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General News

Monday March, 24, 2003

Compiled by SDNP

Head lines

Iraq thwarts US advance
Baghdad pounded again; conflicting reports on Umm Qasr,

Basra capture; start of a tough war: Bush


Agencies, Near Nassiriya, Iraq, The Daily star

Iraqi troops and paramilitary fighters held up a US advance toward Baghdad yesterday, inflicting casualties and taking American prisoners on the fourth day of invasion.

An Iraqi man yesterday checks the rubble of his house in al-Qadissiya residential area, hit during a US strike on Baghdad overnight. A dark cloud shrouded Baghdad from burning fuel trenches ringing the capital which slept and woke up to sporadic bombings from US-led forces against Iraq.

Pockets of resistance in southern Iraq continued to pin down US and British manpower as Western planes pounded the Iraqi capital.


Smoke billows during a US strike on a presidential palace in Baghdad Saturday. Right, an Iraqi child who was burned during the overnight bombing raid on Baghdad cries as he is picked up by his mother outside the emergency room of a Baghdad hospital.

A guerilla counterattack by a militia group known as Saddam's Fedayeen stopped a major thrust north toward Baghdad by US Marines, who took significant casualties in heavy fighting as they tried to cross bridges over the Euhrates river at Nassiriya. "They've been fighting all day. They're using guerilla tactics," a US officer said outside Nassariya.


Iraqi television showed film of what seemed to be four dead Americans and interviews with five US prisoners taken near Nassiriya. Other accounts spoke of at least 10 American dead. US commanders confirmed the casualties.

Elsewhere, the westward arm of what may be a developing US pincer movement on Baghdad halted outside the holy city of Najaf after heavy fighting overnight. US officers said a division of Saddam's elite Republican Guard was barring the road to Baghdad.

Reuters correspondent Luke Baker saw burnt out civilian vehicles and incinerated bodies littering the plain after the US Third Infantry Division overwhelmed militia fighters in a battle south of Najaf, just 160 km south of Baghdad.

President Bush said yesterday there had been progress in the war but warned that it was the start of a tough fight. US led forces yesterday claimed that they have advanced to about 100 kilometers of Baghdad amid conflicting reports whether the troops took control of Umm Qasr and Basra.

Iraq said 77 civilians had been killed in fighting at its second city of Basra in the far south, and reported deadly air raids on the Iraqi president's home town, Tikrit. Iraq's minister of information said yesterday that US-led air raids on Baghdad had hit civilian districts, and destroyed houses.

Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf, told Iraqi state television in the Qadisiya district of Baghdad that the raids had destroyed seven houses and damaged others. Foreign Minister Naji Sabri said yesterday that no Iraqi city had fallen to US-led forces.

"No city has fallen into their hands. Umm Qasr, which is a small, isolated community, is still resisting," Sabri, the first Iraqi official to travel abroad since the start of the war, told reporters at Cairo's airport.

He said Iraq is "sure that the Zionists are participating in the aggression, after having found an Israeli missile," adding that Baghdad was "fighting a tripartite American-Anglo-Zionist aggression."

The statement follows a report on official Iraqi television that an Israeli-made missile had been found in Baghdad. After winning a fierce battle, an armoured US column pushed on towards the central city of Najaf and came within 180 kms of the Iraqi capital, a Reuters reporter said.

But correspondents with US and British units in Iraq reported widespread clashes -- near Umm Qasr, on Iraq's narrow south coast, Najaf, a holy city for Iraq's Shi'ite majority, and Nassiriyah where the Euphrates river was crossed.

"There's a serious firefight going on here," Reuters' Adrian Croft said from Umm Qasr, a day after US officials said they had won control of the strategic port.

"There is a hell of a lot of machinegun fire going on." Two targets were bombed on the outskirts of the town.

US military spokesmen said the US and British troops had chosen not to enter Nassiriyah in a bid to avoid nasty, house-to-house urban combat, and were attempting to negotiate a peaceful surrender in the southern city of Basra.

Basra, the country's second city and main port, is a key objective for the US-led coalition, tasked by US President George W Bush with forcing Saddam from power and disarming Iraq of its alleged weapons of mass destruction.

Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Myers said yesterday US forces have not found any banned chemical, biological or nuclear weapons during their incursion into Iraq.

US Army General Tommy Franks, who is directing the campaign from his high-tech command base in Qatar, said troops were bypassing the southern city on their march to Baghdad in order not to "create a military confrontation."

But Iraqi Information Minister Said al-Sahhar told reporters yesterday that cluster bombs dropped by US and British war planes on Basra the day before had left 77 civilians dead and 366 others wounded.

Coalition planes unleashed a fresh wave of air raids on Baghdad early yesterday -- the fourth day of fighting -- with most of them hitting suburban targets, after a night of massive explosions that temporarily cut power to the city.

But the bombings lacked the intensity of raids unleashed on Baghdad on Friday night, which Iraqi authorities said left three dead and more than 200 wounded.

Saddam Hussein probably survived a cruise missile attack on his compounds in Baghdad but was reportedly taken away in an ambulance, British Foreign Office minister Mike O'Brien told BBC radio yesterday.

British defence sources said, the ground war to capture Baghdad should begin by Tuesday.

