- The Washington Times - Friday, June 13, 2003


Vajpayee in bind amid U.S. troop request

NEW DELHI — The Indian government is caught between a rock and a hard place amid Washington’s request to supply troops for a stabilizing force in Iraq, observers say, as the issue threatened to divide the nation.

On the one hand, they said New Delhi wants to retain good relations with Washington, but on the other, there is fierce political pressure at home not to accede to the request. If Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee gives the go-ahead for deployment and significant casualties occur, he could face a severe political backlash in advance of key state and national elections in the next year.

New Delhi opposed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq from the outset, saying any action against Baghdad should be coordinated by the United Nations. Should Mr. Vajpayee now allow Indian soldiers into Iraq — where they would be under U.S. and British, rather than U.N., command — he would be seen as doing a political about-face.


Musharraf pressed to yield special powers

ISLAMABAD — Opposition lawmakers continuing a boycott of Pakistani parliament since Monday threatened to bring people into the streets if a row about President Pervez Musharraf’s changes in the constitution is not resolved.

“If the deadlock continues, we will have no option but to bring people onto the street to establish the supremacy of the constitution,” said Liaqat Baloch, leader of the powerful Islamic alliance of Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal. Last Saturday, the opposition disrupted the presentation of a $13.8 billion national budget for 2003-2004 and refused to participate in the debate that began Tuesday.

Gen. Musharraf altered the 1973 constitution before holding elections in October that restored the parliament after three years of military rule. He gave himself powers to dismiss the elected assembly, provided a formal role for the army in politics, and declared himself president and army chief until 2007.

Weekly notes …

A mass grave containing hundreds of Buddhist monks and civilians executed in Stalinist purges in the 1930s has been found in the Mongolian capital, Ulan Bator, say members of an investigative team. A probe of a construction site revealed 348 skulls with bullet holes in the back, they told reporters. There were at least 575 victims, but the number could top 1,000, they said. More than 700 monasteries and Buddhist temples were destroyed in Mongolia, which became the world’s second Communist state in 1921 under the domination of the neighboring Soviet Union. … At least 20 persons were injured in two incidents Thursday as police used water cannons and batons against political activists enforcing a general strike in Dhaka, Bangladesh, witnesses and police said. Police used force when members of the opposition Awami League tried to break through a police barricade, witnesses said. The home of Awami League leader Sheik Hasina Wajed, now in London on a private trip, is located in the neighborhood.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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