gaddafi told a gathering of supporters at his Bab al-Azizia fortified compound in central Tripoli.

“Strike Libya?” he asked. “We’ll be the one who strikes you! We struck you in Algeria, in Vietnam. You want to strike us? Come and give it a try.”

The speech was carried as world powers wrangled over a draft resolution on imposing a no-fly zone over Libya to prevent Gaddafi’s advancing forces from using their air superiority to take the rebel capital Benghazi in the east.

In the short, emotional speech, Gaddafi lashed out at Britain for calling for a no-fly zone. “What right do you have? Do we share borders? Are you our tutor?” he asked.

Libyans would fight to the death to defend their country, he said.

He hit out at the Arab League, which has backed a no-fly zone, saying it was “finished,” and the Gulf Cooperation Council, which he said had lost its legitimacy.

“The Arab League is finished. There is no such thing as the Arab league,” he said.

“The Gulf Cooperation Council is finished. It’s actually the ‘Gulf Uncooperative Council’ ... The Arab people (however) remain.”

Libya no-fly zone draft resolution circulated at UN

Supporters of a no-fly zone to halt Libyan government air strikes on rebels circulated a draft resolution at the UN Security Council that would authorize one, but other states said questions remained.

The draft was distributed at a closed-door meeting by Britain and Lebanon after the Arab League called on the council on Saturday to set up a no-fly zone amid advances by leader Muammar Gaddafi’s troops against the rebels based in the east.

The draft, obtained by Reuters, says the council “decides to establish a ban on all flights in the airspace of (Libya) in order to help protect civilians.”

It authorizes member states to “take all necessary measures to enforce compliance” and says countries implementing the ban would be doing so in cooperation with the Arab League and in cooperation with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

It could also open the door to military action beyond a no-fly zone. The draft explicitly “authorizes members of the League of Arab States and other states which have notified the Secretary-General ... to take all necessary measures to protect civilians and civilian objects in (Libya).”

After receiving the draft, members of the 15-nation council adjourned without taking action and were due to reconvene on Wednesday to engage in what British UN Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said would be “paragraph-by-paragraph” discussion.

A spokesman for British Prime Minister David Cameron told reporters in London the negotiations would not be easy.

“There are a very broad range of views in the council,” he said. “We are going into this with our eyes open. We are under no illusions. This will be a difficult negotiation.”

The draft also provides for the expanding of sanctions already slapped by the UN council on Libyan leaders on Feb. 26 — including asset freezes, travel bans and an arms embargo — to cover all assets abroad of the Gaddafi government.

The White House said President Barack Obama discussed efforts at the United Nations and potential Security Council action during a meeting with his national security team on Libya earlier on Tuesday. White House officials were not immediately available to comment on the draft resolution.Some key council members including the United States, Russia and Germany, have expressed doubts about whether a no-fly zone is advisable or would work.

Washington has said Arab nations should participate in enforcing the no-fly zone, which would mean the use of Arab aircraft that might have to shoot down Libyan planes violating the flight ban.

Questions Raised

German Ambassador Peter Wittig told reporters after the meeting his country still had queries.

“We raised questions we felt are still not fully answered, as to the Arab participation in such a measure, as to whether the implementation of such a zone would run counter to the intention of the Arab League itself, the Arab League having pointed out that there should be no foreign intervention,” Wittig said.

Lebanese Ambassador Nawaf Salam said there was no contradiction. “Foreign intervention is something else,” he said. “We hope (a no-fly zone) would have a deterrent effect.”

Chinese Ambassador Li Baodong, president of the Security Council this month, said, “Some members have questions, and they need clarifications before a decision is made.

“Just like other members, China also expects our Lebanese colleague to give us clarification and answers tomorrow,” Li said.

Indian Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri expressed surprise at the intention to ban “all flights” over Libya and not just military ones. “We’re still at a preliminary stage,” he said.

French Ambassador Gerard Araud, whose country supports a no-fly zone, said he would like to see a vote on the resolution as early as Wednesday but doubted it could be that soon.

Before the meeting, Araud voiced impatience with the slow council response. “We are deeply distressed by the fact that things are worsening on the ground, that the Gaddafi forces are moving forward and the council has not yet reacted,” he said.

http://www.khaleejtimes.com/DisplayArticle09.asp?xfile=data/middleeast/2011/March/middleeast_March263.xml&section=middleeast

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Clashes erupt as Bahrain declares state of emergency

By SIRAJ WAHAB

Mar 16, 2011

MANAMA/ALKHOBAR: Sporadic clashes broke out in parts of Bahrain on Tuesday as the government declared a three-month state of emergency. Sitra, a village about 12 km to the south of Manama, witnessed ugly scenes on Tuesday evening as anti-government protesters clashed with Bahraini policemen. The area is considered to be an opposition stronghold.

Disturbances shook the kingdom through the day. A hospital source said two men, one Bahraini and the other Bangladeshi, were killed in clashes in the Shiite area of Sitra and more than 200 people were wounded in various incidents.

