|Dalai Lama seeks ‘serious’
talks on homeland’s future
Tibetans monks in exile hold a candlelight vigil as part of an
anti-China demonstration at Swayambhu in Kathmandu. Around 500
Tibetan exiles held a candlelight vigil in Nepal’s capital to
show support for protesters in Tibet. The Tibetans gathered in
Swayambhu, a large Buddhist temple complex in Kathmandu (AFP)
DHARAMSHALA, India (AFP) - Tibet’s spiritual leader, the
Dalai Lama, has been pushing for talks with China on the future
of his homeland for years but now is making clear they must be
Returning to this northern Indian hill town from a two-week trip
to the United States where he met followers, he welcomed
Beijing’s promise on Friday to renew dialogue, saying “basically
talk is good.”
But anything other than “serious discussions” would be
fruitless, he quickly added, a day after Chinese state media
said government officials would meet soon with an envoy of the
Tibetan spiritual leader.
A meeting solely to appease international concern ahead of the
Beijing Olympics in August would be “meaningless,” he said,
speaking in Dharamshala, which has been his base since he fled
his homeland in 1959 after an abortive uprising.
He said he wanted “a thorough discussion” of the problems in
Tibet to find out “what is the cause of this problem and how to
The Buddhist “god-king” has repeatedly reached out to Beijing
seeking dialogue and cultural autonomy for his homeland.
But even on Saturday after making its talks offer, China’s state
media was denouncing the spiritual icon, accusing him of
conspiring to turn world opinion against China.
The “Tibet problem” has become the tool of the Dalai Lama and
his supporters to spread the “false rumour” that China oppresses
Tibetan Buddhism, the People’s Daily, the ruling Communist
Party’s main mouthpiece, said.
Beijing has consistently denounced the Dalai Lama as a
“splittist” bent on breaking Tibet away from China.
The spiritual leader has denied the charge, saying he wants
“cultural autonomy” rather than independence for Tibet despite
escalating his criticism of China recently, accusing it of
“unimaginable” rights violations.
The 72-year-old Nobel peace laureate – considered by many to be
the world’s greatest moral force for non-violence – has
continued to appeal to his fellow Tibetans to use peaceful means
to achieve their ends as the world’s spotlight falls on China
ahead of the Olympics
China begins building Tibet-Nepal rail link
(AFP) - China has started to build a rail link between
Tibet and Nepal that could drastically reduce Kathmandu’s trade
reliance on its giant southern neighbour India, officials said
Beijing is bringing the railway line from Lhasa – the capital of
troubled Chinese-controlled Tibet – to Khasa, a town along the
Nepal-China border, Aditya Baral, the Nepalese Premier’s Foreign
Affairs Adviser, told AFP.
“Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala was told by a visiting
Chinese delegation during a meeting Friday the Chinese
Government has begun the railway extension project on its side
to link with the Nepal-China border,” Baral said.
The Chinese communist party delegation told Nepalese officials
that the railway link would be ready in five years time, said
The Nepal border town of Khasa lies some 80 kilometres (50
miles) north of the ancient capital Kathmandu.
“The railway network will be important for increasing trade and
tourism for both countries,” Baral added.
Landlocked and impoverished Nepal is wedged between India and
Analysts said such a rail link could reduce Nepal’s reliance on
India for many of its goods from drugs to transport vehicles and
spare parts, cotton textiles and cement.
Many Nepalese are uneasy with what they say is New Delhi’s
dominance of the Himalayan nation’s economy.
Turkish PM in Syria amid new peace feelers
(AFP) - Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan
held talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Saturday,
amid efforts by his government to facilitate peace negotiations
between Syria and Israel.
Assad revealed this week that Turkey has been mediating between
Syria and Israel since last year and had recently passed a
message from the Jewish State expressing a readiness to swap the
Golan Heights for peace.
Before flying into Damascus for a one-day visit, Erdogan said
improving ties with countries in the region has allowed Ankara
to step up efforts to facilitate peace in the Middle East.
“The atmosphere of trust makes it necessary for Turkey to act as
a mediator,” Erdogan said. “God willing, our proactive peace
diplomacy will contribute to expected developments between Syria
Syria’s state-run news agency said Erdogan and Assad met in the
presence of Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem and discussed
ties between the two neighbours.
Before the meeting, Erdogan and Syrian Prime Minister Naji Otri
opened an economic forum attended by 700 businessmen to promote
economic and trade ties between the two countries, SANA said.
In remarks published Thursday in Qatari daily Al-Watan, Assad
said Erdogan “informed me of Israel’s readiness to withdraw from
the Golan in return for peace with Syria” and said the message
had been relayed a week ago.
Zimbabwe presidential vote count to finish by
HARARE (AFP) - A partial recount of ballots in
Zimbabwe’s presidential election should be completed by Monday
after which the result will be announced, the head of the
Zimbabwe Electoral Commission said on Saturday.
“We trust that by Monday, April 28 this process will have been
concluded... leading to the announcement of the result of the
presidential election,” ZEC chairman George Chiweshe told
reporters in Harare.
Gaza teen killed in Israeli air raid
(AFP) - The teenage daughter of a Hamas chief was
killed and eight people wounded in a dawn Israeli air raid on
the Gaza Strip, Palestinian health officials and Hamas said on
Maryam Talaat Maruf, 14, died when a missile hit her house in
Beit Lahiya, north of Gaza City and the eight others wounded,
the sources said.
Hamas, which controls Gaza, said “Israeli forces Saturday killed
the daughter of Talaat Maruf,” a leader of the Ezzedine al-Qassam
Brigades, the armed branch of the Islamist movement.
Witnesses said Maruf and his brother Hassan were detained by
Israeli soldiers who entered the area supported by tanks.
An Israeli military spokeswoman said “the air force launched two
raids on Saturday morning against armed elements in the northern
Gaza Strip... There were also exchanges of fire, but none of our
people were hit.”
Overnight, two members of Islamic Jihad were seriously wounded
in another Israeli air strike on northern Gaza, the militant
Karzai wants US to
stop arresting Taliban suspect
WASHINGTON (AFP) - Afghan President Hamid Karzai urged
US forces Saturday to stop arresting suspected Taliban and their
sympathisers, arguing that these arrests and past mistreatment
were discouraging Taliban from laying down their arms.
The New York Times said the Afghan President, in an interview,
also criticised the allied conduct of the war and demanded that
his government be given the lead in policy decisions.
Karzai said the real terrorist threat lay in sanctuaries of the
Taliban and Al-Qaeda in Pakistan. He argued that civilian
casualties needed to end completely.
“For the success of the world in Afghanistan, it would be better
to recognise this inherent character in Afghanistan and work
with it and support it,” The Times quoted him as saying in the
interview. “Eventually, if the world is to succeed in
Afghanistan, it will be by building the Afghan state, not by
keeping it weak.”
Karzai, who has been in office six years, is facing re-election
next year. With the polls approaching, some diplomats have even
expressed dismay that, for lack of an alternative, the country
and its donors may face another five years of poor management by
Karzai, the paper said.
But the Afghan President was quick to reject such criticism,
pointing out “immense difficulties” his government had faced,
according to The Times.
“What is it we have not gone through?” Karzai was quoted as
asking. The President also called for greater respect for
Afghanistan on the part of its foreign partners.