|UN chief urges global response to
CANBERRA, Sept 3, 2011 (AFP) - United
Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Saturday urged all
nations to help stabilise Libya but said the future of the
country should be decided by its own people.
“I continue to urge all countries to come together to help
the Libyan people,” he told a press conference in Canberra.
“The future of Libya should be decided by Libyan people.”
Ban, who arrived in Australia after attending an
international summit on Libya in Paris, has said he is
working to bring a UN mission to the country to deal with a
possible humanitarian crisis as soon as possible.
“We are working to make sure that the United Nations can
respond quickly to requests by the Libyan authorities,” he
“This includes restoring public security and order and
promoting rule of law, promoting inclusive political
dialogue... and protecting human rights, particularly for
“We are working closely with the country’s leadership to
ensure that confusion and duplication of effort are kept to
a minimum,” Ban said from the Australian capital where he
met with Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
Ban called on Australia to continue to support efforts to
stabilise the country where fallen strongman Moamer Kadhafi
has warned of a lengthy and widespread guerrilla war in
messages broadcast from his unknown hideout.
“At this critical moment in history there is so much at
stake for people in developed and developing countries, and
I am here to say to Australia we need your ideas, your
experience and your continued commitment,” Ban said.
Libya’s new leaders have pledged to restore order and stage
elections in 20 months after their forces defeated Kadhafi.
They have been bolstered by promises made at the Paris
conference on Thursday that billions of dollars in cash from
assets of the Kadhafi regime would be unfrozen.
Gillard had earlier said that Australia would continue its
push for a seat on the UN Security Council, saying “we
believe Australia’s voice should be heard there”.
|Libya council seeks to restore order
BBC: Libya’s new civilian leaders
are beginning the process of restoring order in Tripoli
after the revolution.
A military spokesman for the National Transitional Council
(NTC) said fighters would be encouraged to return home or
enlist in the army.
NTC leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil has said a panel of wise men
and tribal leaders will be set up to aid reconciliation.
Jalil’s announcement came as he returned to Libya from a
summit in Paris on the country’s future.
He also said the NTC would move to the capital next week
from its long-held base of Benghazi.
Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on the
world to do what it could to help Libya in its transition,
while on a visit to Australia.
“We are working to make sure that the United Nations can
respond quickly to requests by the Libyan authorities,” he
said at a news conference in Canberra.
The BBC’s Jeremy Bowen says Libya is enjoying its
revolutionary honeymoon, even though ex-leader Col Muammar
Gaddafi remains at large and some parts of the country
remain under the control of troops loyal to him.
But there are large numbers of armed young rebel soldiers on
the streets of Tripoli who have moved into the power vacuum
created by Col Gaddafi overthrow, says our correspondent,
and the NTC is now gradually persuading them to go home.
NTC military officer Gen Omar Hariri said most of these
fighters were engineers, doctors, lawyers and other
professionals who would eventually return to their jobs.
“These people abandoned everything to join the struggle
against Gaddafi. They will go back to their previous life.
Those who are left will be given a choice to join as regular
soldiers,” he said.
There is concern also about the large number of weapons now
on the streets of the capital and elsewhere, with the EU’s
senior representative in Tripoli warning that “everybody is
Ali Tarhouni, the NTC’s senior member in Tripoli, told the
BBC he was not too concerned about the guns at present as
they were still needed “to hunt this killer”, Col Gaddafi.
But he continued: “My concern, when you talk about
democracy, civil society and peaceful discourse, is that you
don’t really want to do that with anti-aircraft guns.”
Thousands of people, most of them women, gathered in central
Tripoli on Friday in a show of support for the interim
Many of the women said they wanted a greater say in Libya’s
future under the new leadership.
“We want women to get out because we can’t do that a lot and
express our feelings. We want education to change,” said one
Meanwhile, files have been found showing the level of
co-operation between the CIA and Col Gaddafi’s intelligence
agencies, the Wall Street Journal reports.
The documents, found in a Libyan government building by
Human Rights Watch researchers, show the relationship
included an agreement to send terror suspects to Libya for
The article says the CIA also moved to set up in 2004 “a
permanent presence” in the country, according to a note from
CIA top operative Stephen Kappes to Libya’s intelligence
chief at the time, Moussa Koussa.
At the Paris summit on Thursday, states represented at the
summit promised to ensure Libya’s frozen assets were
returned and to help the NTC put the country on the road to
The NTC says it urgently needs cash and other resources
to begin the reconstruction of Libya. Mr Jalil said 30% of
Libyan assets which had been frozen under UN sanctions
during Col Gaddafi’s rule had now been released.