The source said thousands of Saddam Hussein's elite Republican Guard forces were dug in around Baghdad and that US-British forces expected to encounter fierce resistance.

"That will be a tough fight. It will be interesting to see how they play it," the source said.

Franks said US and British forces had already taken between 1,000 and 2,000 Iraqi prisoners of war in their campaign to remove Saddam.

But US-led forces met fierce resistance in the strategic southern port of Umm Qasr, with Western news channels showing scenes of sporadic yet intense clashes in the town, Iraq's sole deep-water port.

A British military spokesman said the task of taking control of the town had been complicated by Iraqi soldiers who had shed their uniforms, donning civilian garb and blending into the civilian population.

Despite the air assault and simultaneous ground push to Baghdad, Iraqi state television broadcast images late Saturday of a smiling Saddam in military uniform meeting with his inner cabinet of top advisors.

Iraqi officials have rejected any suggestion that Saddam's grip on power has been challenged and his aides lauded the "resistance and heroism" shown by Iraqi troops since war broke out early Thursday.

Yesterday, Iraqi Vice-President Taha Yassin Ramadan, who had been reported dead by US media, said state television would show pictures of US prisoners of war. Later the TV showed bodies of at least four US soldiers and five prisoners.

Washington admitted that some US soldiers and an aircraft went 'missing' after Baghdad said it downed five planes and two helicopters.

The Iraqi television network said a member of Saddam's ruling Baath party had been killed in fighting near the Shi'ite Muslim pilgrimage city of Najaf.

Franks said Saddam's whereabouts remained a mystery but US forces would know more in the coming days, adding that the US-led campaign aimed to cripple Saddam's entire network of power, not just the Iraqi leader himself.

Coalition forces away from the front lines faced danger as well, with one US soldier killed in a grenade attack apparently carried out by one of his comrades and a British war plane shot down by a US Patriot missile.

Twelve other soldiers were injured in the grenade attack at camp Pennsylvania, a sprawling and heavily guarded US military camp in the northern Kuwaiti desert that is home to members of the elite 101st Airborne Division.

One soldier, who reportedly had recently been reprimanded for "insubordination issues," was taken into custody but the motive for the attack was not immediately clear.

The coalition also confirmed that a British Royal Air Force aircraft has been shot down by a US-operated Patriot missile near the Kuwaiti border. The number of people aboard was not immediately known.

The incident was one of a string of accidents to plague the Anglo-American forces, which saw 19 of their soldiers killed in two helicopter crashes in recent days.

In northern Iraq, US forces targeted the key city of Mosul, with Qatar-based satellite channel Al-Jazeera reporting intense bombing on the outskirts of the oil city and to the east, in the direction of Kirkuk.

Four Jordanian students were killed when a missile exploded near their car as they were driving out of Mosul to flee the US and British air raids, a government official said in Amman.

Iran warned yesterday that its army would "react" if there were any further violations of its airspace by US and British warplanes, the IRNA official news agency reported.

"Our soldiers on the border are on full alert... If they observe the slightest violation of Iranian airspace or at the border they will certainly react," said Interior Minister Abdolvahed Musavi-Lari.

An interior ministry spokesman said earlier yesterday that a missile that injured three Iranians when it landed on a petrochemical depot at Abadan, near the border with Iran, was fired by a US or British warplane.

A Washington report adds: the United States believes that Russian technicians are helping Iraq jam crucial satellite signals needed to guide bombs and military aircraft, a senior US official said yesterday.

The official said Washington had evidence that personnel from a Russian firm were now in Iraq and attempting to help set up and operate a sophisticated system that interferes with the US global positioning technology.

Worldwide opposition to Bush's campaign against Baghdad continued for a fourth straight day, with more than 40,000 anti-war protestors marching yesterday in cities across Australia, as well as in Afghanistan, India and Indonesia.

The protests came despite new polls showing public sentiment in the United States, Britain and Australia -- the three main countries involved in the war -- swinging in favour of the campaign.

Demonstrators flooded the streets of cities from London to Los Angeles on Saturday, with up to 700,000 people thronged central London, a similar number in Barcelona, 250,000 in Madrid and more than 200,000 in North America.

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Moudud protests attack on Iraq


Staff Correspondent, The Daily star

A senior minister yesterday protested the military aggression of US-led coalition against Iraq and said attackers have to bear the responsibilities of loss of lives and properties. "The war on Iraq has sparked serious reaction among all citizens of Bangladesh," said Law Minister Moudud Ahmed.

The consequences will be dreadful if the British-American war go against Islam, the minister warned in a press release. "Bangladesh has always opposed terrorism but will not support any war without approval of the United Nations," he said.

"The attackers have to bear the responsibilities of the innocent children and women, being disabled and homeless," he said.

At a meeting with French Ambassador Michel Lummaux at his Secretariat office, Moudud praised France for its anti-war stance.

The minister expressed solidarity with the countries opposed to the war. The French ambassador highly appreciated Bangladesh's stance in favour of peace and against terrorism. The law minister and the French envoy also exchanged views on the international charter on terrorism.

The five parts of the charter are the 1988 Montreal Convention, Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes against Internationally Protected Persons, International Convention on Taking of Hostages, the 1997 International Charter on Suppression of Terrorist Bombings and International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism.