State television said a Bahraini policeman was also killed, denying media reports that a Saudi soldier had been shot dead.Journalists reporting from the scene said at least two persons were killed and scores injured during the clashes. Sitra has always been considered a volatile area and clashes there were to be expected, said journalists familiar with local politics.A Saudi Defense and Aviation Ministry source denied reports that Sgt. Ahmed Salim Al-Radadi, a Saudi military officer who was part of the Joint Peninsula Shield Force in Bahrain, had died. “This is a baseless report. Our men are in Bahrain as part of the Peninsular Shield not for any fighting mission but to safeguard some vital areas of the country,” the source said.The Bahraini government also refuted the report on Tuesday.

“That is simply not correct,” a Bahraini government source told Arab News. “There is a huge disinformation campaign going on these days,” he said. “A mere Tweet by parties having diabolical interests is taken as credible information and then the news agencies run wild with it.”The government source confirmed that one person was indeed killed by protesters on Tuesday morning.“He was, however, a Bahraini police officer, and he was run over by an anti-government protester,” he said. One Arab journalist said the Bahraini officer was of Pakistani origin.According to Al Jazeera, the emergency order comes amid the influx of wounded protesters and undercover policemen at hospitals.Manama itself wore a deserted look on Tuesday. “There is no vehicular traffic and people are off the streets,” one Manama resident told Arab News.“It is not that there are restrictions on the movement of people … it is just that people do not want to be caught up in a bad situation.”

The airport was deserted too. Half of the airport staff could not report to work. Some said they could not make it because the bus drivers had not shown up. Airport staff with cars picked up their colleagues.The government source clarified that the promulgation of the state of emergency was not akin to martial law. “There are no specific restrictions on the movement of civilians. This state of emergency is meant to protect the life and property of Bahrainis from hooligans who are out to destroy our country,” he said.

In Manila, the Philippine government advised its citizens working in Bahrain to leave amid increasing tensions. Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Rafael Seguis said Tuesday that there are 31,000 Filipinos in Bahrain.One Filipino woman, who works at a stand at the airport selling Formula One items, had tears in her eyes. “We need our jobs,” she told Arab News. “The situation is very confusing, nothing is clear,” she said crying profusely. “This place is running on rumors.”

More troops, this time from Qatar and Kuwait, both Gulf Cooperation Council member states, arrived in Bahrain to bolster the country’s security. “They are here at our invitation and are part of the Joint Peninsula Shield Force — the same force that came to Kuwait’s defense during the Iraqi invasion in the 1990s,” he pointed out.

Iran, however, denounced the GCC move describing it as “intervention.” “The presence of foreign forces and interference in Bahrain's internal affairs is unacceptable and will further complicate the issue,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said at his weekly news conference in Tehran.A Bahraini Foreign Ministry official called the Iranian remarks a “blatant interference in Bahrain's internal affairs,” the Bahrain News Agency said, adding that Manama had recalled its ambassador to Iran for consultations.

Bahrain’s Interior Minister Sheikh Rashed Al-Khalifa called on Bahrainis to cooperate with the security forces. “In order for the situation to return to normal we have to establish order and security and ... stop the violations which have spread disturbances among the people of our dear country,” he said in an address on Bahrain TV.

The White House warned that there was “no military solution” to the political upheaval in Bahrain.

Meanwhile, Bahraini opposition parties have urged the government to give ironclad guarantees that it will carry out political reforms as promised by Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa two days ago.“He promised all the right things, and we are all happy with all that he has promised, but the opposition point of view is that there is no guarantee that the government will not renege on its promises,” said Muneera Fakhro, a respectable opposition leader.“It is a classic case of being once bitten twice shy. The opposition saw what happened 10 years ago. Promises were made, but political reforms were never implemented. The opposition fear is that something similar may happen this time too,” she said while articulating opposition reservations. “Let the government give it in writing that it is committed to carrying out the promised changes and hopefully that will end the current impasse.”

http://arabnews.com/middleeast/article318418.ece

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US-Saudi divide revealed in Bahrain

16 March 2011

WASHINGTON: Saudi Arabia’s intervention in Bahrain amid Shia-led opposition violence has exposed festering political differences between Riyadh and the United States over the revolts rocking the Arab world.

The surprise Saudi decision to lead a regional mission into the strife-torn and strategic kingdom ruled by a Sunni minority also reflected the deep shadow cast by Iran in instability testing US-allied leaders across the Gulf.

Washington appeared to have little if any advance notice that Saudi Arabia, a crucial ally, would roll with Gulf Cooperation Council troops into Bahrain — despite the visit of Defense Secretary Robert Gates to Manama last week.

A Pentagon spokesman said Monday that Washington was not forewarned about the plan. Other senior officials modified that stance on Tuesday, saying Washington was aware of the action, but not “consulted” about it.

But the fact that Saudi Arabia would take a step certain to embarrass the United States following Washington’s prolonged effort to prod Bahrain towards political reform revealed the tense nature of bilateral relations.

Analysts said that the disagreement between the allies over Bahrain was a symptom of wider Saudi disgust at Washington’s support for the concept of “universal rights” as unrest and rebellion sweep the Arab world.

“It is quite apparent that the United States and Saudi Arabia are not on the same page,” said Simon Henderson, a specialist in Saudi and Gulf issues with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Full report at:

http://www.dawn.com/2011/03/16/us-saudi-divide-revealed-in-bahrain.html

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Thousands of Palestinians rally for reconciliation

By IBRAHIM BARZAK AND MOHAMMED DARAGHMEH

Mar 15, 2011

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip: Thousands of Palestinians thronged major squares in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank on Tuesday to deliver an impassioned appeal to their leaders to end the long-running feud that has divided the Palestinian people between two rival governments.

