Kerry: Taleban office may shut if Afghan talks bid fails

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Updated 24 June 2013
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Kerry: Taleban office may shut if Afghan talks bid fails

DOHA: The United States warned yesterday that it could call on the Taleban to close an office in Qatar unless it shows more commitment to reconciliation in Afghanistan.
US special envoy James Dobbins arrived in the Gulf Arab nation and was taking part in talks with Qatar alongside Secretary of State John Kerry.
But Kerry said that the United States was not yet ready to meet the Taleban and accused them of failing to live up to their side of peace efforts.
“It is our hope that this could ultimately be an important step in reconciliation if it’s possible. We know that it may well not be possible,” Kerry told reporters in Doha.
The opening of the Taleban office was heralded as the best chance of bringing to a peaceful end 12 years of bloody war despite its rocky beginnings. But the peace process ran aground almost immediately when Kabul objected to the wording of its name, saying it was tantamount to the establishment of a rival government office, not a political office.
Under pressure from host nation Qatar, the Taleban removed the sign and lowered their flag out of public view on Wednesday.
“There is an internal discussion right now and much anger about it but we have not yet decided what action to take,” Shaheen Suhail, the Taleban’s spokesman in Qatar told The Associated Press. “But I think it weakens the process from the very beginning.”
Afghan President Hamid Karzai reacted furiously Tuesday to the sign, temporarily withdrawing from talks and put a quick end to negotiations with the United States over a security accord that is to lay out protection for US forces that will remain in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of NATO combat troops at the end of 2014.
A Qatar Foreign Ministry statement said the Taleban had violated an agreement to call the office the “Political Bureau of the Taleban Afghan in Doha.” The Obama administration also said the US and Qatar never had agreed to allow the Taleban to use that name on the door.
But Suhail said the incident has frustrated and angered some within the militant movement who said the Taleban have been meeting with representatives of dozens of countries and holding secret one-on-one meetings with members of Karzai’s High Peace Council on several occasions, always under the banner of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.
“Now the process is being weakened at the beginning and not being given a chance,” he said. “This is very bad for the Afghan people, for the international community.”
In Kabul, a member of the government’s negotiation team said it was still prepared to begin talks in Qatar and said the removal of the sign and flag was a positive sign.
High Peace Council member Shahzada Shahid told The Associated Press yesterday that it was too early to say when the council would travel to Qatar for talks. He also welcomed the participation of countries in the international coalition in Afghanistan.


Indian police face fury over shooting deaths of 10 protesters

Updated 23 May 2018
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Indian police face fury over shooting deaths of 10 protesters

CHENNAI: Outrage swelled Wednesday over the deaths of 10 protesters at a rally over a copper plant in southern India, after police opened fire on demonstrators in what critics termed “mass murder.”
Violence erupted Tuesday in Tamil Nadu state at a long-running demonstration demanding the closure of the smelting plant owned by British mining giant Vedanta Resources which residents say is causing environmental damage.
The state’s chief minister has ordered a judicial inquiry into the shootings but the move failed to stem rising anger over the clashes, which also left about 80 wounded.
M.K. Stalin, leader of the main Tamil Nadu opposition party the DMK, said police were guilty of “atrocities.”
“Mass Murder of Innocent People,” he tweeted Wednesday. “Who ordered the police firing on protesters? Why were automatic weapons used to disperse the crowd and under what law is this permitted?“
A video of a police officer on top of a bus and pointing an assault rifle at crowds has fueled fresh anger.
Rahul Gandhi, the national leader of the opposition Congress party, has called the deaths “a brutal example of state-sponsored terrorism.”
“These citizens were murdered for protesting against injustice,” he said.
Police said Tuesday that 12 people had died but later revised the toll in the port city of Tuticorin.
P. Mahendran, superintendent of Tuticorin district police, said 18 officers were also wounded in the clashes.
“The situation is tense but under control today,” he said. “The post mortem on the bodies is being conducted and they will be handed over to families today.”
The plant, about 600 kilometers (375 miles) south of Tamil Nadu’s state capital Chennai, is currently closed as Vedanta’s Sterlite Copper subsidiary seeks a new license so it can be expanded.
The protesters had set ablaze the local administrator’s office after they were denied permission to hold a rally at the plant.
Police said efforts to disperse the crowd of several thousand with a baton charge and tear gas volleys failed before authorities used live ammunition.
Tamil Nadu chief minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami ordered the judicial inquiry into the shootings but defended the police.
“The police had to take action under unavoidable circumstances to protect public life and property as the protesters resorted to repeated violence,” he said.
The families of each victim would be offered one million rupees ($14,700) compensation, he added.
The deaths came on the 100th day of demonstrations against the plant, which environmentalists and residents claim is contaminating water sources — a charge the company denies.
The protests intensified after Vedanta, owned by an Indian billionaire but with its head office in London, sought to double the 400,000-ton annual capacity of the plant.
It was shut briefly after an alleged gas leak in March 2013 that left hundreds with breathing difficulties, nausea and throat infections.
The company maintains that it adheres to environmental standards and said it was the victim of “false propaganda” about its operations.
Tamil Nadu is one of India’s most industrialized and prosperous states and similar protests over environmental concerns have turned deadly in the past.
Tuticorin witnessed violent demonstrations in 2012 over a nuclear power plant in neighboring Kudankulam district that left one person dead.