Moudud said Bangladesh extended support to all parts of the charter and introduced the Money Laundering Law, which discourages financing of terrorism, arms and drugs.

The ensuing G-8 Summit to be held in Paris will put high importance on the international charter on terrorism.

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Water Forum fails to suggest concrete action to end woes
Ministers howl at toothless declaration


AFP, Kyoto, The Daily star

A declaration Sunday from the ministerial meeting ending the Third World Water Forum prioritized water issues as an "urgent global requirement" but failed to suggest concrete action to end the global water and sanitation crisis.

Reference to water as a basic human right, a characterization approved last November by the United Nations, was also omitted from the consensus declaration of 101 ministers representing 96 countries and delegates representing another 69 nations.

Also omitted was a follow-up on a call by French President Jacques Chirac, and echoed by former IMF chief Michel Camdessus, for a global watchdog to monitor progress made towards achieving the UN Millennium Goals of more than halving to one billion the number of people without access to water and sanitation by 2015.

"Prioritizing water issues is an urgent global requirement," the declaration said, calling water a "driving force for sustaintable development" and a tool to fight poverty.

The declaration urged better cooperation among nations sharing water resources and sought to spur the United Nations into taking a leading role in mediating, leading and cooperating with other organizations involved in the water sector.

"It is a good opportunity that, during such a conflicting time, representatives from 165 countries could come together and discuss these issues," said Belgium's minister of territory management, Michel Foret.

The United States was "pleased" by the declaration that came from ministerial consensus, said Susan Povenmire, a member of the US delegation.

"The United States looks forward to the G8 Summit in Evian (France) as an important next step to build consensus and develop coalitions that will create concrete and compelling infrastructure for bringing water to the world's poor," she said.

But criticism of the declaration came at both the ministerial and non-governmental level, deriding the document as too soft and lacking in reference to controversial issues including the construction of large-scale dams.

The nature conservation group WWF regretted that the declaration failed to prioritize conservation of freshwater ecosystems.

"The ministerial declaration could have been a blueprint for averting further human suffering caused by inadequate water supply and sanitation, instead it is marked by reticence to put protection of ecosystems first," said the group's living waters program director, Jamie Pittock.

Other ministers complained that the language of the declaration did not express true commitment to action to ensure water and sanitation for the world's 2.4 billion without it.

"I think we should not be apologetic. We should be very clear," said Monyane Moeleki, the minister of natural resources for the southern African nation of Lesotho.

"We are ministers gathered here. We sound very half-hearted and unsure."

Absence of the characterization of water as a human right was also regretted by NGOs.

"Without direct references to the rights issue, I am not sure how we can ensure that governments will make water issues and serving the poor their priorities," said Rosemary Rop, a member of Kenya's Maji na Ufanisi, or Water for Everyone.

The declaration omitted reference to the rights issue due to international disagreements over development and other rights to water, explained Seiji Morimoto, a Japanese foreign ministry official.

Undaunted, forum organizers hailed both the ministerial declaration and the week-long forum gathering 12,000 participants a success, insisting such criticisms reflected the meeting's wish to include a wide scope of opinions.

"NGOs made this meeting vibrant," said Ryutaro Hashimoti, the former Japanese premier and the chair of the forum's steering committee.

"I hope they will continue to participate in passionate discussions about water."

Meanwhile, the declaration that emerged Sunday from the Third World Water Forum from a convocation of 101 ministers from 96 countries does little to address the global water and sanitation crisis affecting 2.4 billion people, ministers said.

Crucially missing from the consensus document was the importance of considering the effects of climate change on the world's poor, in terms of flood, drought and a rising sea level due to the warming of the planet, said the Dutch minister for development cooperation, Agnes Van Ardenne-van der Hoeven.

"It is important to consider in what way the rich world can change its policy and support, in an indirect way, poverty reduction," she told AFP.

The document did not demand concrete commitments either financially or technically to achieve the UN Millennium Goals of halving to one billion the number of people without water or sanitation by 2015, said a special adviser in charge of water in the west African nation of Mali, Attaher Ag Mohamed.

"We are just six months from (the Earth Summit) in Johannesburg but we don't have the impression that we have come very far," he said. "There are plenty of good intentions -- but no financial commitments from partners.

"(In Mali) we have done a lot to decentralize and hand power to local communities, but that action must be accompanied with funds if we want to fight poverty. There are tonnes of initiatives -- from the Europeans, the Japanese, the Americans -- but we have no money in hand."

That the delegation from Japan, the hosts of the week-long Forum in this ancient imperial capital that gathered 12,000 participants from 165 countries, had all-but written the declaration even before delegates arrived was an immense source of frustration, said the Dutch minister.

"The Japanese were not willing to have negotiations on the text, not at all even before the senior officials meeting," she said. "And I'm a politician. I had no opportunity to bring in something -- that was very strange to me."

While non-government organizations were likely pleased by the absence of an endorsement of dams in the text, for Turkey, the proud builders of the multibillion-dollar Ataturk complex in southeastern Anatolia, it was a bone of contention.

"The declaration failed to include the word dams that are so important for billions of people," said Mithat Rende, the head of the department on regional and transboundary waters in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

"We negotiated until two o'clock in the morning to get the word 'hydropower' in the text."

