Afghan cholera death toll rises to 113
KABUL, July 20 (AFP) - Forty-seven more people died in an outbreak of ch olera in northern Afghanistan since late Thursday, raising the toll from the epidemic this week to 113, opposition sources said.
The worst-hit area was Aq Kupruk district 75 kilometers (47 miles) south of Mazar-i-Sharif, the capital of Balkh province in the north. Opposition spokesman Mohammad Ashraf said the disease was spreading to the neighbouring areas.
Ashraf said Friday international humanitarian groups had failed to give assistance.
"No doctors, no medicines have arrived. I'm only reporting the death toll and no one is listening to our cries for help," Ashraf said.
He said the epidemic had also hit Darae-Souf, 80 kilometers southwest of Aibak, capital of Samangan province. "If attention is not paid more people will die," he added.
The Afghan opposition on Thursday accused the ruling Taliban militia of blocking the supply of vital medicines to the affected area.
US alert: coded message reveals bin Laden terror plot - Sydney Morning Herald
WASHINGTON, July 20 -- The United State s is expecting a terrorist attack orchestrated by the Saudi extremist Osama bin Laden soon, and has placed its forces in the Middle East on the highest level of alert.
State Department officials said intelligence services had intercepted a coded message to one of bin Laden's senior operatives outlining plans for the attack. The suspected target was in either Saudi Arabia or Kuwait, the officials said. They described the intelligence as highly credible and instantly issued the warning through military and diplomatic channels.
The State Department has had all its embassies on a heightened level of alert since late May, when four of bin Laden's followers were convicted in a New York court over the 1998 bombings of two US embassies in Africa.
Intelligence services have been expecting a reprisal attack since the verdict and believe on the basis of the intercepted message that one is now imminent.
The message was being sent to a bin Laden associate known to be involved in a radical cell of terrorists operating on the Arabian Peninsula.
"In the past such individuals have not distinguished between official and civilian targets," the State Department said.
"As always, we take this information seriously. US government facilities remain at a heightened state of alert. American citizens in the region are urged to remain vigilant with regard to their personal security and to exercise caution."
Government officials said their public warning was in line with US policy, which dictates that US citizens be told if there is credible evidence of a possible terrorist attack.
Bin Laden remains at large but has been indicted by the US Federal Court for his role in masterminding the simultaneous 1998 attacks on the US embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Several of his followers, apart from the four convicted men, have also been indicted and are being sought by international intelligence services.
The US launched a series of missile attacks on bin Laden's reputed training sites in Afghanistan and on a Sudanese pharmaceutical company suspected of making chemical weapons.
Bin Laden is believed to be hiding in Afghanistan with the sanction of the Taliban Government.
He rose to prominence as a soldier with the US-supported mujahideen guerilla fighters in Afghanistan's war against the Soviet Union in the 1980s, then pursued lucrative business dealings in Saudi Arabia and became a leading campaigner against US influence.
The exiled financier is suspected of masterminding a series of terrorist attacks in recent years, including the suicide bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen in October that killed 17 sailors.
Sanctions cannot be lifted until restoration of democracy: US
Washington (PPI):: The United states has said that sanctions against Pakistan cannot be lifted unless and until democracy is restored.This was stated here by Ms. Christina Rocca, US Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs while addressing a press conference.
She will undertake her first trip to the region from July 21. She will be leaving Washington on July 21, stopping first in India, then Nepal, and then Pakistan.
She will be meeting with her counterparts in the host governments and consulting with colleagues in US embassies and consulates.
On this trip she will hear first-hand about the concerns of the region and better understand how to make relations more effective, as well as discuss the Bush administration's foreign policy priorities in South Asia.
She said Bush administration believes that the U.S. has important political and economic interests in South Asia.
She said the US government is committed to working together with South Asian countries to promote greater stability and security in the region, to increase prosperity and standards of living, and levels of trade with the U.S. `` We want to have bilateral relationships that are truly bilateral. We do not intend to view relations with one country through the prism of any other country.
We also want to protect the regional and global environment, fight disease, pursue scientific and technological advances, and further strengthen the rapidly growing cultural ties between the region and United States'' she maintained.
She said Bush administration is serious about engaging with the region.
Our new ambassadors to India and Pakistan — Dr. Robert Blackwell and Wendy Chamberlain — have just been sworn-in in the last two days, and they 'll arrive in New Delhi and Islamabad very soon.
Indian External Affairs and Defence Minister Singh, and Pakistani Foreign Minister Sattar have already had useful visits to Washington.
Deputy Secretary Armitage visited New Delhi, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Shelton, is there right now.
She said Indian Foreign Secretary Lyer met with Under secretary Grossman in May, and Pakistani Foreign Secretary Inamul Haq will come to meet with Mr. Grossman sometime in the near future.
