Afghan president hopes for meeting with Sharon
Fri Oct 14, 8:25 AM ET
JERUSALEM (AFP) - Afghan President Hamid Karzai expressed hope in an interview that he would meet with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon whom he praised for pulling troops and settlers out of the Gaza Strip.
Karzai said that he would follow the lead of neighouring Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf, who shook hands with Sharon at the UN General Assembly last month, if the opportunity arose.
"In my eyes it is a positive development that Musharraf shook Prime Minister Sharon's hand," he told the Yediot Aharanot daily. "If I had an opportunity to meet the Israeli prime minister, I would do so.
"Inshallah (God willing) I will also meet Prime Minister Sharon soon," he added.
Karzai came to power after the November 2001 downfall of the fundamentalist Islamic Taliban regime which had tried to erase traces of other religions' history in the central Asian republic.
The president however recalled how Afghanistan had played host to a now rapidly dwindling Jewish community which was concentrated in the western city of Herat.
"In Afghanistan there was an impressive Jewish community, and the relations between them and the Afghans were excellent," he said.
But when pressed on whether he would envisage diplomatic relations with the Jewish state, Karzai stuck to the line that full ties would not come about until the creation of a Palestinian state.
"We want to see peace between Israel and the Palestinians, we want to see an end to violence on both sides. The Palestinians have a right to live in peace and Israel has a right to live in peace," he said.
"We welcome Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. This is a good thing that the Israeli government did. When there is further progress and the Palestinians begin to get a state of their own, Afghanistan will be glad (to establish) full relations with Israel."
Taliban more aggressive in targeting Afghan, US troops
KABUL, Oct. 15 (Xinhua) -- Remnants of the former Taliban regime have become more aggressive in targeting Afghan and US troops as well as pro-government figures as the militants have killed over 50 government servicemen and US troops over the past one single month.
In the latest spate of violence, the militia assassinated a pro-government cleric in the troubled southeast Khost province besides burning eight US base-bound oil tankers in southern Kandahar on Friday. Moreover, skirmishes have been continuing between militants and the US-Afghan forces in the restive southern region unabatedly over the past two years.
The Commander-in-chief of the 20,000-strong US-led coalition forces in Afghanistan Lieutenant General Karl Eikenberry in a pre-parliamentary election warning called on Taliban to lay down arms and join the peace process or face the dire consequences of military wrath.
On the contrary, the militants have become more aggressive in targeting Afghan and US troops as well as pro-government figures as the number of casualties in Taliban-led militancy this year has almost doubled in comparison to last year's.
Over 1,300 people with majority of them militants have been killed in Taliban-linked violence so far this year against 850 throughout last year.
The main factor behind upsurge in militancy this year, according to Afghan observers is close cooperation among the remnants of ousted Taliban regime, al-Qaida associates and supporters of dissident warlord and former Prime Minister Gulbudin Hekmatyar.
Taliban have also recruited foreign mercenaries and young seminarians to bolster their hit-and-run activities, the observers believe. Copying their counterparts in Iraq, they resorted to committing suicide attacks in Afghanistan.
"Afghans have never committed suicide attack, even during worst days of resistance against former Soviet Union, suicide attack which is forbidden in Islam is a new tactic inspired by Iraqis," one observer said.
He also was of the view that wealthy al-Qaida backers in the region including Arab countries have been financing the Taliban movement to push ahead with its agenda.
Afghan officials have confirmed the report of entering Taliban and al-Qaida-linked suicide bombers in the big cities of the country including the capital.
Defense Ministry spokesman Zahir Azimi said last week that the country's law enforcing agencies were vigilant to foil any untoward designs.
The war-torn country has witnessed five suicide attacks in lessthan a month with one of them in the capital city two weeks ago, which left nine soldiers dead, and 36 injured. Authorities put thedeadly attack on a Yemeni national.
To strengthen the claim, Defense Ministry officials said that two Chechen nationals and one Pakistani were killed during a cleanup operation in Uruzgan the home province of Taliban's leader Mullah Mohammad Omar last week.
Taliban militias have also claimed shooting down of two US military helicopters over the past one month and according to their spokesman one of them grounded in southern Zabul province onSept. 25 while the second crashed in Nuristan east of Afghanistan.
Both the choppers, they said, have been downed by Russian-made surface-to-air missile of SAM.