The absence from the declaration of water as a human right evoked mixed feelings from nations represented at the ministerial level.

Belgian Minister of Territory Management Michel Foret said "all of the European delegation regretted its absence" from the text, which instead declared water as a "driving force for sustainable development including environmental integrity."

Other delegates expressed hope that at the G8 summit set for June in Evian, France, more attention would be paid to a call by French President Jacques Chirac for a global watchdog to monitor the progress towards achieving the millennium goals, another provision they said was crucially omitted from the declaration.


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Speed up process of recruitment to govt jobs: PM


UNB, Dhaka, The Daily star

Prime Minister Khaleda Zia yesterday advised all concerned, including ministers and bureaucrats, to infuse more dynamism in the administration to make it more pro-people and worthy of the time.

Prime Minister Khaleda Zia presides over a meeting on monthly evaluation of different ministries' and departments' activities at the International Conference Centre yesterday. Photo: PID

As a step to that end, she asked the officials concerned to speed up the process of recruitment to government jobs, giving priority to talent and efficiency.

"All have got to come out of the time-serving trend to ensure welfare of the people," she said chairing a meeting on evaluation of different ministries' activities during the month of February.

Finance Minister M Saifur Rahman, LGRD Minister Abdul Mannan Bhuiyan, Health Minister Dr Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain, Communications Minister Barrister Nazmul Huda, Information Minister Tariqul Islam, Industries Minister MK Anwar, Agriculture Minister Matiur Rahman Nizami and Post and Telecommunications Minister Barrister Aminul Haq were present.

PM's political secretaries Haris Chowdhury and Mosaddeq Ali, cabinet secretary Dr Sadat Husain, PM's principal secretary Dr Kamaluddin Siddiqui, finance secretary Zakir Ahmed Khan and senior officials were also present.

At the outset of the meeting, the cabinet secretary placed a report on the activities of different ministries.

While expressing her satisfaction over the progress of various projects, Khaleda Zia asked all concerned to implement them in time so that the target group could reap the benefits.

The meeting was informed that remittances increased and foreign exchange reserve situation was also satisfactory.

About speedy trial, it was informed that a significant number of criminals had been sentenced to jail for varied terms.

There were positive results of the monitoring cell formed to look into sensational cases and the number of acid-throwing incidents came down due to the enactment of two laws, the meeting observed.

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2000 Bangladeshis in US registered with INS in a month


BSS, New York, The Daily star

Over two thousand Bangladeshis registered their names with the US Immigration and Naturalisation Services (INS) in the last one month since beginning of the programme.

They registered their names under the mandatory registration process for non-immigrants from several countries including Bangladesh, INS sources said.

Of theme, 60 Bangladeshis were served with 'notice to appear' (NTO) to appear before the Immigration Judge. However, no reports were received about arrest of any Bangladeshi during the registration process.

Three hundred twenty-one Bangladeshis have registered in New York city. However, 13 of them were served with NTO notice. Bangladesh Consul General Rafique Khan and Vice Consul Khandkar Habib Ahmed have been personally supervising the registration activities for convenience of the Bangladeshis concerned.

The sources said, the meetings between the US administration and Bangladesh Foreign Minister M Morshed Khan during his visit to the USA immediately after enlistment of Bangladesh's name with US special registration programme yielded positive results. Khan requested the US administration, especially the immigration authorities, to look into the cases of Bangladeshis with sympathy.

Meanwhile, 550 Bangladeshis were given free counseling services from 9 assistance cells set up to provide advocacy on various aspects of US immigration laws.

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PM’s directive to fill up vacant govt posts


BSS, Dhaka, The Independent

Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia yesterday directed the concerned departments to expedite the process of filling up all vacant government posts, judging the candidates’ merit and qualification, to infuse dynamism in the administration and make it more pro-people.

Her directive came at a review meeting held at her office on the performance of different ministries of the month of February. While presenting his report on the activities of different ministries, Cabinet Secretary Dr Sadaat Hossain said appointments to different vacant posts, including the civil administration, police and BDR, have already started.

Ministers and concerned secretaries were present in the meeting with Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia in the chair.

The Prime Minister was informed that the country’s remittances and foreign exchange reserve have increased and acid-throwing offences reduced drastically.

The meeting expressed satisfaction that a good number of criminals and offenders were brought to book under the Speedy Trial Act, and introduction of monitoring cell formed to deal with sensational cases has started yielding positive results. It said acid-throwing offences have reduced due to enactment of two laws to deal with the acid-throwers. The Prime Minister expressed satisfaction over the reduction of acid- related offences and increase in remittances and foreign exchange reserve.

Begum Zia asked the concerned authorities to complete all development projects in the stipulated time.

The meeting was attended, among others, by Finance Minister M Saifur Rahman, LGRD and Cooperatives Minister Abdul Mannan Bhuiyan, Health and Family Welfare Minister Dr Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain, Communications Minister Barrister Nazmul Huda, Information Minister Tariqul Islam, Industries Minister M K Anwar, Agriculture Minister Motiur Rahman Nizami, Post and Telecommunications Minister Barrister Aminul Huq, Prime Minister’s Political Secretaries- Haris Chowdhury and Mosaddek Ali, Cabinet Secretary, PM’s Principal Secretary, Finance Secretary and other concerned officials.


