Get, set but Saudis say no go
Kashmir terror on Bush hit list
Neighbours dial and make up
Stand-in Selvam swears by angel Amma
Calcutta Weather

Washington, Sept. 22: 
Plans by the Bush administration for an immediate attack on Afghanistan, perhaps as early as this weekend, appear to have received a setback with Saudi Arabia�s refusal to let the US use a command centre at the Prince Sultan Air Base.

The military buildup for possible strikes on Afghanistan was stepped up, nonetheless. Heavy B-1 and B-52 bombers and �warthog� attack planes, designed to take out tanks and close air support of ground forces, lumbered into the air from America on their way to the Gulf and the Indian Ocean.

The Taliban said its forces had shot down an aircraft in the north of the country, but officials issued conflicting statements on whether it was an unmanned US spy plane or a helicopter of the opposition Northern Alliance. The Pentagon did not comment.

In a blow to the Taliban, the UAE today snapped diplomatic relations, leaving Pakistan and Saudi Arabia as the only other countries to recognise the Kabul regime. Pakistan said it was not considering following suit.

Defence officials quoted by The Washington Post said the Saudi refusal could delay a campaign by weeks. An attack could still take place before the start of the new week, but indications here suggested that it would merely be an �initial phase� and restricted to an assault on Osama bin Laden�s possible location.

Secretary of state Colin Powell was trying to persuade the Saudis to reverse the kingdom�s long-standing policy of not allowing America to launch �offensive air operations� from its soil.

General Anthony Zinni, who retired last year as commander of US forces in West Asia, was quoted as saying that inability to base combat missions at the air base would pose problems only in the short term. �We have really worked to make our capability expeditionary and can set up fairly quickly� elsewhere.

President George W. Bush spoke to Uzbekistan�s President Islam Karimov to persuade Tashkent to allow the US to launch air strikes from across the northern border of Afghanistan. Muslim Turkey, a Nato member, pledged logistical support.

Defence officials said about a dozen more aircraft, including refuelling planes, would soon move to the Gulf and the Indian Ocean to join nearly 350 warplanes at land bases and on two aircraft carriers. The US assault ship Essex left Sasebo naval base in Japan and was expected to head for the Indian Ocean. The carrier USS Kitty Hawk left its home port near Tokyo yesterday.

Bush and his top aides were meeting in Camp David to prepare an executive order identifying terrorist groups and freezing assets in the US as part of a larger campaign against terrorists. The New York Times quoted officials as acknowledging that there was still a debate within the administration about how to conduct the larger phase of the anti-terrorism campaign, which would involve attacks on states that sponsor terrorism.

What will decide the timing of the attack is the military objective. Bush has said he wants to punish the Taliban for not turning over bin Laden, but has been silent on whether the Kabul government is to be ousted.

�If you want to dislodge the regime in Kabul, you need an overwhelming ground force, which requires a good bit of time for deployment. If you want to punish them, you can use a smaller package of special forces and air power more quickly put in place,� said James Steinberg, deputy national security adviser to the Clinton administration.

So far, the scale of deployment appears limited in comparison to the Gulf war, indicating that the mission has narrower goals.


New Delhi, Sept. 22: 
The US has for the first time described the armed struggle in Kashmir as �terrorist activities� and made it clear that the Bush administration was committed to go against all organisations which were a �curse in the face of the society�.

The remarks, sure to boost India�s morale, left no room for doubt that America�s battle against global terrorism would include the one going on in Kashmir. The US refused to accept Islamabad�s view that the fight in Kashmir was a freedom struggle and said it would go after terrorists active in the embattled state.

Washington�s position was articulated by secretary of state Colin Powell in a BBC interview. Asked whether America�s current war was against all terrorists, Powell said: �Yes, President Bush said the campaign goes after terrorism, a curse in the face of the society.�

Powell clubbed the Irish, Kashmiri and the Basque movements as terrorist activities. �These organisations are interested in terrorist operations to overthrow legitimate or democratically elected governments or governments that represent the will of their people. They are a threat, we should go after them,� he said.

The US also made it clear that the government in Kashmir represented the will of the people and had been elected democratically. So any attempt to topple it by force will not be supported by America.

The remarks are significant. The Kashmir issue has been a hurdle in improving India-Pakistan relations. One reason cited by Pervez Musharraf for joining the US campaign against the Taliban was to ensure that Pakistan�s Kashmir policy was not affected.

Powell�s remarks bolster what the Indian leadership has been arguing for the past few days. Delhi had been trying to emphasise that Washington�s current fight against global terror would not allow terrorists to operate in Kashmir.

If Washington remains committed to what it said, a sea-change is expected in Jammu and Kashmir. Sources said Musharraf may be in for a shock if he plans to re-open the terrorist camps after the US heat is turned off.

The growing concern about terror may also see Washington force governments which encourage terrorist activities to change their policies. India would also benefit if the Pakistan President takes the opportunity to get rid of all terrorist outfits in the country.

Though some feel America may lose interest in continuing the fight once it gets Osama bin Laden, Delhi expects the US to keep its promise: not look the other way when Islamabad again decides to push in Pakistan-trained militants into Kashmir.