Taliban's former spokesman Mufti Latif Hakimi said that the militias had acquired the new advanced weaponry from black market.
Over 200 US soldiers with some 82 of them in 2005 have been killed since launching Operation Enduring Freedom against Taliban and al-Qaida in October 2001. Enditem
Karzai condemns killing of cleric
BBC News / Saturday, 15 October 2005
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has strongly condemned the killing of a leading Muslim cleric in a bomb attack on a mosque in south-east Afghanistan.
Police blamed the Taleban for killing pro-government cleric, Mullah Maulvi Ahmed Khan, on Friday in Tani district, 25km (18 miles) south of Khost.
Mr Karzai said the attack was an "affront to the ideals of Islam".
More than 1,200 people have been killed in violence linked to militancy in Afghanistan this year.
Mullah Khan, a member of the powerful pro-government provincial clerics' council, the ulema, was about to lead afternoon prayers when the remote controlled device was detonated.
Sixteen other people were hurt.
Mr Karzai said in a statement: "I am deeply disturbed by this crime, which is an attack on Islam and on the ulemas... Maulvi Ahmed Khan was a person devoted to Islam and at the service of the Afghan people.
"There is no greater affront to the ideals of Islam then killing a respected scholar in a place of worship."
No-one has yet said they carried out the attack.
The Taleban were blamed for attacks on pro-government clerics in the summer which left four dead.
Two clerics in Kandahar and one each in Helmand and Paktika were killed.
On 1 June in Kandahar, 20 people were killed and 40 injured when a suicide bomber targeted a mosque where mourners had gathered for a service for murdered cleric Mawlavi Abdullah Fayaz, who was killed by gunmen earlier in the week.
'Arms smugglers' seized in Kabul
By Bilal Sarwary BBC News, Kabul Saturday, 15 October 2005
British and US citizens are among eight people arrested on suspicion of arms smuggling in the Afghan capital, Kabul, Afghan police have said.
Two senior police sources told the BBC they were detained in a raid on a guest house earlier this week.
Those arrested had forged documents saying they were personnel of the International Security Assistance Force of peacekeepers, the sources said.
They said Isaf had confirmed those arrested were not part of the force.
A spokesman for the British embassy in Kabul, Keith Scott, said it was aware two British nationals had been arrested and that it was providing consular assistance.
Security forces found five AK47 rifles and two pistols during the raid.
The police sources would not give a full breakdown of those arrested but said they included one Indian national and British, US and Afghan citizens.
Police are searching for another Indian national they believe is in position of about 100 pistols.
Those arrested are being interrogated to determine who they had links with.
The police sources would not say what kind of arms were allegedly being smuggled or who they were destined for.
The US and British embassies have so far made no comment on the arrests.
It is believed the first time Westerners have been held for alleged arms smuggling in Afghanistan.
Jail for Afghanistan's former military intelligence chief
ABC Asia Pacific TV / Radio Australia - October 15, 2005
The former head of Afghanistan's military intelligence and his chief interrogator have been jailed in the Nethelands.
A Dutch court handed down sentences for war crimes and torture during the 1980s.
Heshamuddin Hesam, who led the intelligence service from 1983 to 1991, was jailed for 12 years.
His head of interrogations Habibullah Jalalzoy, was given nine-years.
Human rights groups say that more than 200,000 people were tortured by the Afghan secret service during the 1980s, and about 50,000 of them died.
The men, tried to get political asylum in the Netherlands.
Daily Afghan Report
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty - October 14, 2005
Unsuccessful Candidates Protest In Kabul...
Hundreds of candidates who have lost in the 18 September elections in Afghanistan protested near the Presidential Palace in Kabul on 13 October, Xinhua news agency reported. Sayyed Murtaza, an independent candidate for the People's Council (Wolesi Jirga) of the National Assembly, alleged that "mass irregularities have been committed in the ballot counting," and said that the protesters demand a recount. Abdul Shukur Waqif, a candidate from Kabul, told Xinhua that he has complained to Jean Arnault, UN secretary-general's special envoy to Afghanistan, about fraud in the elections. The Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB), while acknowledging the occurrence of some irregularities in the polls, has maintained that the scale of these problems did not affect the overall elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 October 2005). AT
...Picket Vote-Counting Center In Eastern Afghanistan...