Protesters waved the black, red, green and white Palestinian flag in their largest show of grassroots strength since democracy-fueled protests began rocking the Arab world in January.

Demonstrators on each side of the Palestinian divide hoisted banners urging their leaders to unite the government that split after Hamas militants seized control of Gaza in June 2007, leaving Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of the Fatah Party ruling only the West Bank.

“Unity is our way and liberation an end to the (Israeli) occupation is our goal,” read one banner in Gaza City.

Others grouped photos of the rival movements’ late legendary leaders, Yasser Arafat of Fatah and Sheik Ahmed Yassin of Hamas.

“Our goal is national unity and an end to this dark chapter in our life,” said Mohammed Sheik-Yousef, spokesman of the March 15 Youth, the group of Facebook activists who organized the rally.

Past reconciliation attempts mediated by Arab powers have failed. And the marches seemed unlikely to bring the sides together because Fatah nor Hamas do not seem inclined to relinquish the power they have.

But if the campaign gains strength, it could pressure the rival governments to start talking again.

Full report at:

http://arabnews.com/middleeast/article318013.ece

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Jordan Islamists to boycott dialogue with govt

By ABDUL JALIL MUSTAFA

Mar 16, 2011

AMMAN: Jordan’s main opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood movement, said Tuesday that it had decided not to take part in the national dialogue proposed by the government, insisting that King Abdallah be the “reference” for any discussion relating to political reforms.

The boycott decision was taken by a joint meeting of the executive bureaus of the Brotherhood and its political arm, the Islamic Action Front (IAF), a statement said.

“The reference should be His Majesty the King and not the government” of Prime Minister Marouf Bakhit, the statement added.

Bakhit on Monday named a 53-member National Dialogue Committee and tasked it with the adoption of political, economic and social reforms, foremost the drafting of an election law and a political parties law.

The body included three prominent, but moderate, leaders of the Islamic movement—former Brotherhood leader Abdul Majeed Thuneibat, former IAF Secretary General Ishaq Farhan and current chairman of the IAF Consultative Council Abdullateef Arabiyyat.

“The panel’s reference and structure fail to live up to the minimum of our demands,” the statement said.

The Brotherhood and the IAF also demanded that the national dialogue’s agenda includes items such as  ”constitutional reforms and the annulment of all amendments introduced into the 1952 constitution in such a manner that ensures circulation of power and the formation of governments with majorities at the parliament”.

The statement accused the government of adopting tactics to ”silence the voices calling for reforms and stopping the popular mobility which is indicative of the people’s awareness”.

The Brotherhood also accused the government of “mobilizing its employees and favorites, carrying them in public transport vehicles and encouraging them to threaten national symbols.

Full report at:

http://arabnews.com/middleeast/article318349.ece

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US Justice Dept sues California state over Sikh religious rights

Wed Mar 16 2011

Boston : The US Justice Department has sued the state of California for "violating" the right of a Sikh prisoner to practise his religion and punishing him for keeping a beard.

The lawsuit was filed yesterday against the state of California, Governor Jerry Brown and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Sukhjinder Basra is being kept at the California Men's Colony in San Luis Obispo for a drug offence. Earlier, a lawsuit had been filed on behalf of Basra, who was subjected to punishment for maintaining an "unshorn beard in accordance with the dictates of his religion".

By requiring Basra to cut his beard, California "compels him to violate his religious beliefs in contravention of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalised Persons Act (RLUIPA)," the Justice Department said.

The Justice Department lawsuit follows an investigation conducted by it, which "revealed that California's inmate grooming policy substantially burdens the rights of an inmate to practise his Sikh faith," it said.

By filing the complaint, the Department seeks to resolve its investigation and participate in the lawsuit filed on behalf of Basra, it said.

"The freedom to practice one's faith in peace is among our most cherished rights. RLUIPA has proven to be a powerful tool in combating religious discrimination and ensuring religious freedom," Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Thomas Perez said.

Perez said the Justice Department is committed to vigorously enforcing RLUIPA to ensure that religious liberty for all remains protected.

Full report at:

http://www.indianexpress.com/story-print/763185/

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Surrender or flee: Gaddafi to rebels

Tue Mar 15 2011

Rania, Cairo : Libyan forces on Tuesday raced eastwards pounding rebel-held Ajdabiyah with aerial bombings and artillery barrage as world powers differed over imposing a 'no fly' zone to halt Muammar Gaddafi's all out assault on his opponents.

Following a pattern, Gaddafi's forces targeted Ajdabiyah, the last town before the rebel stronghold of Benghazi, with air strikes, artillery attacks and quick ground assaults.

"Surrender or flee" was the tough message to the rebels by the 68-year-old Libyan leader as his forces began the final push to wrest back Benghazi and Tobruk.

But the outgunned rebels have marshalled all their forces numbering up to 10,000 for the defence of the twin major ports of Benghazi and Tobruk, which provide Libya with crucial road links to Egypt, Al-Jazeera reported.

In Paris, Foreign Ministers of G-8 nations failed to arrive at a consensus on clamping a 'no fly zone over Libya which would enable US and Nato war planes to ground Gaddafi's air power, and the decision on this was left to the UN Security Council.