New Delhi and Islamabad, Sept. 22: 
After asking India to �lay off�, Pakistan put India in the picture today with foreign minister Abdul Sattar calling his counterpart, Jaswant Singh, in the afternoon and sharing Islamabad�s views on developments in the region since last week�s attacks on the US. This was the first official level contact between the two sides since the strikes.

On a day marked by hectic phone diplomacy, French President Jacques Chirac spoke with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and Israeli foreign minister Shimon Peres shared with Singh his government�s views on the US� proposed fight against global terrorism.

But Sattar�s was perhaps the most significant call received by South Block. The conversation between the two foreign ministers lasted only 10 minutes, but the duration didn�t lessen any of its importance. Since the hijacked planes slammed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, the two countries had stopped all official contact. However, this did not stop either side from using each other to build its case while formulating its response to the developments.

Addressing the nation, President Pervez Musharraf recently used the India card to bolster his argument in support of aligning with the Americans. The general said that with India willing to offer almost everything to the US, Islamabad�s refusal could lead to further isolation. Musharraf, who accused India of trying to whip passion against Pakistan, had asked Delhi to �lay off�.

The Indian leadership had shown maturity in its reaction. While Vajpayee made it clear that in the present situation, there was no question of any further interaction between the two sides, Singh had said that Islamabad�s brave words about fighting terrorism needed to be matched by suitable action.

The foreign minister took the opportunity to ask Sattar to convey to his President that India has no designs of destabilising Pakistan further. �India has no intention to add to the complexities that the government of Pakistan and the Pakistani people were faced with,� Singh said.

Sattar told Singh that Musharraf�s remark was prompted by the �barrage of Indian propaganda� against Pakistan. Sattar assured Singh that Pakistan was ready to �fully cooperate� with the world community in combating terrorism.

The reason behind Sattar�s initiative is not clear. One view is that Pakistan was nudged into the act by the US to ensure that fresh tension between India and Pakistan does not add to the already volatile situation in South Asia. This goes against Washington�s interest as it may take the focus away from its attempt to build the widest possible coalition against global terrorism. It requires the support of both Delhi and Islamabad, and bilateral tension at this point could dilute its cause. On the other hand, Islamabad�s move may be an attempt to match the maturity shown by Delhi.    

Chennai, Sept. 22: 
Jayalalithaa�s successor, O. Pannerselvam, today left no room for doubt that he was the chief minister of Amma�s government.

Having just arrived as the new chief minister of Tamil Nadu, Pannerselvam spoke of departure. He said he was no more than the head of an �interim dispensation� that would �function under the guidance of Jayalalithaa�.

Even Jayalalithaa, whose appointment as Tamil Nadu chief minister was quashed by the Supreme Court yesterday, vowed to take over as chief minister once again, proving her innocence in the case she claimed was �foisted� on her by the DMK.

She said she �would face any challenge with guts� and appealed to her partymen to maintain calm. Last night, a 29-year-old man immolated himself in Madurai, upset over the Supreme Court verdict. Four more committed suicide in different parts of the state.

But at Fort St George, the changes appeared cosmetic. The nameplate outside the chief minister�s office had changed, but the new man in said the government would implement the �policies and welfare programmes� announced in the state budget when Jayalalithaa was chief minister.

�Amma is the guardian angel for lakhs of our party cadre. What continues now is also Amma�s rule,� said Pannerselvam, who till yesterday was revenue minister. Now, he will have all the portfolios Jayalalithaa handled, including home and police.

He did not tinker with his mentor�s ministry; he only replaced housing minister Selvaraj with S.M. Velusamy.

�It is now a moment of tribulation for dharma. But Amma will emerge triumphant, win an election democratically and come back as chief minister,� he told reporters.

But asked if he would take his own decisions, he said he realised the �responsibilities the post of chief minister carries and will act accordingly�.

His first day as chief minister, however, was as free of drama as Jayalalithaa�s last day at Tamil Nadu�s helm was full of it.

He only signed an order initiating a computer-training programme for 1,500 officials of the registration department and talked to reporters briefly. The surprise successor of Jayalalithaa did not spring any surprises.

Nor had anyone expected him to. Pannerselvam, who comes from a farmer family, hardly has any ministerial experience. He was an obscure face in the ADMK. But he was a staunch Jayalalithaa loyalist.

In 1996, he won a panchayat election and became chairman of the Periyakulam Municipality. Later, he worked hard for the victory of T.T.V. Dinakaran � a relative of Jayalalithaa�s confidante Sasikala � from the Periyakulam Lok Sabha constituency in the last parliamentary elections. This brought him close to Jayalalithaa.

No one objected when Jayalalithaa chose this obscure leader belonging to the largest backward caste � Mukkulathors or Thevars � in the state as her replacement.

�Was Rabri Devi known outside of Bihar when she succeeded Laloo Prasad Yadav as chief minister?� said an ADMK leader.




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Minimum: 26.7�C (+1)



Relative humidity

Maximum: 97%,
Minimum: 55%


Possibility of light rain in some parts
Sunrise: 5.28 am
Sunset: 5.31 pm

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