Around 200 candidates in Jalalabad, the capital of Nangarhar Province, on 13 October prevented JEMB workers from entering the local vote-counting center, Peshawar-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) reported. Picketing candidates told AIP that an eight-member delegation invited by Governor Gol Agha Sherzai for talks aimed at responding to the complaints of protesting candidates, has not been "heard from." An unidentified candidate said that the delegation has not reported back to them, adding that their "mobile telephones are switched off and we do not know what happened to them." The candidates in Nangarhar have alleged that there was fraud in the vote counting and have also demanded that the suspect ballot boxes be counted in their presence. After the JEMB announces provisional results for each province, there is a five-day window in which complaints can be received. Thus far the JEMB has announced provisional election results for nine provinces (see http://www.results.jemb.org). AT
...And Demonstrate In Western Afghanistan
Around 200 candidates held a peaceful demonstration in Herat on 13 October to voice their displeasure with the counting process in their province, Sada-ye Jawan radio reported. The protesters demanded a recount of the votes. Governor Sayyed Hosayn Anwari promised to address the protesters' grievances, though it is not clear in what manner. AT
U.S. Solider Charged With Prisoner-Abuse Case
Staff Sergeant Brian Doyle was charged with dereliction of duty and maltreatment for ordering another solider to beat an Afghan detainee who later died in the U.S. military facility in Bagram, north of Kabul, the BBC reported on 13 October. Doyle was also accused of not preventing maltreatment of Afghan detainees by his subordinates. The detainee in question, identified as Habibullah, died in December 2002. AT
NATO Rules Out Sending Troops In Afghanistan To Help In Quake-Relief Work In Pakistan
On 12 October NATO announced that troops and helicopters attached to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan will not be sent to Pakistan to help in the rescue efforts in the aftermath of the devastating South Asian earthquake (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 October 2005), the Karachi daily "Dawn" reported on 13 October, though its aircraft will continue to transport relief supplies from Europe to Pakistan. The first NATO aircraft from Europe reached Pakistan on 13 October and the alliance is planning to dispatch helicopters by sea if they are required in the rescue operations. NATO said that ISAF is stretched to its limit in Afghanistan. NATO member states that have troops or equipment under their national command are free to move them to Pakistan. AT
Pakistan says quake toll 38,000
Saturday, 15 October 2005 BBC News
Pakistan's government has said it now believes more than 38,000 people were killed by the South Asian earthquake a week ago.
That is an increase of more than 13,000 on its former estimate. At least 1,400 died in Indian-administered Kashmir.
In some of the areas worst affected, heavy rain and strong winds temporarily grounded helicopter flights.
Relief agencies expressed concern about the weather's effects on the homeless - with children especially vulnerable.
Pakistan military spokesman, Maj Gen Shaukat Sultan, said the death toll had been increased after confirmation of more fatalities in remote valleys and the badly-hit town of Balakot.
President Pervez Musharraf said on Saturday the situation would worsen. "I think it will keep rising when we go into the valleys," he said.
Pakistan has put the number of injured at more than 60,000.
Interior Minister Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao told the AFP news agency the number of homeless had now risen to around 3.3m.
He said the quake had cost Pakistan $5bn in infrastructure losses.
Exactly one week after the 7.6 magnitude quake struck, 3,000 Muslim worshippers gathered in the country's largest mosque, in Islamabad, for special prayers.
"Oh Allah, give courage to those who survived this disaster to endure this hardship," the cleric read.
The UN children's' agency, Unicef, said children in affected areas faced a potentially deadly combination of cold, malnutrition and disease.
Another organisation, Save the Children, said there were reports of children succumbing to exposure.
UK charity Oxfam said thousands of tents and blankets needed to be moved into remote areas where roads were barely passable at the best of times.
Villagers have been walking to relief camps to beg for tents.
Mohammed Qassim, who lives in Tungli village, five kilometres (three miles) from Balakot in Pakistan, told Associated Press: "We're asking for just one tent. For the sake of God, please give me one tent. Three families can live in it."
President Musharraf rejected criticism of the relief work, saying: "On the whole I think we know what we are doing now and I think it is quite satisfactory."
Rescue workers have now abandoned the search for survivors, although an 18-month girl was found in a remote village in North-West Frontier Province on Friday.