A closing statement read out by French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe made no mention of French and British proposal for a 'no fly' zone, an issue dealt with caution by the US, Russia and the European Union.

Gaddafi, in an interview to an Italian daily, described the rebellion against his 41-year rule as a "lost cause" and also said he felt betrayed by his friends in Europe.

"The rebels have no hope, it's now a lost cause for them. There are only possibilities: to surrender or run away," he was quoted as saying in the interview.

Full report at:

http://www.indianexpress.com/story-print/762888/

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Qaddafi forces push towards rebels, no UN move yet

16 March 2011

TRIPOLI: Muammar Qaddafi’s forces pushed eastwards towards the Libyan rebel stronghold of Benghazi and his government predicted victory within days while world powers debated imposing a no-fly zone to help stop him.

Foreign powers condemn the crackdown, but show little appetite for action to support an uprising that was inspired by pro-democracy rebellions that toppled the Egyptian and Tunisian presidents.

Many in the Arab world may fear a Qaddafi victory and a crackdown on protests in Bahrain could turn the tide in the region.

Supporters of a no-fly zone to halt Libyan government air strikes on rebels circulated a draft resolution at the UN

Security Council on Tuesday that would authorise one, but other states said questions remained. 

The draft was distributed at a closed-door meeting by Britain and Lebanon after the Arab League called on the council on Saturday to set up a no-fly zone amid advances by Gaddafi’s troops against the rebels based in the east.

German Ambassador Peter Wittig told reporters after the meeting his country still had queries.

“We raised questions we felt are still not fully answered, as to the Arab participation in such a measure, as to whether the implementation of such a zone would run counter to the intention of the Arab League itself, the Arab League having pointed out that there should be no foreign intervention,” Wittig said.

Full report at:

http://www.dawn.com/2011/03/16/qaddafi-forces-push-towards-rebels-no-un-move- yet.html

Indo-Pak peace dialogue extremely important: Pentagon

Mar 16 2011

Washington : The resumption of peace talks between India and Pakistan is extremely important for peace in the region, including Afghanistan, a top Pentagon official has said.

"We have actually been very heartened by the fact that India and Pakistan are resuming their own dialogue on a number of disputed issues, whether from Kashmir to counterterrorism, humanitarian issues, trade and so forth. So we think that dialogue is extremely important," US Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy said in her testimony before the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee.

Early this month, Flournoy had led the high-powered Pentagon delegation for the India-US Defense Policy Group (DPG) meeting.

Flournoy had also been instrumental in shaping the Af-Pak policy of the Obama administration.

"I think Pakistan, in particular, views so many issues in the region through the prism of its relationship with India. So getting at some of those root problems between the two of them is one of the most important initiatives that can happen in the region. So we are being as supportive of that as possible," she said.

Full report at:

http://www.indianexpress.com/story-print/763167/

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Pakistan court indicts Raymond Davis for double murder

Mar 16, 2011

ISLAMABAD: Raymond Davis, a US official arrested after gunning down two men in Lahore, was finally indicted on Wednesday by a Pakistani court, a media report said.

The sessions judge court charged Davis on two counts of murder at a hearing held at the Kot Lakhpat jail in Lahore, Geo News reported.

According to a report on Monday, the Lahore high court dismissed petitions claiming diplomatic immunity for Davis after the foreign ministry admitted that they have no record of his diplomatic status.

If convicted, Davis could face a death penalty.

Davis, 36, shot dead two Pakistanis on a motorcycle in Lahore on Jan 27 following what he described as an attempted armed robbery. He claimed that he acted in self-defence.

The Raymond Davis affair has strained ties between the US and Pakistan. The US says Davis has diplomatic immunity and should be repatriated. But Pakistan has maintained that the case is in court and it will be decided as per the law of the land.

Full report at:

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/Pakistan-court-indicts-Raymond-Davis-for-double-murder/articleshow/7718500.cms

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Officials: US missile kills 5 in NW Pakistan

16 March 2011

Pakistani intelligence officials say an American missile attack has killed five people close to the Afghan border.The officials says the strike took place in the North Waziristan region on Wednesday. There ere no immediate details about the casualties. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to the media.The United States routinely fires missiles from unmanned drones at al-Qaida and Taliban targets in northwest Pakistan.

Full report at:

http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2011/03/16/officials-us-missile-kills-5-nw-pakistan.html

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Palestinian unity rally in Gaza ends in violence

16 March 2011

Violence broke out after a rally for Palestinian unity in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday when Hamas supporters beat other participants with clubs, witnesses said, though the Islamist group denied being behind any violence.

Tens of thousands of Palestinians had answered a rallying call on Facebook to demonstrate in Gaza and the West Bank for reconciliation between Hamas Islamists and President Mahmoud Abbas’s rival Fatah group.

About 2,000 demonstrators remained on the streets of Gaza as the rally wound down, defying calls to disperse by Hamas, which controls the territory. Hamas supporters then attacked the crowd, injuring at least a dozen people, witnesses said.

“They attacked us, 400 to 500 Hamas men in plain clothes. I was beaten with a club, many others were beaten,” said one activist, giving his first name Ali. “They dispersed the crowd.”

Hamas denied the accusations, saying on its website that the crowd broke up after “clashes between different youth groups”.

It was the first time Hamas’s authority had been challenged in such a public manner since it seized control of Gaza from rivals loyal to the Western-backed Abbas in 2007.