On Friday, Col Gaddafi’s spokesman Moussa Ibrahim told
Reuters he had walked around the suburbs of Tripoli on
Thursday with Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the fugitive former
Mr Ibrahim said the fight was “very, very far from over”
and that much of the regime’s army was still in control of
“We will be able to capture Tripoli back and many other
cities in the near future,” he said.
Col Gaddafi’s whereabouts remain unknown, but several audio
messages reported to be from him have been broadcast by a
loyalist TV channel in recent days in which he vowed to
continue the fight.
The rebel fighters have given the Gaddafi-held towns of
Sirte, Bani Walid and the southern town of Sabha until 10
September to surrender or face a military assault.
|EU steps up Syria sanctions
|BBC: The EU has stepped up sanctions on Syria by banning
imports of its oil, as protests again broke out against the
rule of President Bashar al-Assad.
Oil accounts for about 25% of Syria’s income and EU member
states take about 95% of its oil exports.
Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal said the sanctions
would “go straight to the heart of the regime”.
Meanwhile, at least 14 people were reportedly killed as
protesters again came out in force across the country.
Activists said seven had died in suburbs of the capital
Damascus, four in the central city of Homs, and another
three in Deir al-Zour in the east.
The United Nations says more than 2,200 people have been
killed since pro-democracy demonstrations began in
The UK Foreign Office said the European Union had agreed at
official level to ban imports of Syrian oil into the EU to
increase pressure on the Syrian regime over its crackdown
against anti-government protest.
A spokesperson said it was hoped the agreement would be
signed off by EU foreign ministers meeting in Poland on
Friday and Saturday and come into immediate effect.
However, Italy has won a concession allowing it to fulfil
existing contracts until 15 November.
The EU also added four more Syrian officials and three
Syrian groups to its list of those affected by an EU travel
ban and asset freeze.
Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski said: “President
Assad is carrying out massacres in his own country.”
In Paris on Thursday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
condemned Mr Assad’s “brutality against unarmed citizens”,
adding: “The violence must stop and he needs to step aside.”
|US Gulf Coast braces for ‘Lee’
|BBC: The US Gulf Coast braces for torrential rain and
flash flooding as upgraded Tropical Storm Lee inches towards
Mississippi has declared a state of emergency a day after
Louisiana, where emergency crews are on standby in the city
of New Orleans.
Lee is packing winds of 40mph (65km/h) and is expected to
strengthen before it hits Louisiana this weekend, dumping
15-20in (38-50cm) of rain.
Meanwhile, Katia has regained hurricane status with winds of
A category one hurricane, Katia is expected to pass the
Caribbean, but it is not clear if it will reach the US.
The Atlantic hurricane season usually brings about a dozen
named storms, but Katia is already the 11th with half the
season still ahead.
Oil production halves
The US is still recovering from Hurricane Irene, which hit
the east coast last weekend, killing more than 40 people.
Nearly 900,000 homes and businesses still have no
By Friday evening Lee - upgraded from a tropical depression
earlier in the day - was drifting slowly northward, 180
miles west-southwest of the Mississippi river’s mouth, said
the National Hurricane Center.
The storm is moving at a slow 3mph (6kph).
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu warned of possible major
flooding, with up to 10in of rain forecast for the city.
He said the city, devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005,
had emergency crews on standby.
The Army Corps of Engineers, which operates the flood
control structures in New Orleans, says it is not planning
to close any of the structures yet.
|Man arrested for biting pet python
BBC: A man in the Californian city of Sacramento has been
accused of biting a pet snake, leaving the python seriously
hurt, police say.
Police were called to the northern part of the city on
Thursday evening expecting to respond to an assault.
While officers were speaking to David Senk, 54, found lying
at the scene, a witness accused him of taking two bites out
of the snake.
The python is recovering after being given emergency
It was turned over to the city’s Animal Care Services after
losing a few ribs.
“She’s doing well,” Gina Knepp, acting animal care services
manager, told the Sacramento Bee. “We did surgery on her
last night and I think we saved her life.”
Mr Senk was arrested on suspicion of unlawfully maiming or
mutilating a reptile.
While in jail, Mr Senk told local media that he had no
memory of the incident and that he had a drinking problem.
“I did what?” Mr Senk said. “If you find the owner, tell him
I’m real sorry. ... I’m willing to help pay for medical
No owner has come forward to claim the python from
Sacramento’s Animal Care Services.