She said recent events in the region have highlighted some of the difficulty it faces, but there are also many places where there's potential for progress.
She said the just-concluded India-Pakistan summit should not be seen as a failure, but as the first step in a difficult and lengthy process.
Both countries have indicated they want to continue the dialogue aimed at reducing tensions and resolving their differences. `` We strongly support sustained engagement between India and Pakistan''.
She said in Afghanistan conflicts continues with no real end in sight, unfortunately.
`` We continue to work with the U.N. and others in support of a political settlement, while providing assistance to the Afghan victims of drought and ongoing war.
We also remain very concerned with the continuing harboring of terrorist groups by the Taliban. This is a threat to all countries, including Afghanistan's neighbors'' she pointed out.
Ms. Rocca said, we consider Agra Summit a success because the meeting took place.
They 've talked about continued dialogue.
NEW DELHI, July 20 -- See if you can believe t his before breakfast. Afghanistan, the world's biggest producer of opium, is not growing a single acre of poppy this year. Honest.
In one swoop, the Taliban authorities have reduced last year's cultivation of 82,000 hectares, producing 3,300 tonnes of opium, to zero this year. With a farmgate price of at least $30/kg for opium, which heads mainly to Europe and USA, Afghanistan has thus given up at least $1.8bn in sales this year.
Out of this, the Taliban alone collected more than $11m in taxes from poppy farmers and traders. But before dismissing it as Taliban propaganda, check with the FAO (Food & Agricultural Organisation).
After extensive field visits across the drought and strife-ridden mountainous country, especially the main poppy-growing provinces of Helmand and Nangarhar, FAO has reported that poppy cultivation has been abandoned by Afghan farmers, as a result of which there has been no opium production in ‘01.
"Suddenly, beyond all expectations, the elimination has taken place," the world food body has observed.
The miraculous switch-over from a opium-driven economy was triggered by a Taliban edict issued on July 27, ‘00, for a total ban on poppy cultivation, which was then universally enforced.
Should the ban not have been issued, FAO estimates that the area under poppy this year would have been at least 80,000 hectares. The yields in ‘01 would have been around 45kg/ha, higher than last year's 40kg/ha, giving Afghan traders at least 3,600 tonnes of opium to push in the world drug markets.
However, with the highly profitable poppy now forbidden, poverty-stricken Afghan farmers have begun growing other crops in the area. Some 75 per cent of the poppy area has been substituted by wheat, while the rest is sown with vegetables and other cash crops.
But while narcotics police world-wide have reasons to rejoice, the withdrawal symptoms may be particularly hard for the ordinary Afghan farmers, landless labourers, and for the Taliban authorities to bear. FAO itself believes abandoning poppy cultivation has “serious implications” for the Afghan economy.
Poppy has to be harvested in a short period of time in a highly labour-intensive process. Usually labourers are hired for the purpose and paid 25 per cent in kind as wages.
For harvesting one hectare of poppy, generally 15 workers are engaged for 15 days, so that each hectare generates 7.5 man-month days of work. This year, with zero cultivation, 6,00,000 man-months would be lost. Each worker usually works two to three shifts of 15 days on poppy harvesting during the season, moving from plot to plot or farm to farm.
Assuming that, on average, a worker can work 2.5 shifts of 15 days or 37.5 days during the season, FAO calculates that the total number of workers involved is 4,80,000. The loss of their income means hitting the livelihood of 2.8m people (assuming a family size of six). Moreover, with an average poppy farm size of one hectare, the number of farm families badly affected are another 80,000.
Had Afghanistan produced opium worth $30/kg this year, each of 4,80,000 landless labourers would have earned $56.255 during the season or $1.5 per day. But employment is extremely hard for them to find this year, rendering most of them jobless.
The Taliban are equally badly hit as they levy a 10 per cent tax on poppy from both farmers and traders. With no opium-derived money to bolster government coffers, Afghanistan's already tenuous economy may be in for the real cold turkey.
In fact, FAO believes that the pertinent question now is whether and for how long this ban can be sustained. “A lot depends on how the international community responds to the adverse economic consequences suffered by farmers, workers, Taliban authorities and the economy in general. The opportunity must be seized and a possible reversal must be stopped through positive and adequate responses on an urgent basis,” the FAO has cautioned.
F.P.ReportPESHAWAR: Security personnel of Ahmad Shah Masood, leading anti Taliban Northern Alliance have taken into custody an armed group in Jabalus Siraj accused of having secret contacts with ruling Taliban.
According to details, the security men of the Northern Alliance commonder in, Ahmad Shah Masood nabbed a group red handed while making contacts with Mohammad Fazil nicknamed Sayyaf Jabalus Siraji of the Taliban movement.
