‘Secret talks on Iraq invasion began in 2001’

London, November 25: A former top British intelligence officer says British officials decided in 2001 against participating in talks with their US counterparts about regime change in Iraq.

Peter Ricketts, now permanent secretary at the Home Office, said Tuesday that British officials were aware months before the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States that the Bush administration was pressing for the removal of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

Iran moves to revive WTO accession talks

Tehran, November 25: The World Trade Organization (WTO) has confirmed Iran sent a summary of its commerce policies to the global trade regulator to start membership talks.

The move would pave the way for Iran to join the 153-member influential trade group.

“I can confirm that the members have received today the memorandum from Iran,” Reuters quoted a WTO official as saying on condition of anonymity.

The document covers all aspects of Iran’s trade and legal regime and is essential for joining the trade body.

Israel may freeze settlement activities for 10 months

Tel Aviv, November 25: Tel Aviv has agreed to freeze all settlement activities, except in Jerusalem Al-Quds, for 10 months in a bid to re-launch the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Israeli officials hope that the official declaration of a settlement freeze in the occupied West Bank will enable the renewal of the negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, which has refused to engage in peace talks until Israel implements such a measure.

Two NATO commanders wore Nazi regalia in Afghanistan

Kabul, November 25: It has just been discovered that two commanders of the Czech military working under NATO command used Nazi symbols on their helmets during their deployment in Afghanistan.

The story was made public after Czech police serving in Afghanistan reported the case, the Russia Today website reported on Tuesday.

Iran increases range of its missiles to 35,000 feet

Tehran, November 25: A senior Iranian military commander has announced that Iran has increased the range of the TOR M1 air defense system it bought from Russia.

“Over the past two years, Iranian experts increased the range of the missile system from the standard it had at the time of purchase to 35,000 feet (over 10,000 meters),” the commander of Islamic Revolution Guards Corps Aerospace told the Fars news agency on Tuesday.

China doesn’t want “empty” Copenhagen deal

Kathmandu, Nov 25: China will demand next month’s Copenhagen climate summit culminates in a real deal, news agency quoted a Chinese negotiator as saying, but appears to have accepted that a legally binding agreement must wait until 2010.

“We will try to make the summit successful and we will not accept that it ends with an empty and so-called political declaration,” Li Gao, an official with the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), said at a forum on Wednesday.

Electric Indica launch likely in ’11

New Delhi, Nov 25: A day after the Centre announced its intentions to lower the import duty on hybrid cars, Tata Motors, the country’s third largest passenger car manufacturer, said it might launch electric Indica in domestic market in 2011.

“The electric Indica, which was unveiled at the auto expo last year, will be available for launch in the country simultaneously with its global unveiling in 2011,” Prakash M Telang, managing director, Tata Motors said, adding that the company would start a feasibility study on the product when it would be ready for launch.

Doctor arrested for molesting woman

New Delhi, Nov 25: A doctor serving in a government hospital was arrested today for allegedly locking up and molesting a young woman on the pretext of a medical check-up, police said. The doctor, who is identified as Mathur, allegedly locked her up inside a room on the pretext of a medical examination at the Malviya Nagar government hospital yesterday.

The woman, who went to the hospital due to chest pain, raised an alarm and shouted for help. The doctor tried to flee but was caught and beaten up by a mob.


India, US to expand strategic partnership

Washington, Nov 25: Reaffirming the ‘global strategic partnership between India and the United States, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Barack Obama have vowed to expand it for peace, stability and prosperity in Asia, and for the betterment of the world.

As a Joint Statement issued Tuesday after their meeting in the Oval Office with all the bells and whistles of a state visit, the first of the Obama presidency, said: ‘President Obama stated the United States looks forward to a stable and prosperous India playing an increasingly important role in world affairs.’

Sensex advances after weak start, up 49 points

Mumbai, November 25: A key Indian equities index moved into the green Wednesday after starting weak and was ruling about 49 points up, 15 minutes into trade.

The sensitive index (Sensex) of the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) opened the day at 17,149.08 points, against Tuesday’s close at 17,131.08 points but soon rose to 17,180.4 points, up 0.28 percent or 49.32 points in about 15 minutes of trading.

Grand French festival in Bangalore to enthral art lovers

Bangalore, Nov 25: Bangalore is all set to have a rendezvous with the best of French art, cinema, music and culture from Dec 5.

The festival is being organised by the Embassy of France, New Delhi, and Culturesfrance in association with the Indian government.

The festival will travel across 17 other Indian cities before it winds up next February.

Cold wave grips parts of Orissa

Bhubaneswar, Nov 25: A cold wave has gripped parts of Orissa with the mercury dipping to less than ten degrees in Sundergarh and Sambalpur towns, officials said Wednesday.

While Sundergarh recorded a minimum temperature of 9.9 degrees Tuesday, Sambalpur recorded 9.8 degrees Monday, the lowest temperatures recorded so far this winter, an official at the meteorological centre here told IANS.

The minimum temperatures recorded in the towns of Bolangir, Angul, Baripada, Jharsuguda, and Titilagarh Tuesday were 10, 12.6, 12.2, 12.1, and 13.5 degrees respectively, the official said.

Economic crisis leaves a sour taste for Italians

Rome, November 25: The economic crisis has hit Italians where it hurts the most – their stomachs. New research shows that Italians are consuming more rice and pasta and less fish, meat, cheese and even wine.

The research was conducted by Format-Salute/La Repubblica on eating and spending habits and is to be presented at an annual food congress to be held in Rome Nov 26.

According to the data, fewer Italians are dining out. Only 20 percent of Italians eat at a restaurant once a week and 40 percent dine out once a month.