Heavy rains all Saturday morning stopped helicopters flying aid to remote areas, though they have now restarted.
Altuf Musani, World Health Organisation coordinator in Muzaffarabad, Pakistan-administered Kashmir, said: "In these conditions, people will freeze. They will suffer hypothermia.
"There is a small window of less than a week to get to them. Those who are critically injured have very little chance."
UN top relief co-ordinator, Jan Egeland, has said billions of dollars will be needed for the aid effort.
On Saturday, Saudi Arabia announced an aid package worth $133m for Pakistan.
The Dalai Lama expressed his sorrow at the earthquake and pledged $23,000 in aid for Pakistan and $12,000 to India.
Rice Fails to Win Russian Support on Iran
By ANNE GEARAN Associated Press Sat Oct 15, 6:47 AM ET
MOSCOW - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice failed Saturday to persuade Russia to offer new support for a hard line on Iran's disputed nuclear program, despite making a hastily arranged trip to the Russian capital.
Rice wanted Russian cooperation as the United States and its European allies try either to draw Iran back to diplomatic talks or invoke the threat of punishment from the powerful U.N. Security Council.
Despite lengthy meetings with Russian officials, including a long session alone with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, it was clear Russia had not changed its opposition to using the Security Council.
The Iranian nuclear question can be handled through the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency, which is already monitoring nuclear activities in Iran, Lavrov told reporters afterward.
"We think that the current situation permits us to develop this issue and do everything possible within the means of this organization, without referring this issue to other organizations now," Lavrov said.
Rice said the Security Council "remains an option" if Iran does not cooperate.
"We've said all along there remains time for negotiations if Iran is prepared to negotiate in good faith," Rice told reporters.
The International Atomic Energy Agency last month passed a resolution warning Tehran it would be referred to the Security Council unless it allayed international fears about its nuclear program.
Russia handed the United States a subtle diplomatic victory last month when it abstained, rather than vote against that measure.
Lavrov appeared to dash U.S. hopes for a Russian "yes" vote when the IAEA next meets on Nov. 24, but it is not clear whether Russia would actively block the move.
Iran says its nuclear activities, some of which are carried out with Russian cooperation, are intended to produce electricity, not weapons. The United States claims Iran is hiding a bomb making project behind the shield of a legitimate energy program.
Rice also could not sway Russia on the related question of whether Iran has a right, as it insists, to enrich uranium. Enrichment is a possible step toward weapons development and the United States and European allies are determined to keep Iran from having full nuclear know-how.
Under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which Iran signed, "nations have that right," Lavrov said.
He added that Iran must not violate the arms pact, which is intended to allow peaceful use of nuclear energy under strict controls but to stop international spread of nuclear weapons and technology.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, who later hosted Rice at his country residence just west of Moscow, said her trip earlier this week across formerly Soviet Central Asia was "very successful." Putin added that Russia, the United States and the nations in the region have common interests in fighting terrorism and stabilizing Afghanistan.
"We have a firm foundation and a firm basis for a strong partnership that we have together with Russia, and that's why it's a good thing that we get together so frequently and talk on a whole range of issues before us," Rice told Putin.
Rice was to fly to Britain Saturday for further talks on Iran and other Middle East issues. She was in Paris on Friday for similar consultations.
France, Britain and Germany have led an effort to offer economic incentives for Iran to drop the disputed portions of its nuclear program. Iran's new hard-line government walked away from talks and has resumed nuclear activities it suspended during negotiations.
The United States is expected to make a strong push to bring Iran before the U.N. Security Council. Russia and China, both allies of Iran and permanent members of the Security Council, could block economic sanctions or other tough punishment, if the case gets that far.
Iran has said it has nothing to fear from the Security Council, presumably out of confidence that Russia and China would veto a tough proposal for punishment from the United States or the Europeans.
Rice's discussions on Iran come at a sensitive time. Iran has indicated a willingness to return to negotiations, but not to drop what it calls its right to full nuclear know-how. Iran's supreme leader also may be trying to undercut the authority of Iran's new hard-line government.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei recently strengthened the powers of Expediency Council chief Hashemi Rafsanjani, a former president who lost to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in June's elections. He recently criticized the handling of Iran's nuclear issue by Ahmadinejad's government.
On the Net:
State Department: http://www.state.gov
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