Organisers of the rallies said revolts against authoritarian leaders elsewhere in the Arab world had inspired them to act.

Full report at:

http://www.khaleejtimes.com/DisplayArticle08.asp?xfile=data/middleeast/2011/March/middleeast_March259.xml&section=middleeast

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PM Manmohan Singh isolated in govt on Pakistan: WikiLeaks cites US envoy

Mar 15, 2011

NEW DELHI: Fresh WikiLeaks cables have revealed that US ambassadors here had told the state department that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was "isolated" in his government on talks with Pakistan and that there was a pro-US tilt in Mani Shankar Aiyar's removal as petroleum minister in 2006.

A cable sent by current ambassador Timothy Roemer in August 2009 after a meeting with the then national security adviser (NSA) M K Narayanan says that "on Pakistan, Narayanan readily conceded a differing policy vision with his boss".

Narayanan had noted that he did not share Singh's "great belief" in talks and negotiations with Pakistan and "suggested that the PM was isolated within his own government in this view".

The then NSA, says the ambassador, himself was not a great believer in Pakistan.

"After the Prime Minister spoke in speeches of India's shared destiny with Pakistan, he (Narayanan) told the PM you have a shared destiny, we don't," the envoy says.

Then Roemer adds his own comments to say that Narayanan made the comments with some joviality and was totally complimentary of the PM throughout the discussion.

He made a point of commending PM's intellect, economic prowess among the G20 leaders and self-effacing manner as an accidental politician and former civil servant like him.

Full report at:

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/PM-Manmohan-Singh-isolated-in-govt-on-Pakistan-WikiLeaks-cites-US-envoy/articleshow/7710445.cms

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PTI Ex-NSA said Singh was a ‘believer’in Indo-Pak dialogue

Dipanjan R. Choudhary/Delhi

16 March 2011

IT IS no secret that PM Manmohan Singh is a strong votary of improved India- Pakistan ties while members of his government, particularly senior officials, have been sceptical of the neighbouring country, more so after the 26/11 attack.

Such differences had emerged during meetings between the PM and his advisers, which included M.K.

Narayanan when he was the NSA. Narayanan confirmed his differences with the PM over Pakistan in a conversation with US envoy Timothy Roemer, a US Embassy cable of August 2009 has revealed.

It says that while Narayanan was working towards a successful visit by the PM to the US in 2009, he admitted his differences with Singh. “Narayanan readily conceded he had differences with PM Singh on Pakistan.

He described the PM as a ‘great believer’ in talks and negotiations with Islamabad while Narayanan himself was ‘not a great believer in Pakistan’.

He added that after the PM spoke in speeches of India’s ‘shared destiny’ with Pakistan, he told the PM ‘you have a shared destiny, we don’t’,” the cable said.

Full report at:

http://epaper.mailtoday.in/epaperhome.aspx?issue=1632011

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Qaddafi forces seize key town

By MOHAMMED ABBAS

Mar 16, 2011

AJDABIYAH, Libya: Muammar Qaddafi’s forces seized a strategic town in eastern Libya on Tuesday, opening the way to the rebel stronghold of Benghazi while world powers failed to agree to push for a no-fly zone.

The small town of Ajdabiyah was all that stood between the relentless eastward advance of Libyan government troops and the second city of Benghazi and lies on a road junction from where Qaddafi’s forces could attempt to encircle the rebel stronghold.

“The town of Ajdabiyah has been cleansed of mercenaries and terrorists linked to the Al-Qaeda organization,” state television said, referring to the increasingly embattled rebels fighting to end Qaddafi’s 41 years of absolute power.

Government jets opened up with rocket fire on a rebel checkpoint at the western entrance to Ajdabiyah, then unleashed a rolling artillery barrage on the town and a nearby arms dump, following the same pattern of attack that has pushed back rebels more than 160 km in a week-long counter-offensive.

At least one missile hit a residential area. Residents and rebels piled into cars and pickups to flee town on highways toward Benghazi or Tobruk, which are still in rebel hands.

“The battle is lost. Qaddafi is throwing everything against us,” said one rebel officer who gave his name as General Suleiman.

Full report at:

http://arabnews.com/middleeast/article318356.ece

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Filipino militant linked to airport blast captured

By JIM GOMEZ

Mar 15, 2011

MANILA, Philippines: Police have arrested a militant who allegedly was involved in a 2003 airport bombing and belonged to a radical Islamic convert group blacklisted by US authorities for plotting attacks against the American Embassy in Manila, officials said Tuesday.

Ricardo Ayeras, a founding member of the Rajah Solaiman Movement, was captured by police intelligence and counterterrorism officials late Monday near a hospital in the capital, national police intelligence chief Manuel Barcena said.

Although it has been considerably weakened by a yearslong crackdown, the Rajah Solaiman group is still regarded a key threat by US and Philippine officials because of the ability of its remaining members — mostly based in Manila and other cities — to help larger extremist groups like the local Abu Sayyaf and the Southeast Asian militant network Jemaah Islamiyah to carry out urban attacks.

Police intelligence officials say the group currently has a few dozen members.

Police served a warrant on Ayeras for his alleged involvement in the Feb. 20, 2003 bombing that killed a soldier and wounded six civilians, including children, near the gate of Awang airport in the country’s south, Barcena said.