A total of 40 percent rarely or never dine outside the home.

Obama: U.S. wants to reduce India-Pakistan tensions

Washington, Nov 25: President Barack Obama took note on Tuesday of the historic animosity between Pakistan and India and signalled the United States wanted to find ways to reduce tensions between the two countries.

“We want to be encouraging of ways in which both India and Paksitan can be secure and focus on development, Obama said at a news conference with visiting Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.


Cold winds make Delhi shiver

New Delhi, Nov 25: Cold winds blew through the national capital on a misty Wednesday morning. The weatherman has warned that the days may get colder although some temperature fluctuations are likely to occur.

The minimum temperature recorded at 8.30 a.m. Wednesday was 9.6 degrees Celsius, a notch below the average for this time of the year.

‘Although there is mist and shallow fog in the morning, during the day there will be clear skies,’ an India Meteorological Department (IMD) official said.

Two more cases in PEC; school directs students to wear masks, retracts

Chandigarh, Nov 25: Two more students of the Punjab Engineering College (PEC), Sector 12, have tested positive for swine flu. After being shut for a week, classes at the college had begun a few days ago.

Of the 21-year-old victims, one lives in Sector 11, Chandigarh. The second student lives in the Himalaya hostel in campus. Both have been quarantined.

With these cases, 16 PEC students have been affected with the virus so far.

Total number of positive cases in the city, meanwhile, has risen to 125. Five more samples from the city were sent for testing on Tuesday.

Philips opens its first ‘Light Lounge’ in city

Pune, Nov 25: Philips India recently unveiled its first ‘Light Lounge’ in Pune for the home decorative lighting segment.

The Light Lounge showcases lighting solutions for every application within a home including the living room, bedroom, study, dining rooms, kitchen and bathroom and so on, said a press note from the company.

In the last quarter, Philips has more than tripled its range of decorative home lighting solutions from 150 decorative home lights to over 500.

High gold prices dampen wedding demand

New Delhi, November 25: The ongoing volatility is also keeping the prospective buyers at bay as they are unable to decide whether its the right time to invest in jewellery or not.

The wedding season is considered the best time for gold jewellers but with the yellow metal soaring to a record nearly Rs 18,000 per ten gm, city jewellers have reported a 25 per cent drop in demand.

Even those reaching out to jewellery showrooms at the peak of the marriage season are putting a cap on their purchases, jewellers rued.

State raises another task force, to combat malnutrition

Ahmedabad, Nov 25: In a bid to combat malnutrition, the state Health Department has decided to form a Nutrition Task Force.

The mortality rate of children below five years is a disturbing 60.9 per cent in Gujarat-apparently due to severe malnutrition.

But it is far worse in states like Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Delhi and Himachal Pradesh, according to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) — 3.

The state Health Department, however, contradicts the NFHS findings.

US will not join treaty banning landmines

Washington, November 25: President Barack Obama has no plans to join a global treaty banning landmines because a policy review found the United States could not meet its security commitments without them, the State Department said on Tuesday.

“This administration undertook a policy review and we decided that our land mine policy remains in effect,” spokesman Ian Kelly told a briefing five days before a review conference in Cartegena, Colombia on the 10-year-old Mine Ban Treaty.

Rahman to headline Obama`s White House state dinner

Washington, November 25: It`s an all-star lineup for Tuesday`s first state dinner of the Obama White House: Oscar-winners Jennifer Hudson and AR Rahman headline the entertainment list.

Hudson won an Academy Award for her role in the movie “Dreamgirls.” Rahman won two for music in “Slumdog Millionaire,” including the Best Original Song award for “Jai Ho.”

Also performing: Kurt Elling, a Grammy-winning jazz singer and composer, and the National Symphony Orchestra, with Marvin Hamlisch conducting.

Global Scholar-nominations closing on Dec 10

New Delhi, Nov 25: The nominations for the GlobalScholar-EducationWorld Young Achievers Award 2009 close on December 10, 2009.

The awards aim to acknowledge and inspire young achievers (between 12- 25 years of age) across India in four fields of endeavor – Science, Math’s and Technology: Arts and Music: Social Work and Sports.

I don`t make films for multiplexes: Priyadarshan

Mumbai November 25: Priyadarshan has no qualms in saying that he makes films for the common man and not for multiplex audiences. And he promises “ultimate confusion” in his latest laugh riot ‘De Dana Dan’.

“Call it my lower middle class upbringing but I make films for the `aam junta`. I believe films work when it`s this segment of audiences that appreciate them. It`s the common man that makes a film successful. That is why I don`t make films for the multiplexes,” Priyadarshan told reporters.

Salman Khan dedicates `Veer` blog to father Salim

New Delhi, November 25: Bollywood actor Salman Khan has come up with a unique birthday gift for his writer-father Salim Khan on his 74th birthday Tuesday — he has decided to pay tribute to him with a blog on his upcoming movie `Veer`.

Produced by Vijay Galani, `Veer` will be released worldwide Jan 22 by Eros International.

“It is Salman`s dream project. When we discussed the idea of blogging on his experience shooting for the film, it was Salman himself who suggested that we launch the blog on his dad`s birthday,” said Galani in a statement.

Time not right for pulling out Army: Omar

Srinagar, Nov 25: The security situation of Jammu and Kashmir is not yet conducive for moving the Army out of the state, said Chief Minister Omar Abdullah in Jammu on Tuesday, pointing out that demilitarisation will take time.

The Chief Minister was speaking on the occasion of the dedication of a war memorial to the nation in Jammu. The war memorial, Balidan Sthambh, was dedicated by Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor and accepted by the Chief Minister on behalf of the people of the state.