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Japanese help to build Padma bridge sought
JICA President calls on PM


UNB, Dhaka, The Independent

Japan assured enhanced cooperation in Bangladesh’s development efforts and implementing various programmes aimed at poverty alleviation and people’s welfare.

The assurances came from the visiting President of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Takao Kawakami, when he called on Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia at her office yesterday (Sunday) afternoon.

During the meeting, the PM sought assistance in construction of the planned Padma Bridge and developing industrial ventures in agricultural sub-sectors, particularly agro-processing industries.

The chief of JICA, a major development partner of Bangladesh for the last 30 years, appreciated the present government’s efforts in reducing poverty and improving the lot of the people.

Kawakami thanked the Prime Minister for the government’s support extended to the Japanese experts, volunteers and the officials during their stay in Bangladesh.

The JICA president informed that his organisation was also involved in arsenic mitigation and building of multipurpose cyclone shelters in Bangladesh.

Thanking the donor agency chief for the assistance, Prime Minister Khaleda Zia sought cooperation in her government’s efforts for agricultural diversification and setting up agro-based and fruit-processing industries for increasing exports.

Begum Zia also informed that education, particularly that of girls, environment and ICT were the priority sectors of her government.

She urged JICA to provide training to ICT personnel that will help create employment opportunities.

She also mentioned her Government’s programmes in the poultry and dairy sectors and training of women undertaken for alleviation of poverty.

Appreciating Japanese assistance for constructing the Jamuna Bridge, Begum Zia hoped that Japan would also come up with assistance in building a bridge over river Padma. Japan is at present conducting feasibility study of the bridge.

PM’s Principal Secretary Dr Kamaluddin Siddiqui and Japanese Ambassador Jiro Kobayashi were present during the meeting.

President of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) Takao Kawakami yesterday called on Finance and Planning Minister M Saifur Rahman and discussed with him various financial issues.

During the meeting Saifur Rahman apprised the JICA president of Government’s various development programmes and the current financial state, specially the increase of remittance, foreign currency reserve and revenue income.

Japanese Ambassador in Dhaka Jiro Kobayashi was present at the meeting, said a handout.

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‘Closure of AJM will make other jute mills viable’


Staff Reporter, The Independent

Industries Minister MK Anwar said on Sunday that the government was forced to close down the "proverbial white elephant" Adamjee Jute Mills because of its staggering losses over the years and hoped that the measure would help make other jute mills of the country viable.

"The government had no way but to close down it (AJM) as the largest jute mill in Asia had been incurring colossal losses over the years," Anwar said, while addressing as chief guest at the launching ceremony of two books written by Abul Quashem Haider, an industrialist.

The two books were Business Establishment: A Manual of Export and Import and Success of the alliance government in trade and industry.

State Minister for Culture, Selima Rahman, attended the ceremony as special guest, while it was presided over by Vice-Chancellor of Eastern University Prof Dr AK Fazlul Haque.

Among others, former Director of Bangla Academy Babu Subrata Bikash Barua, Professor of Economics of Chittagong University Dr Mahbub Ullah and Director of Ahmed Publications Mesbah Uddin Ahmed spoke on the occasion.

The government had not only closed down the AJM but also decided to set up Export Processing Zone (EPZ) at the site of the mills.

If EPZ is established, it will generate more employment than the AJM, he viewed. The minister was critical of free market economy, saying the system could destroy many things.

Referring to the mushrooming of cement factories, Anwar said this sector has reached its saturated point thanks to the open market policy. "In the open market system, we can’t control anything," he said.

Globalisation process also came under criticism of the minister who said the poor could not reap its benefits.

Giving a resume of the present government’s success stories, the minister said now foreign exchange reserves had stood at US$ 1.8 billion. "We have been able to reduce the deficit financing by enhancing internal revenues," he said.

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Rallies in city decry war on Iraq


Staff Reporter, The Independent

Rallies and processions by different organisations protesting US invasion of Iraq and demanding immediate end to the war continued in the city yesterday, the fourth day of the US-led attack on Iraq.

Bangladesh Supreme Court Bar Association yesterday brought out an anti-war procession from the Supreme Court premises. Police obstructed the processionists in front of the Jatiya Press Club.

Anti-war writers, artists, cultural and political activists held a rally at the central Shaheed Minar in protest of the US attack on Iraq.

Jamaat-e-Islami Dhaka city unit brought out a procession against the US attack on Iraq from the Baitul Mukarram North gate.

Islami Ain Bastabayan Parishad (Council for Implementation of Islamic Law) led by Shaikhul Hadis Maulana Azizul Haque held a black flag demonstration at the Baitul Mukarram North gate and brought out a procession from there protesting US aggression on Iraq.

Oikya Procheshta, an alliance of left leaning political parties, held a rally at Topkhana Road. Front ranking leaders of the alliance participated in the rally. They carried placards reading "No War, We want Peace".

National Forum of Handicapped organised a rally of the handicapped children and their parents at Manik Miah Avenue to protest the US war against Iraq.

