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 Long distance telephony to be opened up: PM
The Prime Minister, Mr. A.B. Vajpayee, today signalled his impatience with the slow pace of reforms in the telecom and IT sectors, announcing three landmark initiatives. These include decisions on opening national long distance (NLD) communications by August 15 with no restriction on the number of players, allowing internet companies to tap international cables without approaching the public sector Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited (VSNL) and improving the education infrastructure to deliver more IT professionals.

U.N. troops breach siege in Sierra Leone
The 220 Indian peacekeeping troops and 11 military observers have broken out of their encirclement in eastern Sierra Leone following coordinated ground and air operations by the U.N. forces which began this morning.

Magnetic storm may disrupt power operations
A huge solar flare produced by a large sunspot group is expected to produce a geomagnetic storm that could disrupt power grids and satellite operations, U.S. government scientists have predicted.

India to allay Arab fears over Israel
In an attempt to allay the misperceptions generated by the recent visits to Israel by top Indian leaders, the Foreign Office is planning to brief the Ambassadors of the Arab nations this week.

 NC okays Vajpayee-Farooq meet
The working committee of the ruling National Conference (NC), which resumed its deliberations today, extended its approval to the meeting between the Prime Minister, Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee, and the Chief Minister, Dr. Farooq Abdullah, on the issue of autonomy. However, it maintained that no decision can be taken between the two without Dr. Abdullah reporting back to the working committee, highest decision taking body of the party. Also, a decision on ``remaining in the NDA or not'' had not been taken, though the issue was discussed.

Sena chief to be prosecuted
The Maharashtra Government has permitted the city police to prosecute the Shiv Sena chief, Mr. Bal Thackeray, and the Samajwadi Party's Mumbai unit president, Mr. Abu Asim Azmi, for ``inflammatory'' articulation that sought to break inter-communal harmony in the metropolis and elsewhere.

'Tourist kidnapped'
A foreign tourist was reportedly kidnapped from Zanskar area of Kargil by the militants responsible for the killing of three monks in the same area on Wednesday. However, officials are tightlipped over the incident.

 Fiji's deposed premier wants power restored
Fiji's deposed Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry who was held hostage by Nationalist rebels for 56 days called today for the reinstatement of his multi-racial coalition government.

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