Ms Knepp said before the surgery that the bites on the
three-foot snake were large enough to expose the animal’s
|Malaysia seizes 1,000 elephant tusks:
KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) - Malaysia has
seized more than 1,000 African elephant tusks in two
separate shipments in the past two months, reports said
In the first incident, customs and wildlife officials seized
405 tusks in a container at the southern port of Pasir
Gudang on July 8. The ship carrying the cargo was from an
undisclosed African port that had been through Singapore.
A month later enforcement officials found 664 tusks in a
container from the United Arab Emirates in the northern port
The smugglers declared the ivory as plywood and plastics
respectively in a bit to escape detection, the New Straits
Times newspaper said.
Wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC has described
Malaysia as a major wildlife transit hub after Hong Kong
authorities seized nearly two tonnes of elephant ivory worth
about $1.7 million in a shipment from Malaysia last month.
The wildlife watchdog says that the illegal ivory trade has
been rising globally since 2004 largely due to increasing
demand in China, where ivory is often ground up and used in
|Over Gaza flotilla row
expels Israeli ambassador
BBC: Turkish FM Ahmet Davutoglu: “Security can only be
achieved through genuine peace”
Turkey has expelled Israel’s ambassador and suspended all
military agreements over its refusal to apologise for last
year’s raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla.
This came as the UN published a report saying that Israeli
commandos used excessive force when they boarded an aid
ship. Nine Turkish activists died.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said it was “time
Israel pays a price for its illegal actions”.
Israel has refused to apologise and said its troops acted
“Israel, like any other country, has a legitimate right to
protect its citizens and soldiers,” an Israeli government
official told the BBC.
The report was leaked to the New York Times on Thursday, the
day before it was delivered to UN Secretary General Ban
“The secretary general’s idea was to help bring these two
countries back together again. He deeply regrets the fact
that this has not been possible through this report,” said
deputy UN spokesman Eduardo del Buey.
“I imagine he will want time to read the report, to discuss
it with his officials and then take a decision as to future
US state department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said
Washington hoped Turkey and Israel “will continue to look
for opportunities to improve their longstanding
relationship, and we will encourage both to work towards
that end”, according to the AFP news agency.
The nine pro-Palestinian activists who died were on board
the Turkish-flagged ship, Mavi Marmara, when it was
intercepted by the Israeli navy in international waters as
sailed towards Gaza’s coast on 31 May 2010.
The Palmer report was seen by the media in Israel as a rare
vindication by the UN.
Crucially it accepted that its naval blockade of Gaza is
both legal and “a legitimate security measure” to stop
weapons reaching militants by sea.
An Israeli inquiry reached the same conclusion, while a
Turkish one found it to be unlawful and a collective
punishment of the people of Gaza.
The dilemma that remains for Israeli officials is how to
handle the deepening of the rift with their long-time
regional ally, Turkey, with which it has trade, military and
This report was meant to mend relations but has achieved
just the opposite.
Turkey wants an apology and compensation for the families of
the victims. Israel has expressed only regret but may
consider payouts. It believes a full apology would
demoralise its citizens and project weakness.
At the time, the Israeli military said its commandos fired
live rounds only after being attacked with clubs, knives and
guns. But activists on board said the commandos started
shooting as soon as they hit the deck.
The UN inquiry chaired by former New Zealand Prime Minister
Geoffrey Palmer found the Israeli troops faced “significant,
organised and violent resistance from a group of passengers”
and were therefore required to use force for their own
|Snooping row over Bettencourt case
flares up in France
BBC: France’s government
has confirmed the country’s secret service obtained phone
records of a journalist investigating alleged illegal
But Interior Minister Claude Gueant denied the
counter-intelligence operation amounted to eavesdropping on
the reporter for Le Monde newspaper.
Le Monde, a respected centre-left daily, said a journalist’s
right to protect sources was at stake.
The alleged donations were denied by President Nicolas
Sarkozy last year.
It is alleged that his 2007 election campaign received at
least 150,000 euros (£132,000; $215,000) from the richest
woman in France, 88-year-old Liliane Bettencourt.
Private donors in France may, by law, only give a maximum of
7,500 euros a year to a political party.
The allegations surfaced during lawsuits over the estimated
17bn-euro fortune of Mrs Bettencourt, whose father founded
the cosmetics giant L’Oreal.
The latest row comes less than a year before the next
presidential election, when Sarkozy is widely expected to
Sarkozy’s office said last year it had “never given a single
instruction” to investigate Le Monde’s sources.
