COLOMBO, Jan 31 (AP): The Tamil Tiger rebels said Tuesday they will pull out of upcoming peace talks in Switzerland unless the government takes greater steps to protect Tamils against abductions.
Participation in the talks will depend on what steps the government takes to stop kidnappings and harassment of Tamils, a senior rebel official, Seevaratnam Puleedevan, told the AP from the de-facto rebel capital of Kilinochchi.
The rebels said five Tamil relief agency employees were kidnapped Monday, although there has been no independent confirmation of the report.
Bush to ask Congress for $1.1b in new aid to Afghanistan
WASHINGTON (VoA): An international conference on Afghanistan's development has begun in London, with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announcing President Bush will ask Congress for $1.1 billion in new aid to support the war-torn country.
More than 60 countries will take part in the two-day conference to establish an economic and security framework known as the Afghanistan Compact.
Following talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai Monday, Rice said the US is committed to Afghanistan. She said the futures of the two countries are linked.
Meanwhile, Russia's Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Storchak says his country is willing to forgive Afghanistan's $10 billion Soviet-era debt, provided Kabul recognizes the debt. There has been no reaction so far from Kabul.
Tullow Oil to raise capex, output '06
LONDON (AFX) : Tullow Oil PLC is raising capital spending in 2006 in an attempt to boost production from its various oil and gas fields.
Capex will rise by 46 per cent to 280 million stg this year, of which 80 per cent will go on its ongoing development projects in the UK, Gabon, Congo, Cote d'Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
This will help bring output to another record 75,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boepd) by the end of 2006, taking the annual average to 68,000 boepd.
In 2005, volumes rose 44 pct to 58,450 boepd, reflecting additional output form the Horne and Wren fields in the North Sea.
HAMAS rejects demands to recognise Israel
RAMALLAH (Internet): The newly-elected Palestinian party has refused to bow to international pressure, despite appeals by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to rescue the bankrupt Palestinian Authority.
Abbas implored European donors meeting Monday to avoid a cut in aid, which could devastate an already battered economy and force the Palestinian Authority into a fiscal crisis and cost tens of thousands of government workers their jobs.
"The European countries must understand that the Palestinian people are in bad need of this aid," Abbas said. "I hope to God that they will change their positions, both Israel and the European countries."
But the pleas from Abbas to Hamas to play their part in averting the crisis have gone unheeded. A senior Hamas official in Lebanon said an aid cut would have no impact on Hamas policy.