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Daily Archives: January 10, 2008

Israel planned 1991 strike on North Korea-Syria ship

Israeli agents prepared to strike a ship suspected of smuggling missiles from North Korea to Syria in 1991 but cancelled it at the 11th hour under US pressure, a Japanese newspaper reported yesterday.Undercover agents of Israel's Mossad intelligence agency secretly attached a guidance system for an airstrike on a cargo vessel believed to be carrying 23 short-range Scud missiles to Syria, the Yomiuri Shimbun said.The Yomiuri, reporting from Jerusalem, said it spoke to one of the agents involved in the operation, whose name was transliterated into Japanese as Michael Ross.Ross said he and two colleagues disguised themselves as workers for shipping carriers and headed to Casablanca, Morocco.In February 1991, they managed to get close to the ship, which was believed to be jointly owned by Syrian and Jordanian firms, and swam underneath it to set up equipment to guide an airstrike, the report said.Israel had planned to destroy the vessel and missiles, which with a range of 500 kilometres (300 miles) would put the Jewish state at risk.The incident came during the first Gulf War, during which the United States, managing a coalition with Arab states including Syria, pressured Israel not to respond to Scud missile attacks by Saddam Hussein's Iraq.The Yomiuri said Israel's then prime minister Yitzhak Shamir called off the airstrike on the North Korean missiles at the last minute."Probably the prime minister gave up on the plan out of consideration to the United States," Ross was quoted as telling the Yomiuri."If we blew up the vessel, it would have been inevitable to have many Syrian casualties and it might have been taken as a declaration of war against Syria," he was quoted as saying.Impoverished North Korea, one of the few non-Muslim states that has no relations with Israel, is believed to rely on weapons exports as one of its top money-makers.

In September Israel launched an air strike in Syria, which Western media reports said targeted a nuclear facility developed with North Korea.


India’s Tata group to launch world’s cheapest car

India's giant Tata Group will today unveil the world's cheapest car, which analysts say could revolutionise prices worldwide.Ratan Tata, the reclusive tycoon who heads the tea-to-steel conglomerate, will kick off an auto show here with the unveiling of the long-awaited "People's Car", which will carry a sticker price of 100,000 rupees or 2,500 dollars.The cheap car is a pet project of the Cornell-trained architect Ratan Tata, who helped design it, and is aimed at getting Indian families off their motorbikes and into cars.Ratan Tata, 70, has spearheaded the growth strategy of the company known for its philanthropic values."I hope to make a contribution to making life safer for them (the masses)," he said on its web site.Small cars are expected to dominate the biennial auto show, which has become one of Asia's largest and is expected to draw 1.5 million visitors, up from one million in 2006, organisers say."India's auto industry has found a new confidence — the show can be seen as the automotive industry coming of age," said Ravi Kant, president of the Society of Indian Automobiles (Siam).Domestic and international carmakers have been in a race to corner India's small car market, which accounts for over two-thirds of domestic sales in the country of 1.1 billion people.Small car sales are expected to nearly double to around two million units by 2010 as India's population becomes more affluent and trades up from motorcycles to cars.The eight-day show features automakers from around the world from Honda, Ford, Hyundai and Volkswagen to luxury carmakers like BMW and Daimler, which are reaching out to India's new free-spending wealthy in an economy growing by nine percent.India's automotive industry, which produces 1.5 million vehicles annually, is worth 34 billion dollars a year and contributes five percent of the country's gross domestic product.An Indian government mission plan aims for automotive sales to more than quadruple to 145 billion dollars by 2016, and for indirect and direct auto sector employment to grow to 25 million from 13 million today.The new car to be unveiled by the Tatas could "revolutionise car costs downward," said leading Indian car analyst Murad Ali Baig. "This car is bound to be followed by other low-cost ones.""A lot of people just want a car that takes them from home to the market, they don't want something fancy or they want something small as a second car," he told AFP.Indian motorcycle maker Bajaj and France's Renault are looking at making a 3,000 dollar car for the Indian market that would get 34 kilometers (21 miles) per litre of fuel.Tata has said it is targeting its car at Indian and other emerging markets. The car would cost about half the price of its nearest rival in the Indian market made by Japanese-owned Maruti Suzuki that sells for 4,800 dollars.A Tata Motors board member said the car would get 25 kilometres per litre of fuel. Tata has said it believes it could eventually sell one million "People's Cars" annually.Tata, which has been on an aggressive overseas expansion drive, is also expected to win its reported two-billion-dollar bid for the British Land Rover and Jaguar brands in January — which would put it in the unusual position of making two prestige cars as well as the world's lowest-cost automobile.Environmentalists see clouds on the horizon if the cheap car is a winner, fearing it will further congest India's clogged roads and add to choking pollution. But Tata says the car will create no more pollution than a motorbike.India's car market is a huge draw because car penetration is just seven per 1,000 people compared to 550 per 1,000 in such countries as Germany or 476 in France, said Dilip Chenoy, Siam director general.