National Unity Against Imperialism (NUAI) and Ganotantrik Biplobi Jote jointly organised a rally at Bahadur Shah Park in protest of the US-led attack on Iraq. Jote leader Faizul Hakim and NUAI leader SM Shamsul Haque Sayem spoke at the rally. They urged the people to resist the imperialist policy of the imperialist forces led by the USA. They also urged the people to boycott US goods. They demanded closure of US and UK embassies in Bangladesh.

President of Jatiya Ainjibi Forum Advocate Sheikh Akhterul Islam and its general secretary Advocate Ruhul Amin Patwari, in a joint statement yesterday, condemned the "unjust and illegal" attack by the US-British joint forces on Iraq. They demanded immediate stoppage of the war showing respect to world public opinion. They said Bush administration has grossly violated human rights in Iraq as well as international agreements. They expressed sympathy and solidarity with the innocent and peace-loving people of Iraq.

Students of Changes, an English Medium School at Narayanganj, brought out a peace procession protesting US attack on Iraq. The procession, which started from the School premises at Chashara rail gate, paraded important thoroughfares of the town. The students carried banners, festoons and placards which read "No war against innocent people", " War-No, Peace- Yes" and "Stop Genocide".

Anti-War Movement will organise a rally at the foot of Aparajeya Bangla on the Dhaka University Arts Building compounds at 11 am today protesting the US attack on Iraq.

An emergency meeting of the Global Campaign Against Terrorism (GCAT) National Executive Council will be held at its Naya Paltan office at 3 pm today. GCAT president Dr Ziauddin Ahmed will preside over the meeting.

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700,000 protest in London * Kuwaits angry * US soldier held * 135 Iraqis killed
Invasion faces resistance

Staff and Agencies, The New nation


(From left): Anti- war protesters staged a demonstration in Glasgow city in England: A Royal Marine from 42 Commando fires a Milan wire- guided missile at an Iraqi position on the al-Faw peninsula, southern Iraq: Iraqi forces use a boat to search the Tigris River in Baghdad for a possible downed coalition pilot from the allied forces on Sunday: A damaged building in Baghdad.

AP/ Reuters

US-led forces have been encountering stiff pockets of resistance as they press ahead towards the Iraqi capital Baghdad.

In one of the longest-running challenges so far in the conflict, air strikes were called in on the port town of Umm Qasr where about 120 Iraqi soldiers - according to some sources elite Republican Guards - were firing against US forces.

US forces fired some 3,500 cruise missiles and used hundreds of planes to bombs cities and targets across Iraq. US aircraft have also bombed Iraqi positions in Nasiriya further north where an estimated 500 Iraqis - using tanks and mortars - stopped US marines trying to secure a route through the town.

Coalition forces say they have advanced half-way to the Iraqi capital but were involved in clashes near the holy town of Najaf in the desert just 160 kilometres (100 miles) south of the city.

Baghdad has been spared intensive bombing, with explosions reported intermittently, the latest just after 0600 GMT near the city centre.

Senior Iraqi officials have been holding news conferences in Baghdad, praising the Iraqi "heroes" and vowing to punish the "mercenaries" once they reach towns.

They say they have captured 35 American prisoners of war, and promised to produce them for the television cameras later on Sunday.

At least 77 people have been killed in the southern city of Basra and 366 wounded, they said.

Live pictures from the Umm Qasr front showed US tanks firing heavy-calibre shells towards small buildings and mounds of sand.

A US marine Harrier jet then dropped two bombs - one hit the building where the Iraqis were holding out and firing from the compound stopped.

US marines say they have captured a battery of Iraqi artillery at the position.

The battle had been going on for more than 36 hours after US forces secured the harbour - Iraq's only deep- water port.

Coalition forces have so far been unable to use the port.

Iraq's Information Minister Mohammed Saeed Al- Sahaf said Iraqi "heroes" at Umm Qasr were teaching the invaders a hard lesson.

The US and UK "mercenaries" were in for "shock and awe", he said, using the coalition term for the tactics being used in the war against Saddam Hussein.

At Nasiriya, US marines said "significant numbers of [Iraqi] irregulars" loyal to their leader Saddam Hussein, were resisting the coalition forces trying to take control of the main route north through the town.

In other developments:

*A British RAF aircraft is missing after failing to return from a mission, central command in Qatar says. British military sources said it may have been shot down by US Patriot missile batteries.

*In northern Kuwait, one US soldier has been killed and 12 others injured in a grenade attack at a US military camp. The main suspect - a US soldier - has been arrested

*The US finally abandons hope of persuading Turkey to allow troops through to open a northern front

*Turkey denies sending commandos across the border into northern Iraq

*Pentagon says Iraq has not fired any Scud missiles so far - and the US has found no caches of weapons of mass destruction

*British news organisation ITN reports that one of its war correspondents, a cameraman and their translator are missing after they came under fire in southern Iraq Heading for Baghdad


Rumsfeld says some US soldiers missing: Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Sunday some American soldiers are missing in the fighting in Iraq and that there is a report of a missing allied aircraft.

Rumsfeld said he could not provide any information about a missing aircraft. In Baghdad, security officers searched the banks of the Tigris River, apparently looking for one of more pilots who may have bailed out of a downed plane.

Asked what he could say about missing pilots, Rumsfeld replied, "Nothing." He suggested that the search in Baghdad was staged.

"There has been a report of an aircraft missing," the secretary acknowledged on NBC's "Meet the Press. "I don't want to speculate because I simply don't know."

