OTHERS

Straw to discuss joint action against terrorism

LONDON, SEPT. 2. The British Home Minister, Mr. Jack Straw, is to discuss plans for a joint action against terrorism during a week- long visit to India which begins on Sunday. Speaking to the press before his departure, Mr. Straw said both Britain and India faced a common threat from terrorism, and it was ``sensible to discuss what action can be taken at both ends to deter and disrupt terrorist activity.''

The British Minister said there was already ``good cooperation'' between the two countries on terrorism, but that he would explore ways with his counterpart, Mr. L.K. Advani, to take this further. Mr. Straw said a joint action against drug trafficking and crime would also be on the agenda.

The activities of Kashmiri and Sikh separatists in Britain were an area of concern for India, and Mr. Straw said he would discuss the new anti-terrorist legislation that Britain had passed which would make it illegal for groups based in Britain to incite violence abroad. He said the new laws also made it possible in some cases to prevent groups raising funds in Britain for terrorist activity.

Purulia arms case

The British Home Minister also said he would raise the case of Mr. Peter Bleach, the British national who is serving a jail sentence in the Purulia arms dropping case. Mr. Straw made it clear he was not going to question Mr. Bleach's conviction, but that he would only request a speedy hearing of the appeal against the sentence. He also said he would ask that Mr. Bleach be allowed to serve the remainder of his sentence in Britain. ``I will make a request for the appeal to be heard sooner rather than later, and whether he could serve the remaining period of his sentence in the United Kingdom.''

Mr. Straw will also visit British visa offices in Delhi, Mumbai and Calcutta, which are the among the busiest British consular offices in the world. ``There are more visa applications handled by the British High Commission in Delhi and the Deputy High Commission in Mumbai than in any other part of the world,'' he said.

Mr. Straw said though 84 percent of visa applications were granted over the counter, he was still ``fully aware of the strengths and weaknesses of our immigration and visa and entry clearance system''.

He confirmed that the plans for visa applicants to pay a bond where there were doubts about whether they would return to their home countries had been dropped.

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