- The Washington Times - Friday, September 25, 2009

PAKISTAN

U.S. Senate triples foreign aid

The Senate voted Thursday to triple foreign aid to Pakistan, with lawmakers saying the legislation could change the crisis-driven nature of U.S.-Pakistan relations and create ties based more on long-term interests.

The Senate voted by voice to approve the measure that designates $1.5 billion a year over the next five years for democratic, economic and social development assistance. The measure, a result of House-Senate negotiations, could be passed in the House as early as Friday, sending it to President Obama for his signature.

The bill also authorizes “such sums as are necessary” for military assistance to Pakistan.

As conditions for military aid or arms transfers, the Pakistan government must show that it is cooperating in efforts to dismantle nuclear weapons-related supplier networks, that it is committed to fighting terror groups and that Pakistan security forces are not subverting the political or judicial processes of the country.

INDIA

Rescuers search power plant rubble

NEW DELHI | Hundreds of rescuers searched Thursday for about 20 people thought to be still trapped under the rubble of a chimney that collapsed on workers at a power plant in central India, killing at least 35.

It was not clear whether any of those missing were still alive after the accident Wednesday in which the 820-foot-tall chimney came crashing down on the cafeteria as the workers had tea. The plant is under construction.

“There may be some lucky ones,” said R.K. Vij, inspector general of police. It was uncertain how many were in the cafeteria at the time of the accident, he said, although about 100 people were at the site.

The plant, owned by Bharat Aluminum Co., was being built by a Chinese company with the help of local contractors in Korba, about 600 miles southeast of New Delhi.

AFGHANISTAN

Time running out for second election

KABUL | An election official warned Thursday that Afghanistan has a narrow two-week window in October to hold any presidential runoff before winter snows arrive - a somber reminder of how minor delays could leave a power vacuum well into next year.

Preliminary results from Afghanistan’s Aug. 20 vote show President Hamid Karzai winning outright with 54.6 percent. But if enough votes are found to be fraudulent from an election mired in allegations of ballot stuffing and voter coercion, Mr. Karzai could dip below the 50 percent threshold needed to avoid a runoff with challenger Abdullah Abdullah.

The uncertainty puts the government on hold as Taliban attacks spike and threatens the credibility of the administration at home and abroad. The main question at this point is how much misconduct is acceptable to Afghans and an international community skeptical of sending troops in support of a tainted government.

Official statements from the United Nations and the Obama administration have called for a thorough investigation into all claims and to rigorously root out fraudulent ballots.

MYANMAR

Detained dissident backs U.S. contact

YANGON | Detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi welcomes a U.S. initiative to step up contacts with Myanmar’s military government, a spokesman for her political party said Thursday.

Nyan Win, spokesman for the National League for Democracy party, said Mrs. Suu Kyi agreed with plans announced by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton for the Obama administration to engage in direct high-level talks with the junta as part of efforts to promote democracy in Myanmar, also known as Burma.

Washington has for many years taken a hard-line approach toward the junta, applying political and economic sanctions while trying to keep it isolated.

Nyan Win spoke after he met Mrs. Suu Kyi at her home, where she is serving her latest term of house arrest.

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