But Gueant confirmed on Thursday that France’s
counter-intelligence service (DCRI) had obtained the phone
records of Le Monde investigative journalist Gerard Davet.
It gathered them in July of last year in order to identify a
source in the justice ministry being used by the journalist,
“The gathering of telephone communications is quite
different from eavesdropping,” the minister added.
The paper itself filed a lawsuit in September accusing
Sarkozy’s office of spying on its journalist. A formal
investigation was opened in May.
The campaigning group Reporters Without Borders has spoken
of its concern that French legislation to protect the
secrecy of journalistic sources is being “deliberately
trampled on by the French intelligence services, not for
national security reasons but to protect top government
officials from embarrassing revelations”.
Sarkozy denied allegations of illegal campaign donations
This week saw the launch of a book co-written by Davet
called Sarkozy Has Killed Me.
It alleges, apparently for the first time, that Sarkozy
personally received campaign donations in cash from Mrs
The allegation was based on the words of an investigating
judge, Isabelle Prevost-Desprez, who quoted Mrs
Bettencourt’s former nurse, speaking off the record to the
judge’s stenographer at an interrogation last year.
However, in an interview published by French magazine
Marianne on Wednesday, the nurse denied talking about Mr
At the same time, she said she had received death threats
over her testimony in the legal battles involving Mrs
Reuters news agency reports that Mrs Bettencourt has not
spoken of giving money to Sarkozy and has said she has no
memory of giving money to the former treasurer of his UMP
party, Eric Woerth.
Speaking to the same news agency, a spokesman for Sarkozy’s
office described the allegations in the new book as
“scandalous, unfounded and untruthful”.
Last year, President Sarkozy went on TV to condemn the
allegations of illegal donations as lies and calumny, aimed
at destabilising his government.
|Fears grow for Asia’s endangered
|BANGKOK (AFP) - Tiger poaching gets the press but
wildlife groups in Asia are increasingly fearful for the
future of a smaller, scalier and “less sexy” creature: the
So prized are the meat and supposed medicinal properties of
this reclusive anteater that it is now thought to be the
most heavily trafficked mammal in the region, rapidly being
driven towards extinction.
“The volumes we are seeing in seizures are mind-boggling. No
species can survive this level of extraction for long,” said
Kanitha Krishnasamy from the wildlife trade watchdog
“Unfortunately, this scaly animal does not invoke as much
attention from the public, and by extension from the
authorities, as pangolins are considered to be less sexy
than their larger mammalian counterparts,” she added.
Tigers are also killed for their body parts, mostly for use
in traditional Asian medicines, and major international
campaigns have been launched to save them from extinction.
Trading in pangolins is banned under international law, yet
Traffic’s Asian surveys show they are frequently poached
from the wild, mainly in Indonesia and Malaysia,
exacerbating the threat from rapid deforestation.
They are transported through Southeast Asia, mostly ending
up in China and Vietnam, where pangolin flesh is a delicacy
and its scales -- it is the only mammal known to have them
-- are ground into a powder for medicinal purposes.
Historically, this ingredient was used in Chinese medicine
to try to cure a range of ills, from children’s hysterical
crying to eyelashes curling inwards, according to researcher
and pangolin expert Dan Challender.
Today, reports suggest the scales are used in an attempt to
reduce swellings, cure asthma and even in some cases cancer,
but a lack of solid analysis means “all uses seem unfounded
to date”, he said.
Challender, at Britain’s University of Kent, added that the
supposed health benefits of eating the meat include
nourishing the kidneys, but these are also probably
“Unless efforts are taken to address both the demand for,
and supply of pangolins, they will go extinct in Asia in the
short term future,” he told AFP.
Of four species found in Asia, two are “endangered” and two
“near threatened”, according to the International Union for
Conservation of Nature, which says it is unknown how many of
the secretive, nocturnal animals are left.
Two of four species found in Africa are also “near
threatened”, and all have decreasing populations, while
Challender said seizures of scales bound for Asia from
Africa suggested a developing trade.
Likened in appearance to a globe artichoke, the pangolin
curls up hedgehog-like into a ball when under threat, making
them easy for humans to catch.
Steve Galster, director of the anti-trafficking Freeland
foundation, said the shy creatures were the “unknown
problem” of Asia’s illegal wildlife trade, sometimes
fetching more than 1,000 US dollars each on the black
“The price of pangolins is just going through the roof,” he
told AFP. “We’re surprised there are any left.”
