- - Wednesday, March 28, 2012

NEW DELHI India’s army chief says the country’s security is at risk, with army tanks running out of ammunition and its air defense system obsolete, in another embarrassment for India’s beleaguered government.

The private letter from Gen. Vijay Kumar Singh to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was discussed in Parliament on Wednesday after it had been leaked to a national newspaper and television stations.

Defense Minister A.K. Antony said the government was addressing the concerns raised.

In the letter, the army chief claimed nearly all of India’s air defense equipment was out-of-date and that the state of the artillery, air defense and infantry was “alarming.”

Gen. Singh said the army was “devoid of critical ammunition to defeat enemy tanks” and that the country’s air defense system was “97 percent obsolete.”

The letter caused an uproar in Parliament with angry opposition lawmakers attacking the government for neglecting the country’s defense.


3 opposition activists arrested in Belarus

MINSK Belarus arrested three top opposition figures Wednesday who were on their way to Brussels to meet with European Union officials, a move certain to further fuel tensions with the bloc.

The 27-nation EU already has imposed sanctions on authoritarian Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko’s regime over its crackdown on dissent and recalled its ambassadors from the ex-Soviet nation, which is wedged between Russia and Poland.

Those arrested were Anatoly Lebedko, the head of Belarus’ largest opposition United Civil Party; Sergei Kalyakin, the leader of the Fair World leftist party; and Alexander Otroshchenkov, a leading activist of the European Belarus group.

They were detained on a train as they were heading to Moscow to fly to Brussels and have been put in police custody on charges of hooliganism pending a trial Thursday.


Tribe threatens separate state in south

TRIPOLI A Libyan tribe threatened Wednesday to declare a separate state in Libya’s south after days of bloody battles with a rival tribe, the second such move toward secession this month.

The breakaway threats are the latest evidence of turmoil after the fall of longtime ruler Moammar Gadhafi’s autocratic regime last year.

One sign is the resurfacing of old grievances and tribal conflicts Gadhafi suppressed.

Tribal leaders in eastern Libya announced earlier that they were considering forming an autonomous state, called Barqa, over almost half of the country.

The state would have its own parliament, police force, courts and capital in Benghazi, the country’s second largest city.


Arab leaders want Syria to halt crackdown

BAGHDAD Arab countries, divided over how to stop Syria’s bloodshed, plan to call for the Syrian regime to halt its crackdown on civilians, let in humanitarian groups and free detainees, according to recommendations Wednesday by foreign ministers preparing for a summit this week.

Even before Arab heads of state began their Thursday summit in the Iraqi capital, Syria sharply rejected any measures they take.

A Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Jihad Makdessi, said Damascus would “not deal with any initiative” that might come out of the 22-member Arab League.

The rejection reflects Damascus’ refusal to work with the league after the body suspended Syria’s membership as punishment for the bloody crackdown on protesters demanding the ouster of President Bashar Assad.

The U.N. says that over the past year more than 9,000 people have been killed in the violence.


Turkey’s premier in Iran for talks on nuke program

TEHRAN President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other Iranian officials were to discuss Tehran’s disputed nuclear program and the crisis in Syria with the visiting Turkish prime minister Wednesday.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrived in Tehran from South Korea, where he attended a nuclear security summit and also held talks with President Obama.

Turkey has built close economic ties with Iran and has been at odds with Washington over the best way to get Tehran to halt its nuclear program, arguing for a diplomatic solution to the standoff instead of sanctions.

Turkey, however, has also decided to host a NATO defense shield radar that would warn of any Iranian ballistic missiles in the region.

Iran and six world powers - the U.S., Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany - have agreed to meet April 13 for new nuclear talks, but no decision has been made on the venue.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports

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