Full report at:

http://arabnews.com/world/article317816.ece

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PC told US of Pak plan to kill Qasab

By Aman Sharma in New Delhi

16 March 2011

PAKISTANI entities had planned to eliminate Ajmal Qasab after he became the lone 26/11 terrorist to be caught alive by India, Wikileaks has revealed.

Union home minister P. Chidambaram told FBI director Robert Mueller during a meeting in Delhi on March 3, 2009, that India had information that Qasab’s life was under threat from Pakistani entities. The cable also reveals Qasab was vital not just for India but also the US as Mueller told Chidambaram that Qasab might be indicted in a trial in his country as well. He, therefore, sought Qasab’s videotaped deposition. “Chidambaram revealed the Indian government has intelligence that Pakistani entities had taken out a contract to harm Qasab.

A full security audit has been ordered in Mumbai to ensure Qasab’s protection,” said a leaked US cable prepared by US Charge d’ Affairs Steven White about this meeting.

Just a day later, on March 4, the Centre announced that 200 ITBP commandoes would guard Qasab in Mumbai’s Arthur Road Jail. The ITBP guards him even now.

A special bullet-proof and explosives-proof cell was made for him at a huge cost in 2009.

Chidambaram did not elaborate on the “Pakistani entities” behind the plot but told Mueller that Pakistan was blocking a FBI probe on its soil to conceal the hand of the ISI or Pakistani army in 26/11.

Full report at:

http://epaper.mailtoday.in/epaperhome.aspx?issue=1632011

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Germany eyes first nuclear plant closures

Mar 15, 2011

BERLIN: Germany moved on Tuesday to shut down its oldest nuclear reactors as Chancellor Angela Merkel convened crisis talks on the future of atomic energy in Europe's top economy in light of events in Japan.

On Monday Merkel had announced a three-month freeze on a postponement of more than a decade until the mid-2030s the date when the last of Germany's 17 nuclear reactors are switched off, pending a safety review.

"We cannot just go back to business as usual," Merkel had said. "Events in Japan ... teach us that risks that were thought to be completely impossible cannot in fact be completely ruled out."

Japan's government has said radiation levels near the Fukushima nuclear plant have reached levels harmful to human health, with four reactors having overheated and sparked explosions after Friday's earthquake and tsunami.

Full report at:

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/europe/Germany-eyes-first-nuclear-plant-closures/articleshow/7709973.cms

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Israel navy seizes weapons boat 'en route to Gaza'

Mar 16, 2011

Tags:Lieutenant Colonel Avital Leibovich|Israel'|Gaza Strip|Benjamin Netanyahu

JERUSALEM; Israel's navy on Wednesday escorted into port a ship its commandos seized, saying it had arms from Iran bound for militants in the Gaza Strip, Israel's media reported.

Military specialists in the southern port of Ashdod would begin checking 39 containers on the deck of the "Victoria" to ascertain the exact amount and type of arms and munitions they contained, army radio reported.

Sappers would first check for booby traps, news website Ynet reported.

The military spokesman's office had no immediate statement.

The Liberian-flagged Victoria was intercepted Tuesday as it sailed about 200 nautical miles west of Israel's territorial waters.

It arrived at Ashdod in the early hours of Wednesday.

Top defence officials said earlier that its cargo included Chinese-made C704 anti-ship missiles, which would be a threat to Israeli naval patrols off the Gaza coast.

"(There are) two to four missiles, shore-to-sea missiles, of type C704, a missile with... a range of 35 kilometres (22 miles)," the deputy commander of the Israeli navy, Rear Admiral Rani Ben-Yehuda, told journalists.

Full report at:

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/middle-east/Israel-navy-seizes-weapons-boat-en-route-to-Gaza/articleshow/7715254.cms

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Philanthropist pays blood money, four Indians on death row pardoned

By MD RASOOLDEEN

Mar 15, 2011

RIYADH: An Indian father has pardoned four Indian expatriates who were found guilty of murdering his son in Riyadh in early 2008.

Abdul Kader, the father, received SR680,000 in blood money from the four expatriates who murdered his 24-year-old son, Mohammed Ashraff, in Riyadh’s Aziziyah district.

The dead man was from the port city of Mangalore in the southern state of Karnataka. His killers were all from the south Indian state of Kerala.

The blood money was paid by Gulf-based Indian businessman C.K. Menon through a Saudi friend in Alkhobar, Mohammed bin Hamim.

Full report at:

http://arabnews.com/saudiarabia/article318375.ece

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US to focus on Afghanistan to make Pakistan do more

By Anwar Iqbal

16 March 2011

Senator McCain, a former Republican presidential candidate, described Pakistan as “a key challenge” for US policy-makers. — File Photo

WASHINGTON: The commander of US forces in Afghanistan and a senior lawmaker told a Senate panel on Tuesday that the best way to persuade Pakistan to do more is to defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan.

“Perhaps the most effective way to end Pakistan’s support for terrorist groups that target our partners and our personnel in the region is to succeed in Afghanistan,” Senator John McCain told the Senate Committee on Armed Services.

“I think … the way to influence Pakistan is to show that there can be a certain outcome in Afghanistan that means that there should be every effort to help their Afghan neighbours and indeed to ensure that they do that on their side of the border as well,” said Gen David Petraeus.