Rumsfeld said there are some American troops who are missing in Iraq. He noted that under the Geneva Convention governing prisoners of war, "It's illegal to do things to POWs that are humiliating to those prisoners."

"There are, we believe, there are some American soldiers missing." He said there also could be captured journalists.

US forces tighten grip on Iraqi oilfields: US and British forces on Sunday tightened their grip on Iraq's southern oil region and began assessing how to restart exports from fields holding more than half the country's oil wealth.

Only the northern oil hub Kirkuk remains out of their grasp, slowing Washington from its declared goal to safeguard the country's billions of barrels of reserves on behalf of ordinary Iraqis.

Their mission is viewed with widespread suspicion by many who see the war as a U.S. bid to ensure cheap and steady supplies from the world's seventh biggest exporter.

Despite the unfolding military action in Iraq, supplies flowed uninterrupted from direct neighbors Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Iraqi missiles forced only a brief slowdown in Kuwaiti refinery operations without affecting oil exports. In Iran, a stray missile hit an oil depot in Abadan, home to Iran's biggest refinery, but had no impact on the refinery operations.

Just how quickly Iraqi oil starts to flow from what appear to be largely undamaged wellheads depends on the delivery infrastructure -- yet to be assessed by a U.S.-contracted team from Texas-based Boots and Coots International Well Control.

US soldier held in attack on own troops: A US soldier was detained Sunday on suspicion of throwing grenades into three tents at a 101st Airborne command center in Kuwait, killing one fellow serviceman and wounding 13, three of them seriously.

The motive in the attack "most likely was resentment," said Max Blumenfeld, a U.S. Army spokesman.

The name of the soldier killed was not released because family members had not been notified, said George Heath, civilian spokesman for Fort Campbell, Ky., the storied 101st Airborne Division's home base.

"Incidents of this nature are abnormalities throughout the Army, specifically in the 101st," Heath said. "Death is a tragic incident regardless of how it comes, but when it comes from a fellow comrade, it does even more to hurt morale. Our hearts and prayers go out to the families of the soldier. We pray that incidents of this nature do not happen again in any military organization."

In Washington, a spokesman for the Pentagon said only that the attack was under investigation.

Initially, the military suspected the attack was the work of terrorists using two grenades and small-arms fire, Heath said. Two Middle Eastern men who had been hired as contractors were detained and released.

Blasts rock Baghdad: Huge blasts rocked Baghdad on Sunday as planes pounded a single target in the west of the city with at least seven huge bombs, a Reuters witness said.

"The earth shook under our feet and buildings shook. A huge, huge cloud of white smoke billowed hundreds of metres (feet) into the sky," Reuters correspondent Nadim Ladki said.

"From what we have seen in the last few days, I think these must have been some of the biggest bombs dropped in Baghdad so far," he added.

Three or four more explosions were later heard from different areas of the capital, including one near the centre of the city.

US troops 100 km from Baghdad : US forces advanced Sunday to about 100 kilometers (60 miles) of Baghdad in their drive to unseat Saddam Hussein, an AFP reporter traveling with the troops said.

The reporter, traveling with lead elements of the US Army's Third Infantry Division, said the troops had moved to between the cities of Najaf and Karbala, two major Shiite centers.

No city falls: Iraq: Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri said Sunday that no Iraqi city had fallen to US-led forces and alleged that Israel was taking part in the four-day-old war to topple President Saddam Hussein.

"No city has fallen into their hands. Umm Qasr, which is a small, isolated community, is still resisting," Sabri, the first Iraqi official to travel abroad since the start of the war, told reporters at Cairo's airport.

The British military said Sunday that coalition troops were encountering small pockets of resistance from elite Iraqi troops in Umm Qasr, Iraq's only deepwater port which is just across the Kuwaiti border.

Red Cross concerned: The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Sunday it was very concerned about the situation in the southern Iraqi city of Basra following US-led airstrikes on the strategic city.

"We are very concerned about the situation in Basra," ICRC spokeswoman Nada Doumani told reporters at ICRC headquarters in Geneva.

"Visibly the bombing during the night was quite violent. We have also heard there are many victims but we cannot confirm a figure," Doumani said.

Anti-war demo in London : British anti-war protestors staging a massive demonstration at the weekend were adamant that they are not destroying the morale of troops fighting in Iraq.

"The idea of my country right and wrong belongs in the 19th century with the gunboat diplomacy that he is deploying," fiery British member of parliament George Galloway said Saturday about Prime Minister Tony Blair's pro-war policies.

Police, pending a final tally, believed there were fewer than 100,000 protesters, but Stop the War Coalition spokesman Andrew Murray put the number at more than 700,000.

London Mayor Ken Livingstone claimed it was "the largest demonstration against a war that is in progress in British history."

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Cabinet to review Iraq war fallouts

Staff Reporter, The New nation

The routine weekly cabinet meeting today is likely to take some austerity measures to face the unprecedented problems emerging from Iraq war and its possible expansion in future. The government is concerned over the potential adverse effects in case the war continues for a longer time that would impede the present recovery trend of the economy, according to credible sources.

