Ruling party picks premier for president
COLOMBO — The ruling Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) nominated Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa as its presidential candidate Thursday, starting the process for an election the government says is set for 2006 but the opposition demands this year.
President Chandrika Kumaratunga is nearing the end of her second and final term and cannot run again. But she will retain leadership of the SLFP, which her father founded in the 1950s.
Her brother, Anura Bandaranaike, who had been battling for the party nomination against Mr. Rajapaksa to continue the family dynasty, has been tapped as the party’s candidate for prime minister. The SLFP is the main plank of Mrs. Kumaratunga’s coalition government.
Sri Lanka’s main political parties are locked in a feud over the timing of the next vote, with the main opposition United National Party in full election mode having already nominated former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe as its presidential candidate.
Pakistan tie seen in Taliban attacks
KABUL — Afghan officials suspect there is a Pakistani connection in the Taliban’s latest violent tactics in remote areas of Afghanistan.
They say the Taliban and its supporters who fled to Pakistan after the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan are learning new, more lethal tactics from Pakistan’s military intelligence at numerous training bases, the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday.
Afghan officials say Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency, which helped create the Taliban in the 1990s, is providing support with digital telephones and computer chips. They say that without such technology, recent use of long-range cordless phones to blow up U.S. and Afghan military vehicles would not have been possible.
Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf has denied that his military supports the Taliban or any other Afghan insurgents, but the newspaper said one Pakistani journalist who freelances for the Los Angeles Times reported some training camps closed on Gen. Musharraf’s orders had reopened.
Weekly notes …
Pakistani intelligence officials in Islamabad say they have arrested a suspect in the 2002 kidnapping and killing of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. The suspect, Mohammad Hashim Qadeer, a militant belonging to the banned Harkat-ul-Mujahedeen, is accused of arranging a first meeting between Mr. Pearl and Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh at a hotel in Rawalpindi, a city near the capital of Islamabad. Mr. Pearl was later reported lured by Sheikh to Karachi, where he was abducted and eventually beheaded. … Georgian police working with the FBI discovered dangerous substances in the house of a man who admitted throwing a live grenade toward President Bush at a rally in Tbilisi in May, officials said at midweek. The suspect, Vladimir Arutyunian, was detained last week after a police shootout.
From wire dispatches and staff reports