The Afghan sources reported that due to the help of its secret information, the Taliban militia used to bombard the positions of the Northern Alliance forces in Jabalus Siraj, the capital of Parwan province.
The report further revealed that the men of the said group were fully armed with automatic rifles and were trying to persuade the local commanders for a rebellion against the Northern Alliance set-up there.
It may be recalled that Mohammad Fazil had been the commander of Ahmad Shah Masood in Parwan province in the past and a government servant during the Rabbani government. He joined the Taliban ranks some three years back and is still their staunch supporter.
When The Frontier Post contacted Taliban official in Kabul for his comment regarding this report, Information ministry official said he was not in a position to comment about it.
F.P ReportPESHAWAR: Since UNHCR facilitated repatriation convoys of Afghans departing from settlements in Baluchistan and North West Frontier Province (NWFP) began on 3 July, more than 4,800 Afghans have opted to return home with the UN's assistance package.
Voluntary returns have taken place mainly from Nasir Bagh and Jalozai sites in NWFP, but more than 1,200 Afghans have repatriated from Baluchistan's refugee settlements under the UNHCR-facilitated initiative.
Afghans who come forward and request repatriation assistance receive Rup. 6,000 from UNHCR while the UN's World Food Programme provides them with 150 Kgs of wheat. Many more Afghans have gone home independently from the UNHCR-sponsored returns.
Over the first six months of the year UNHCR staff in Afghanistan counted more than 10,000 persons voluntarily returning from Pakistan outside the UN-assisted repatriation programme, though actual return flows across the long frontier may be higher.
Afghans cite the severe drought that has devastated orchards and livestock in drought refugee-hosting areas of Baluchistan and NWFP, the difficult economic climate in Pakistan and fears that they may eventually be deported as among the reasons prompting them to return now. Others say they want to rejoin their families.
The Pakistan authorities have forcibly returned some Afghans. UNHCR staff based in Afghanistan undertaking random checks at several crossing points noted at least 3400 persons, mainly men, being deported from Pakistan over the last six months, though the actual number is believed to be higher.
SANA added that United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said Friday that limited Afghan refugees return to their country and as many as 10,000 uprooted Afghans have returned to their homeland voluntarily outside the UN-assisted repatriation programme over the last six months.
In statement, the UNHCR however said the actual return flows across the long frontier may be higher.
The Pakistani authorities have forcibly returned some Afghans as the UNHCR staff based in Afghanistan is undertaking random checks at several crossing points in which the staff says that at least 3,400 persons, mainly men, being deported from Pakistan over the last six months although, the statement said, the actual number is believed to be higher.
More than 48,00 Afghans have opted to return home with the UN's assistance package since the refugee agency-facilitated repatriation of refugees from camps in Balochistan and NWFP on July 3.
Voluntary repatriation has taken place mainly from Nasir Bagh and Jalozai sites in Frontier province but more than 1,200 Afghans have opted to return home from Balochistan refugee settlement, the statement said.
According to UNHCR, Afghans cite the severe drought that devastated orchards and livestock in the refugee-hosting areas of Pakistan's two provinces, the difficult economic climate in the country and fears that they may eventually be deported as among the reasons prompting them to return home while some of the Afghans say that they want to rejoin their families
US military chief praises summit - BBC
General Henry Shelton, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, has praised the recent summit between India and Pakistan.
General Shelton, who is visiting Delhi, told journalists he was "delighted" to see a dialogue between the two countries.
The summit in Agra ended without a joint declaration because of differences over the disputed territory of Kashmir.
The trip by General Shelton is the highest-level US military visit since India carried out nuclear tests in 1998, prompting a reduction in military-to-military contacts.
General Shelton held talks with Indian Defence Minister Jaswant Singh as well as the country's national security advisor and military chiefs.
Ties between Delhi and Washington have been growing closer, and India recently indicated its support for President George W Bush's controversial missile defence plans.
General Shelton said his visit was a reflection of America's desire to broaden and deepen its engagement with India on defence issues.
"India is a major power with global influence and I hope we can establish a strong military-to-military relationship," he said in a statement soon after arriving in Delhi.
The general received a ceremonial welcome at the Indian defence ministry before holding discussions with the three service chiefs. A spokesman said the discussions were "lengthy, private and confidential".
General Shelton also held a 45-minute meeting with Indian National Security Advisor Brajesh Mishra.
Analysts say the US is considering selling military hardware to India. India's nuclear tests prompted the US to reduce military contacts
Some analysts believe the Bush administration sees India as an important strategic counterbalance to a potentially hostile China.
Both India and Pakistan were subject to US sanctions after conducting nuclear tests in 1998. The Bush administration has suggested it will review the whole sanctions policy.
The president's nominee to run South Asian affairs, Christina Rocca, said she thought the sanctions should be dropped completely.
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