67 rebels, three soldiers killed in Lanka clashes


Colombo : At least 67 Tamil Tigers and three soldiers were killed in fierce clashes in Sri Lanka's embattled northern region, officials here said today.

Thirty LTTE cadres were killed by security forces in the north of Parappakandal in Mannar yesterday, the Defence Ministry said.

According to Wanni military sources, Sri Lankan troops "successfully counter attacked an LTTE offensive movement towards the newly consolidated defences at Parappakanda," it said in a statement.

Five soldiers also sustained injuries in the confrontation, military sources said.

Sarkozy's son plans to run for political office


Paris : After a scenario worthy of a Hollywood thriller, the 21-year-old son of French President Nicolas Sarkozy said he was running for political office in the well-to-do Paris suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine.

In an interview published Thursday in the daily Le Figaro, Jean Sarkozy said, "I am a candidate (for the post of regional councillor) because I feel that the time has come for me to commit myself to serving a city I know by heart and which I love."

He added: "I want to strive, and especially for other people. I have something to prove."


Chad in talks with rebels - foreign minister


Brussels : Chad is negotiating "at this moment" with rebels opposed to President Idriss Deby, Chad's foreign minister Ahmat Allam-Mi told reporters in Brussels on Thursday, according to Reuters.

"We are negotiating at this moment with the rebels, we negotiate constantly with the rebels," he said after talks with senior European Union officials.

There was no immediate reaction from rebel spokesmen.


South Korea's president-elect cleared of stock fraud


Seoul : Special prosecutors Thursday cleared South Korean president-elect Lee Myung Bak of stock fraud charges, four days before he is to take office.

The investigation found that Lee was not involved in a case in which one of his former business partners stands accused of stock price manipulation in 2001, said the head of the investigation, former judge Chung Ho Young.

State prosecutors came to the same conclusion at the beginning of December, days before the presidential election.


38 Nepali parties submitted closed-list for CA polls

By NNN-Xinhua

Kathmandu : In accordance with the Constituent Assembly (CA) election program, a total of 38 Nepali parties have submitted the closed-list of their candidates contesting the elections under the Proportional Representation (PR) system at the Election Commission (EC), according to the National News Agency RSS on Thursday.

The deadline for the political parties to submit the closed-list of candidates for the April 10 polls under the PR system to the EC ended on Wednesday.


British Airways pilots vote for strike action


London : British Airways (BA) pilots have voted to go on strike in a dispute over the airline's plans to launch a new transatlantic subsidiary, their union said Thursday.

The British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA) said the airline plans to staff "BA OpenSkies" with crews on inferior terms to those of existing staff.

The union, which represents 3,000 BA pilots, said 86 percent voted to strike.

It added that no strike dates have yet been set.

If the strike goes ahead, it will be the first industrial action by BA pilots since 1980.


Refugee agency appeals for USD 34 million for 218,000 Burundans


Geneva : The UN refugee agency is seeking USD 34 million to realize comprehensive solutions over two-years for some 218,000 Burundian refugees who fled to Tanzania in 1972. Soon after arrival, each refugee household was given land and by 1979 the settlements were economically self-sufficient. All international assistance to them stopped in 1985. This group of refugees is distinct from Burundians who arrived in subsequent influxes in the 1990s and are accommodated in three camps in northwest Tanzania.


Colombian navy kills senior rebel leader


Bogota : The Colombian security forces have killed a senior member of the country's largest insurgency group in a joint operation in Meta province, EFE reported Thursday.

Isidro Cardenas Moreno, a senior member of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) was gunned down in Filo Gallineto village in Meta province, the navy said Wednesday.

Cardenas was the head of the finance operations of the group's 53rd front. The government constituted a taskforce called Omega to launch joint military offensives against the FARC's central command in the province.

Belarus plans to buy Russian S-400 air defense systems

By RIA Novosti

Minsk : Belarus is negotiating the purchase of advanced S-400 air defense systems from Russia, the country's defense minister said on Thursday.

The S-400 Triumf (SA-21 Growler) is a new air defense missile system developed by the Almaz Central Design Bureau as an upgrade of the S-300 family.

"The purchase of S-400 systems is being negotiated [with Russia]," Leonid Maltsev told a news conference in Minsk.

Belarus submitted last year a formal request for two S-400 battalions to be made available by 2010.


Japan coast guards find empty lifeboat from missing cargo ship

By RIA Novosti

Moscow : Japan's Coast Guard Service has discovered an empty lifeboat from a cargo ship that went missing with its Russian crew last month, Russia's Ministry of Transportation said on Thursday.

The Kapitan Uskov dry cargo ship with 17 Russian crew members on board was declared missing in the East China Sea on January 24, when it was due to arrive in Hong Kong with freight of over 4,500 metric tons of rolled metal.

The Cambodian-registered vessel, which left Russia's Far East port of Nakhodka on January 15, last had radio contact on January 20.