Although the committee called Gen Petraeus and Undersecretary of Defence Michele A. Flournoy to review the situation in Afghanistan, the hearing also focused on Pakistan.

Senator McCain, a former Republican presidential candidate, described Pakistan as “a key challenge” for US policy-makers.

Full report at:

http://www.dawn.com/2011/03/16/us-to-focus-on-afghanistan-to-make-pakistan-do-more.html

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Fight against Taliban making progress: Petraeus

16 March 2011

WASHINGTON: Coalition forces have halted the Taliban march in parts of Afghanistan, top US commander General David Petraeus said Tuesday, even though he warned their fragile success could still be undone.

In an upbeat assessment which contrasted with more skeptical comments from the US intelligence services, Petraeus said that four months before US troops begin to withdraw from the country he was optimistic about the course of the fight.

“The momentum achieved by the Taliban in Afghanistan since 2005 has been arrested in much of the country and reversed in a number of important areas,” Petraeus told US lawmakers.

Petraeus, the commander of international forces in Afghanistan, said the progress has been achieved since US President Barack Obama poured thousands of reinforcements into the country in late 2009 to thwart the Taliban insurgency.

Full report at:

http://www.dawn.com/2011/03/16/fight-against-taliban-making-progress-petraeus.html

 

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All Saudis in quake-hit Sendai shifted to safer areas

By SULTAN AL-TAMIMI

16 March 2011

JEDDAH: All Saudis stranded in Sendai, the coastal city in northeast Japan devastated by last Friday’s massive earthquake and tsunami, have been evacuated to safer locations within that country.

Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Khaled bin Saud said on Monday his ministry has set up two operations rooms to deal with emergencies following the earthquake. One of the centers has been set up at the Saudi Chancellery in Tokyo while the other at the Foreign Ministry’s headquarters in Riyadh.

“Five students in the affected area have arrived safely in Tokyo by cars sent from the Saudi Royal Embassy despite the fact that all land routes to the affected area are closed except for Japanese army vehicles and ambulances,” said a source.

“The Saudi Royal Embassy had asked for the Japanese Foreign Ministry’s permission to evacuate the students via land,” he added.

Many Saudis in the city, including a woman and a child, were airlifted on Monday. Due to the difficulty of finding safe landing areas in the city, embassy vehicles were sent for the second rescue mission.

A number of Libyan, Syrian and Omani students were brought to Tokyo along with the Saudi students. The students have been put up in hotels in Tokyo and arrangements are being made to repatriate them to the Kingdom.

Full report at:

http://arabnews.com/saudiarabia/article318369.ece

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Saudia plane evacuated after bomb hoax

By FATIMA SIDIYA

Mar 15,2011

 JEDDAH: A Jeddah-bound Saudi Arabian Airlines flight was canceled on Tuesday morning and all passengers on board were evacuated at King Khaled International Airport in Riyadh after a passenger claimed there was a bomb on the plane.

The passenger, a woman, is thought to have made the claim because she decided at the last minute not to travel to Jeddah. The plane was evacuated as a precautionary measure.

Abdullah Al-Ajhar, head of the public relations department at Saudi Arabian Airlines, confirmed the incident.

He said when the woman was asked to remain in her seat she claimed there was a bomb planted on board.

Passengers were then evacuated and accommodated on a subsequent flight two hours later. There were 298 passengers on board.

Al-Ajhar added that the woman was being questioned about her behavior.

Full report at:

http://arabnews.com/saudiarabia/article318378.ece

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Activist dies in Yemen clashes

By SAEED AL-BATATI

Mar 16, 2011

SANAA: An activist of the main Islamist opposition was shot dead in a gunfight with pro-regime loyalists in northern Yemen on Tuesday.

Tribal sources say Naser Musleh Nasm was “killed in the armed clash with supporters of the ruling General People’s Congress,” in Al-Jawf province. The same sources said security forces and GPC supporters have surrounded the government headquarters and threatened to evict protesters that have controlled it since Monday.

“The police have warned the demonstrators that they should evacuate the building or else they will be evicted by force,” a tribal leader said.

Also on Tuesday Yemen's Interior Ministry sacked the security chief of the southern province of Aden, Brig. Gen. Abdullah Qairan, apparently over the military crackdown on protesters in Aden, local media sources said.

Full report at:

http://arabnews.com/middleeast/article318353.ece

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SC to examine Yunus verdict Adjourns appeal hearing for two weeks

16 March 2011

The Supreme Court yesterday adjourned for two weeks the hearing on two appeals filed against the High Court verdict that upheld a Bangladesh Bank order removing Muhammad Yunus from the office of Grameen Bank managing director.

Nobel Laureate Dr Yunus and nine board members of the microfinance bank on March 9 filed two separate provisional leave-to-appeal petitions with the apex court, seeking a stay on the operation of the verdict and the central bank order.

The six-member bench of Appellate Division headed by Chief Justice ABM Khairul Haque adjourned the hearing to examine the HC verdict that on March 8 rejected two writ petitions challenging the removal order.

Appearing for the petitioners, Dr Kamal Hossain placed arguments before the apex court.

He told the Appellate Division that Yunus was appointed the Grameen Bank MD with the Bangladesh Bank approval in 1990.

The central bank conducted an audit into the Grameen at different times, but it raised no question about Yunus' appointment and his holding office as MD, the law expert said.