They said, the policy outlines for austerity measures in government offices as well as cost-cuts in the on-going development programmes might be discussed and a direction may be provided in principle in the meeting. The official orders in connection with the implementation of the austerity measures would be issued from time to time depending on the changes in situation and need of time, they added.

Sources said, the government is much concerned about prices of essentials. Main emphasis will be put on controlling prices employing both direct and indirect combating measures. The major crisis is apprehended in relation to supply of commercial energy, cereals and edible oils-if the war turns into a long term one. The concerned ministries and associated departments have already assessed the situation. They have observed that the stock and supply of rice is satisfactory. The stock of petroleum and petroleum products is also adequate and the country will be able to use the energy for more than ten months without any interruption. The soybean oil is also enough to meet the national demand for about ten months. The concern of the government is more related to products which are imported to meet local requirements regularly, they said.

Sources further said, the government officials are also concerned about non-trade issues like return of Bangladeshi expatriates from abroad, closure of avenues for employment of manpower abroad, lower inflow of remittance from Bangladeshi nationals abroad. Besides, the issues of squeezing of export market, safety of foreign trade routes, closure of many of the major revenue earning air routes are also of high importance at this point of time. The government high- ups are desiring to set pragmatic outlines for successfully meeting the problems and potential problems in a planned way, they added.

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Bring changes in education to create self employment

Staff Reporter, The New Nation

Economist Prof Muzaffer Ahmed at a discussion meeting yesterday called to bring massive changes in the existing education system with a view to developing skilled manpower to create self-employment opportunities and bring down the existing rate of unemployment in the country.

He was speaking as the chief guest of the discussion meeting titled "Removal of unemployment is possible by developing skilled manpower" at the Institution of Engineers, Bangladesh auditorium in the city.

Prof Muzaffer Ahmed said it has now become a major question for all concerned that how much the country's youths are getting educated properly under the existing education system. He said the present educational system has become commodefies.

The meeting was organised by the Juba Karmasangsthan Society (Jubak), a socio-economic organisation, dedicated to creating employment opportunities in the country. Jubak has already created direct and indirect employment opportunities for some 3,000 people in the country.

Dr Badiul Alam Mojumder, Country Director of The Hunger Project, chaired the discussion.

Among others, the discussion was participated by Nazim Uddin Alam, MP of Bhola-4, Managing Director of Pubali Bank Ltd Khondker Ibrahim Khaled, former student leader Ruhin Hossain Prince, businessman Khoka Sikder, Chairman of Jubak Abu Mohammad Sayeed and Executive Director Hossayn Al Masum.

Dr Badiul Alam Majumder laid emphasis on encouraging the creativity of youths for generating self- employment opportunities in the country.

"Jubak is doing its job properly and it has been trying to raise the efficiency of youths for creating self- employment opportunities," he noted.

Emphasising the need for technical education, Nazim Uddin Alam suggested to bring changes in the country's educational system by giving much importance on technical and vocational education.

"It is possible to develop skilled manpower through technical education," he said.

Ibrahim Khaled said employment is not possible without overall economical development. This is why the country needs to create entrepreneurs.

"We have to train up local entrepreneurs and also have to introduce awards for successful entrepreneurs for their achievements," he said.

Abu Mohammad Sayeed said the country has to recruit experts or technical persons from abroad due to lack of necessary skilled manpower.

"There are about 45 shrimp hatcheries in the country, but we couldn't provide a single technician to any hatchery from the local sources," he said.

Khoka Sikder said if the banks offer small loans to the country's youths, thousands of unemployed people would get rid of the shackles of unemployment.

A colourful rally with the participation of the members of Jubak from across the country was followed by the discussion.

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Compilation of Banglapedia completed


UNB, Dhaka, The New nation

The compilation of 'Banglapedia', the national encyclopedia of Bangladesh, has been completed successfully.
Asiatic Society of Bangladesh has completed the five- year mega academic project, which has been published in 10 volumes and two languages - Bengali and English.

A pool of agencies, including UNESCO, UGC, universities, financial institutions and NGOs initially financed the Tk 9-crore project.

Education Ministry funded about 74 percent of the total cost of the project in which about 2,000 scholars and technicians from home and abroad were involved.

Each volume of Banglapedia contains over 500 pages, printed in four-colour on mat-finished acid-free paper and bound splendidly to facilitate display and preservation.

The contents of Banglapedia are spread over six thousand entries and over two thousand maps and charts.

Its time frame is from ancient times to the present and its territorial limit is Eastern India of ancient times, Suba Bangalah of medieval era, Bengal of British period and from 1947, East Pakistan and present Bangladesh.

The articles are arranged alphabetically. For the convenience of users, all inter-related articles have been linked to each other by a pointer and most articles are appended by bibliographies.

Professor Sirajul Islam led the venture as project director and Chief Editor.

Subject editors of the Banglapedia were-Professor Abdul Momin Chowdhury (History and Heritage), Professor Wakil Ahmed (Arts, Humanities, Religion), Professor Mahfuzur Rahman (Society and Economy), Dr Kamal Siddiqui (State and Governance) and Professor S M H Kabir (Science and Technology).

Normal prices of the Banglapedia's two versions are Tk 12,000 (English) and Tk 10,000 (Bangla) respectively. The book will be distributed soon.

Banglapedia is now available to advance buyers on 50 percent discount until March 27, said an official release.

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