Naimat Ali confident of win in Tour de Pakistan

LAHORE: Naimat Ali is confident that he will win the ongoing Tour de Pakistan International Cycle Race.

Speaking to Goe News here on Wednesday, Naimat Ali, cyclist from Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC), said more such events should be organised in the country so that Pakistani cyclists could bring glory to the country.

The cyclists left today for Gujrat from Lahore in the ninth stage of the cycle race.


Pentagon confirms transfer of bin Laden driver to Yemen

WASHINGTON: Osama bin Laden’s former driver Salim Hamdan will be returned to Yemen after seven years at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, the US Department of Defense confirmed Tuesday.

“As part of a transfer agreement with the United States, the remainder of Hamdan’s sentence will be served in Yemen,” the Pentagon said in a statement.

Hamdan will complete his sentence on December 27, it confirmed. In August this year Hamdan was found guilty on one count of providing material support to terrorism, but cleared of more serious charges that he conspired and plotted attacks for Al-Qaeda.

U.S. announces another $800 billion in bailout plans

WASHINGTON: US authorities launched fresh efforts Tuesday to unfreeze credit and limit the economic downturn with programs to buy up to 800 billion dollars in mortgage- and asset-backed securities.

The initiatives call for up to 600 billion dollars in Federal Reserve purchases of mortgage securities, and a separate 200 billion dollars for asset-backed securities to help get credit to consumers.

The new efforts come as part of a move to restart consumer credit markets that froze up in October and to get more liquidity and bring down borrowing costs for the housing market, which is at the center of the economic storm.

The US central bank said it would launch purchases of up to 100 billion dollars of obligations of housing-related government-sponsored enterprises including Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in the next week, and buy another 500 billion dollars in a process started by the end of this year.

Separately, the Fed said it would launch a program to buy up to 200 billion dollars in asset-backed securities backed by student loans, auto loans, credit card loans, and other loans in a further effort to unclog frozen credit markets.

Federal cabinet meeting underway

ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet meeting is underway here with Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani in the chair.

The cabinet is discussing economic situation, law and order, U.S. attacks and tribal areas situation.

The meeting would also review the economic strategy after approval of a loan facility by the IMF.

The cabinet would also give principal approval of MoU and agreement with some countries.

The formal announcement of the decisions would be announced later in the evening today.

NZ-bound West Indies grounded by visa problems

LONDON: Players and officials of the West Indies team, who have headed out to New Zealand, are reportedly stuck at London, because they are yet to receive visas to enter New Zealand.

West Indies travel to New Zealand to compete in a three-Test and five-ODI series.

A handful of players, Sulieman Benn, Fidel Edwards, and Denesh Ramdin, as well as media liaison officer, Philip Spooner, have been stuck in London after they were yet to receive the necessary travel documents to fly out to New Zealand.

The rest of the squad will travel to New Zealand directly from Abu Dhabi.

Miliband meets Army chief

RAWALPINDI: British Foreign Secretary David Miliband met with Army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani at the Army’s General Head Quarter (GHQ) in Rawalpindi on Wednesday.

Two sides discussed various issues including cooperation in terror war, role of allied forces in Afghanistan and Pak-Afghan border related matters in the meeting.

Miliband also apprised General Kayani of his visit to Afghanistan prior to Pakistan’s tour.a

U.S. troops kill 10 militants in Afghanistan

KABUL: U.S.-led coalition forces killed10 militants in two separate operations aimed at wanted Taliban commanders in southeastern Afghanistan, the U.S. military said on Wednesday.

One of Tuesday’s raids targeted a senior Taliban commander in Paktia’s Zormat district believed to act as a liaison between the al Qaeda and Taliban networks and who had assisted with the movement of foreign fighters into Afghanistan, the U.S. military said.

Five armed militants were killed during the operation, it said in a statement, but did not name the commander and did not say whether he was among the casualties.

In neighbouring Paktika province, coalition forces killed five armed militants and detained four more in another operation that targeted a pro-Taliban sub-commander, it said.

Coalition forces had received small arms fire in both engagements, it said, but did not say whether they or civilians had suffered any casualties.

Protesters shut Thailand’s international airport

BANGKOK: Protesters commandeering Thailand’s main airport forced the cancellation of hundreds of flights and stranded thousands of travelers Wednesday as they escalated their 4-month-oldcampaign to oust the prime minister.

Airport director Serirat Prasutanont said authorities were trying to negotiate with the protesters to allow stranded passengers to fly out.

“The incident has damaged Thailand’s reputation and its economy beyond repair,” he said.

Khanani, Kalia given under FIA custody until Dec

KARACHI: Javed Khanani and Munaf Kalia under arrest in the financial scandal have been given in the custody of FIA until December 1.

Both the under arrest accused Wednesday were presented in the City Court here. FIA told the court that one of the accused, an IT expert, was in fact helping FIA in the de-coding of computer and therefore, demanded the accused be given on remand for 11 days, but the court allowed Munaf Kalia and Javed Khanani be given in FIA custody until December 1.

On the other hand, the court also allowed both the under arrest accused meeting their relations.

Some Dutch cannabis “coffee shops” to go up in smoke

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – Almost a fifth of Amsterdam’s popular marijuana-selling coffee shops are to be closed because they are too close to schools, the city council said on Friday.

Of the 228 such shops in the Dutch capital, 43 must close by the end of 2011 because they are within 250 m (yards) of a secondary school, the council said.

But the city, home to a quarter of the nation’s cannabis coffee shops that are a big draw for tourists, threw its support behind a controversial Dutch policy permitting the sale of “soft drugs.”

“There should be a system introduced in which it is clear where soft drugs come from,” the city said in a statement in which it also urged prosecution of any possible criminal links in the supply of cannabis.

In addition to marijuana, deemed a soft drug, some shops also sell so-called “magic mushrooms” which have psychedelic properties.

The policy on soft drugs in the Netherlands, one of the most liberal in Europe, allows for the sale of marijuana at coffee shops, which the Dutch have allowed to operate since the 1960s, and possession of less than 5 grams (0.18 oz).

But the cultivation or supply of the drug to the shops, the so-called “back door” of the business, is banned.

The policy is not without critics and Dutch mayors will meet on Friday in Almere, 30 km (19 miles) east of Amsterdam, to discuss a possible revamp.

The meeting was called after Bergen op Zoom and Roosendaal, located near the Belgian border, said recently they will close all coffee shops in their jurisdiction within two years to combat drug tourism and criminality, Dutch media has reported.