There was no need for further approval regarding his appointment from Bangladesh Bank, he added.

If the government felt that it was not right for Yunus to hold the office, it could have issued a prior notice seeking his explanation, he added.

Dr Kamal also said the HC has rejected the writ petitions without issuing any rule upon the government or Bangladesh Bank seeking an explanation over Yunus' sacking.

“We have placed interpretation of law before the High Court, and submitted to the court [the HC] relevant papers and information in support of the writ petitions, but the government placed no papers against the petitions,” he said.

The Appellate Division should examine the HC verdict and also the ground on which it was delivered, Dr Kamal added.

Full report at:

http://www.thedailystar.net/newDesign/news-details.php?nid=177896

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Three killed in clash in Southeast Turkey

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Three suspected members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, were killed Tuesday in a battle against army soldiers in southeastern Turkey. The clash, which follows the end earlier this year of a PKK cease-fire, occurred in a rural area of Sirnak province on Turkey’s border with Iraq, a local security source said.

Soldiers opened fire against the alleged PKK members while on a mission to prevent the infiltration of rebels from northern Iraq, where the outlawed group has rear bases.

The PKK, which declared a unilateral cease-fire in August 2010, called it off last month, denouncing a lack of dialogue with the Turkish government.

The outlawed group said it would not be the first to attack, while vowing to defend itself “more effectively” against Turkish military operations.

In return it demanded an end to all military operations against the PKK, the easing of prison conditions for its jailed leader Abdullah Öcalan and the release of other detained Kurdish politicians.

Speaking following the PKK announcement, the co-leader of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, blamed the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, government for “wasting such cease-fire periods since 2002” and claimed it has never been genuine on peace issues.

Full report at:

http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/n.php?n=three-kurdish-rebels-killed-in-southeast-turkey-2011-03-15

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Clinton voices support for post-Mubarak Egypt

Mar 16, 2011

In her first visit to Cairo since long-time ally Hosni Mubarak was toppled by a mass uprising, Clinton also signalled the United States would try to preserve the strong alliance with Egypt that has been a cornerstone of Washington's regional policy.

"This moment in history belongs to you. This is your achievement," Clinton said in Cairo.

"You broke barriers and overcame obstacles to pursue the dream of democracy and the United States and President Obama and I will stand with you as you make this journey," she said during a news conference with Nabil Elaraby, the new foreign minister.

One coalition of pro-democracy activists said it had turned down an invitation to meet Clinton in protest at U.S. policy towards Egypt and the U.S. position on the anti-Mubarak revolt.

U.S. President Barack Obama heaped praise on the protesters the day Mubarak stepped down on Feb. 11 but it was too little too late for the Egyptian activists, who felt his administration gave Mubarak too much support during the uprising.

The January 25 coalition, made up of six youth groups, said in a statement that Clinton was not welcome "because the U.S. administration long supported Mubarak's corrupt, dictatorial regime financially, politically and morally".

They also called for a more balanced relationship between Cairo and Washington, whose influence they blame for shaping Egyptian policies including their country's role in enforcing the blockade of the Hamas-run Gaza Strip.

Clinton said: "Egypt and the United States have many strategic interests in common and a democratic Egypt will continue to have strategic interests with the United States."

The military, with which the United States has close defence ties, has governed Egypt since Mubarak stepped down. Clinton is due to meet the council's leader, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, on Wednesday.

Full report at:

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/us/Clinton-voices-support-for-post-Mubarak-Egypt/articleshow/7714980.cms

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Ex-minister Kazmi arrested after rejection of bail plea

By Mudassir Raja

16 March 2011

Former Federal Minister for Religious Affairs Hamid Saeed Kazmi is being escorted by the FIA personnel as he is arrested after his hearing at Special Judge Central Abdul Nasir's Court on Tuesday. – Online Photo

RAWALPINDI: The Federal Investigation Agency arrested former religious affairs minister Hamid Saeed Kazmi on Tuesday after a court refused to grant him a pre-arrest bail in a case relating to his alleged corruption in arranging residential accommodation for Pakistani Haj pilgrims in Saudi Arabia last year.

FIA special judge (central) Sohail Nasir said the bail could not be granted at this stage because the accused had been on an interim bail since Feb 21.

FIA officials took Mr Kazmi into custody and escorted him reportedly to an FIA lock-up in an official van under heavy security. About 50 supporters of the former minister were outside the court.

Mr Kazmi and investigators waited for more than two hours before the judge announced the decision after more than three hours of arguments from both sides.

Mr Kazmi’s lawyer Malik Jawad Khalid had earlier told reporters: “It is a fit case for bail because the FIA has no substantial incriminating material against my client who is being implicated in the case on political and sectarian grounds”. Mr Kazmi himself did not speak to reporters.

Khalid Nadeem Butt, FIA’s assistant director (legal), opposed the bail plea and said that Mr Kazmi, as federal minister, had hired Ahmed Fiaz, another accused in the case, to act as a building supervisor to hire accommodation for pilgrims. Mr Fiaz, he alleged, was the former minister’s front man.

Full report at:

http://www.dawn.com/2011/03/16/ex-minister-kazmi-arrested-after-rejection-of-bail-plea.html

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/cia-contractor-leaves-pakistani-prison-after-$23-million-‘blood-money’-deal,-officials-say/d/4291


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