Already this year, seizures have been reported along trading
routes in Thailand, Cambodia, India, Malaysia, Nepal,
Myanmar, Vietnam and Indonesia -- but these are probably
just the tip of the iceberg, according to Traffic.
In one of the biggest hauls, the group said customs
officials at a Jakarta port found 7.5 tonnes of pangolin
meat in May, stashed in crates and covered up with frozen
fish, bound for Vietnam.
“The most outrageous thing here is they even exterminate the
young pangolins, the ones that when curled up are about 20
centimetres long,” port customs chief Rahmat Subagio was
quoted as saying after the find.
Late last year, seized logbooks showed one trafficking gang
alone had killed and traded 22,200 pangolins over 14 months
in the eastern Malaysian state of Sabah on Borneo, Traffic
Often, however, pangolins are transported alive to maintain
freshness and smugglers are known to inject them with water
to increase their weight -- although many die along the way
without food or drinking water, activists say.
Bundled into tightly-bound sacks, the poor-sighted pangolin
finds its long sharp claws, normally used to dig out dinner
from anthills, can become a danger: it is common for them to
blind each other as they try to escape.
Experts warn their removal from the wild also threatens to
destabilise the ecosystem of tropical forests, where the
pangolin’s diet of ants and termites is a key form of pest
Asian authorities are often unwilling to go after people of
influence -- “the big mafias, the big well-connected
traffickers”, said Galster.
He said laws against wildlife crime are weakened by
loopholes and judges who don’t take the issue seriously,
despite the perpetrators often making millions of dollars by
exploiting endangered species.
“We’ve seen too many traffickers get a slap on the wrist, if
anything,” he said.
|Medvedev says no progress in Pakistan,
Afghanistan eco deals
| DUSHANBE (AFP) - Russia on Friday lamented a lack
of progress in joint energy projects with Pakistan and
Afghanistan that could help bring stability to the volatile
region as President Dmitry Medvedev met his counterparts for
a security summit.
Meeting his Pakistani counterpart Asif Ali Zardari and
Afghanistan’s Hamid Karzai for a four-way summit that also
included Tajikistan, Medvedev said Russia was ready to
invest “millions of dollars” in the joint energy projects.
“There’s a whole range of projects that have been on the
table for a long time which have seen no movement forward
and which should be implemented,” Medvedev said in the Tajik
“It is time to move from words to deeds,” he said, referring
to a project codenamed CASA-1000, whose aim will be sending
power from Tajikistan to Afghanistan and Pakistan, and a
transnational gas pipeline.
The four-way summit in the ex-Soviet Central Asian nation of
Tajikistan comes after Medvedev hosted Zardari, Karzai and
Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon for a rare summit in his
Sochi residence in August 2010.
During that gathering the four leaders agreed to pursue
joint economic projects to help bring stability to the
Russia, Pakistan and Afghanistan all have a troubled history
of relations but Moscow is keen to demonstrate it is playing
a constructive role in improving security in a region where
historically it has had a major influence.
The Kremlin is seeking to expand its footprint in the region
as relations between Islamabad and Washington have nosedived
since Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed in May in a
clandestine raid in Pakistan.
Days after bin Laden’s killing Zardari visited Moscow, the
first official visit by a Pakistani leader since the fall of
the Soviet Union.
Speaking in Dushanbe, Medvedev said Russia was ready to
invest “hundreds of millions of dollars” into the CASA-1000
project that could send 1,000 megawatts of electricity
annually from Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to Afghanistan and
“But for it to happen, necessary organisational decisions
should be taken first, we have to be invited,” Medvedev told
reporters after the talks.
He also confirmed Russia’s interest in a key transnational
gas pipeline from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan to
Pakistan and India.
The 1,700-kilometre (1,050-mile)
Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline has
been on hold for many years due to the Taliban insurgency in
Afghanistan and economic reasons
The gas price has also been a contentious issue.
“The question is at what price Turkmenistan would be selling
gas to the project’s participants?” Russian Energy Minister
Sergei Shmatko told reporters in Dushanbe.
The TAPI pipeline aims to transport over 30 billion cubic
metres of gas annually from the Dauletabad gas fields in
Turkmenistan and could become a cash cow for Afghanistan in
The four leaders also adopted a joint declaration stressing
the importance of linking their countries through modern
highways and railroads to improve joint cooperation.
“The immediate focus has to be on increasing connectivity,”
Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar told reporters.
“When this comes, investment comes after that.” She stressed
Islamabad was keen to strengthen its Soviet-era ties with
“There has been historical investment in Pakistan which is
still known as Russian investment and we want to give
further boost to that,” she said.
