- The Washington Times - Friday, February 5, 2010

INDIA

New bilateral talks offered to Pakistan

NEW DELHI | India has offered to resume bilateral talks with Pakistan that were halted after the deadly Mumbai terrorist attacks nearly 15 months ago, an official said Thursday.

India proposed the resumption of discussions between the foreign secretaries on terrorism and other issues, the official said.

In Pakistan, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi welcomed the Indian talks offer, saying it was a “positive step.”

India and Pakistan launched broad-based talks in 2004 aimed at resolving several disputes between the nuclear-armed neighbors, including over the divided region of Kashmir.

India put the peace process on hold soon after the terrorist attacks in Mumbai in November 2008 that left 166 people dead. India blamed the attack on the Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba.

The first signs of a thaw in relations became evident Wednesday when the government announced that India’s minister for internal security, Palaniappan Chidambaram, would attend a regional meeting to be held in Islamabad on Feb. 26.

PAKISTAN

U.S. verdict triggers widespread protests

ISLAMABAD | Pakistanis shouted anti-American slogans and burned the Stars and Stripes on Thursday in protest of a New York jury’s conviction of a Pakistani woman accused of trying to kill Americans while detained in Afghanistan.

The protests drew thousands in at least four cities, demonstrating widespread distrust of the U.S.

They also showed the fierce passions surrounding the bizarre tale of Aafia Siddiqui, a 37-year-old U.S.-educated scientist who disappeared along with her three children for five years until she was picked up by Afghan police in 2008.

The U.S. says Siddiqui shot at American security personnel who came to interrogate her after her arrest in Afghanistan’s central Ghazni province. But many Pakistanis say the U.S. fabricated the charges.

A Manhattan federal jury convicted Siddiqui on Wednesday of two counts of attempted murder.

THAILAND

S. Korea joins U.S., others in war games

HAT YAO BEACH | More than 800 U.S., Thai and South Korean marines stormed a beach in Thailand on Thursday with Seoul joining the annual joint war games for the first time.

The three-week Cobra Gold exercise sends a message that the United States will have a continued presence in the Asia-Pacific region, and the military is one aspect of that presence, said Lt. Gen. Benjamin Mixon, commander of the U.S. Army, Pacific.

The core exercise, being held for the 29th time, will focus on peacekeeping operations and humanitarian and disaster responses.

CHINA

25 kidnappers sentenced to death

BEIJING | Twenty-five people have been sentenced to death for their roles in nine kidnapping cases, Chinese state media reported Thursday.

The state-run Xinhua News Agency said two courts in the southern province of Guangdong handed down the sentences Thursday.

The high number of death sentences at once is unusual, though China executes more people than any other country.

In one of the kidnapping for ransom cases, Xinhua said, the victim died from violent treatment. It said the courts in the provincial capital of Guangzhou also sentenced 26 others to up to 20 years in prison for kidnapping.

SINGAPORE

Flight show aborted after safety breach

SINGAPORE | Singapore aborted a flight display at its international air show Thursday after a South Korean pilot steered his jet too close to spectators, witnesses and the show organizer said.

An aerial display, which was supposed to last for eight minutes, was shortened to less than half that after the error by the T-50 Golden Eagle jet, owned by the Korean Aerospace Industries.

Thursday’s flight display was watched by hundreds of trade visitors - many of whom were wowed by the aircraft’s proximity as it approached the show center’s seaside grounds, and then made an acute turn back out to sea, a witness told Reuters news agency.

INDONESIA

Buffalo protest banned after insult to president

JAKARTA | Indonesia said Thursday that it will enforce a ban on buffalo at street protests after President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono expressed his hurt at being compared to one of the bucolic beasts.

Mr. Yudhoyono confirmed his reputation as a sensitive leader when he spoke out against protesters who stuck his picture on one of the powerful but docile farm animals during a protest in Jakarta last week.

The soft-spoken ex-general said he took exception at being lampooned as “big, slow and stupid like a buffalo.”

“Do you think this is an expression of freedom?” he asked reporters Tuesday during a trip to West Java, where buffalo are a common sight in rice paddies and fields.

Asked Thursday whether the government would take action to protect Mr. Yudhoyono from buffalo slurs in the future, State Secretary Sudi Silalahi said a long-standing ban on the beasts at protests would be enforced.

Mr. Yudhoyono was re-elected to a second five-year term in a landslide in July, but he is often criticized for being slow and indecisive and for failing to use his mandate for reform.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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