Gehlot front-runner

Jaipur: With the Congress emerging as the single largest party in the Rajasthan assembly, former chief minister Ashok Gehlot is credited with changing the party’s fortunes in the state. The Congress bagged 96 seats, five short of clear majority but set to form the next government. Gehlot, 57, who was chief minister 1998-2003, is now acknowledged as the chief architect of the party’s comeback. The Congress general secretary spearheaded the party’s campaign and toured the desert state extensively, holding hundreds of public meetings. Asked who would be the next chief minister, Gehlot said a leader would be chosen democratically. “It is for the legislators and the party high command to decide. I am just a party worker.” — IANS

Five of LTTE killed

COLOMBO: At least five Tamil Tiger rebels were killed in fresh fighting in northern Sri Lanka where security forces are closing in on the rebels’ political capital, the defence ministry said on Tuesday. Clashes took place across several fronts on Monday, inflicting “maximum damages” on the rebels, the ministry said, without saying if its own troops suffered casualties. The five rebels were killed in the district of Mullaittivu, which borders Kilinochchi, the ministry said. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) did not comment on the military statement, but accused the army of setting off a roadside mine

in Mullaittivu on Monday, killing three people. — AFP

Japan-China row

BEIJING: China has dismissed a Japanese protest over two Chinese ships that entered what Tokyo considers its waters, with Beijing reiterating its own territorial claims to the area, state media reported. Japan said Monday it had lodged a formal protest with Beijing about the “extremely regrettable” presence of the Chinese survey ships near the Diaoyu islands in the East China Sea. But a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said the ships were carrying out normal activities in Chinese waters, Xinhua news agency said late Monday. Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso called it “an obvious intrusion.”

The two ships were spotted Monday morning by the Japanese coast guard six kilometres southeast of the uninhabited chain of islands, which are claimed by Japan, China and Taiwan. — AFP

Quake hits Pak

HONG KONG: A moderate 5.2-magnitude earthquake struck mountainous southwestern Pakistan on Tuesday, seismologists said. The shallow quake, at a depth of just 10 km, was centred 54 km from Quetta, capital of Baluchistan province, the US Geological Survey said. There were no immediate reports of casualties or damage from the quake, which hit at 7:46 am (0246 GMT). — AFP

Food safety campaign

BEIJING: China will launch a four-month food safety campaign from Wednesday to prevent the toxic chemical melamine and other harmful substances from ending up on the dinner table, the government said. The crackdown, which also targets excessive levels of additives, comes amid a widening scandal over tainted milk that has sickened hundreds of thousands of babies and shocked the nation. “The recent major food safety incident... showed it is currently a very serious problem that illegal non-edible substances are added and additives are in excessive amounts in food items,” the government said on its website. The campaign will start out in a relatively mild manner, with food companies to correct their own shortcomings during the first month, the statement said. — AFP