The four countries also urged the NATO-led coalition in
Afghanistan to step up the training of local security forces
as it completes its planned staged withdrawal.
|US ‘to sue a dozen banks over housing
|BBC: The US is planning to sue more than a dozen major
banks for misrepresenting the quality of mortgages they sold
during the housing bubble, the New York Times reports.
The Federal Housing Finance Agency will argue that the banks
should have known the securities were not sound.
Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, and Goldman Sachs are to
face action, the newspaper quotes sources as saying.
The suits could be filed as early as Friday, it adds.
The Federal Housing Finance Agency - which oversees mortgage
giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac - blames the banks for
failing to perform adequate checks on the quality of
mortgage securities they sold on to investors before the
financial crisis in 2008.
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac lost more than $30bn (£18.5bn),
partly because of the deals, and had to be bailed out by the
The suits follow subpoenas the finance agency issued to
banks last year, according to the newspaper.
The BBC’s Marcus George in Washington says this is the
latest of a number of lawsuits against financial
institutions who were involved in the practice of issuing
However, some executives say the losses were made because of
the wider economic downturn.
Others fear further litigation against banks could damage
America’s fragile recovery, our correspondent adds.
|Bollywood’s ‘Bodyguard’ breaks box
| MUMBAI (AFP) - The new Bollywood thriller
“Bodyguard” has broken Indian box office records in its
first two days, industry analysts said on Friday, predicting
that it will also surpass opening weekend benchmarks.
The film sees Khan play a bodyguard to Kareena Kapoor and is
a remake of the 2010 Malayalam-language movie of the same
“Salman Khan’s ‘Bodyguard’ has smashed all previous records
and has emerged the biggest opener ever in the history of
Hindi cinema,” wrote Taran Adarsh on the
The film took 215 million rupees ($4.68 million) on
Wednesday and 183 million rupees on Thursday, taking the
two-day total to 398 million rupees, he said, using figures
from studio Reliance Entertainment.
Both days were public holidays in India.
“The business is expected to zoom upwards from Friday
onwards, when the weekend begins,” he wrote.
Adarsh said the film was also on course to break the record
for opening weekend takings.
According to the boxofficeindia.com site, which tracks
cinema takings, Khan’s award-winning corrupt cop movie from
last year, “Dabangg” (Fearless), holds the record for first
day takings in India with 193.4 million rupees gross.
“Dabangg” also holds the record for first weekend takings
with 653.4 million rupees and for the first week at 1.08
Aamir Khan’s 2009 film “Three Idiots” holds the record for
all-time takings with 2.69 billion rupees.
|India’s West Bengal becomes ‘Paschim
| KOLKATA, India (AFP) - The Indian state of West
Bengal will now be known as “Paschim Banga” after state
lawmakers voted unanimously in favour of the name change on
Friday, despite some high-profile opposition.
The state becomes the latest in a long list of Indian places
to have their anglicised titles dropped and replaced by a
name drawn from the local or regional language.
“Paschim Banga” is a literal Bengali-language translation of
West Bengal. Other prominent name changes in recent years
include Bombay (now Mumbai), Madras (Chennai) and the West
Bengal state capital Calcutta (Kolkata).
Banga is pronounced “Bongo” in the Bengali language.
While local nationalist sentiment has often been the driving
force behind these changes, in the case of West Bengal there
were also more pragmatic considerations at work.
As state parliamentary affairs minister Partha Chatterjee
explained, the state was tired of its position at the bottom
of the official alphabetical lists of India’s 29 states.
“In meetings where all states make representations, West
Bengal comes last (and) those listening are often exhausted
when our turn comes,” the politician said.
“We wanted a change in the name of the state to get
Some critics in Kolkata, including Bengali film director
Buddhadeb Dasgupta, say that argument defies any logic.
“Look at strong countries like the United Kingdom or the
United States of America,” Dasgupta said.
“The names of these countries start with a ‘U’ and so the
rationale based on the alphabetical upgrade doesn’t have any
relevance in today’s world.”
A top regional industrialist joined the chorus of show
business personalities opposed to the name change. “The
world ‘Paschim’ is not necessary because it has no relevance
these days -- I would have been more comfortable with
Banga,” Harsha Neotia, chairman of Ambuja Realty Group,
A search for a unique identity for the state began three
years after a bloody war between India and Pakistan in 1971
led to the creation of Bangladesh from Pakistan’s eastern
rump, then popularly known as East Bengal.