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Musharraf Warns of Return To Anarchy in Afghanistan


Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf warned Sunday that Afghanistan faces imminent “anarchy” if squabbling ethnic and tribal factions don’t move quickly to form an alternative government now that the opposition Northern Alliance is forcing the ruling Taliban into retreat.

“The worst-case scenario is if you achieve military objectives like just now and there’s no political arrangement or no rehabilitation strategy on the ground,” he said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. “There will be a vacuum -- and there will be anarchy returning to Afghanistan.”

Too much military progress by the Northern Alliance’s ethnic minorities could end up alienating the country’s dominant Pashtun population, said Musharraf, who faulted all sides of the deeply fragmented country.

“Over-strengthening” the Northern Alliance, which has taken strategic Mazar-e-Sharif and other northern towns in the past three days, also risks slowing the political strategy and potentially forcing the Pashtun to side with the Taliban, he said. The Taliban are overwhelmingly Pashtun, and winning the support of key tribal leaders and commanders is considered crucial to ousting the rigid Islamic regime.

“If all the effort is concentrated behind the Northern Alliance, and its army seems to be succeeding everywhere, that will strengthen (Pashtun) unity,” he said. “That will be very dangerous.”

On the eve of an emergency U.N. meeting of Afghanistan’s neighbors plus the United States and Russia, Musharraf said the United Nations needs to play a more active role in helping to cobble together a broad-based coalition government. But the general, who came to power in a 1999 military coup, cautioned against trying to impose any formula on the Afghans.

“The Afghans have to crystallize a strategy for themselves, and we can only facilitate (the transition),” he said.

U.S. Skips U.N. Conference On Nuclear Test Ban Treaty


The Bush administration Sunday boycotted a U.N. conference convened by Secretary General Kofi Annan to encourage states to ratify a global treaty banning nuclear weapons tests.

The decision to sidestep the three-day event represents the latest demonstration of U.S.-opposition to the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which has been signed by 161 countries, including the United States, and ratified by 85.

President Bush has made it clear that he will never submit the treaty to the U.S. Senate for ratification. But some delegates were miffed that the United States had chosen to snub many of its closest allies at a time that it is seeking to build a coalition to fight terrorism.

The decision brought an end to weeks of debate within the Bush administration over the wisdom of accepting an invitation to attend the conference as an observer. “We’re not attending,” a senior State Department official said Sunday. “This is a meeting for ratifying states and we’ve made it clear we’re not going to ratify.”

The State Department had initially favored sending a low-level delegation to avoid a diplomatic confrontation. But the Pentagon hoped that a U.S. boycott would contribute to hastening the death of the nuclear pact.

The nuclear accord has long been a target of U.S. conservatives. In 1998, the Republican-controlled Congress voted 51-48 to reject a bid by then-President Clinton to ratify the pact. Bush and his advisers have argued that the treaty is impossible to verify and that it might need to test weapons to ensure the safety and reliability of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

Russia, which has ratified the treaty, warned that the resumption of atomic tests could restart the nuclear arms race. Igor Sergeev, a special assistant to President Vladimir Putin, proposed Sunday that the United States consider new negotiations aimed at improving the ability to verify treaty violations.

Telling Lie Produces Changes In Brain, Researchers Find


Telling a lie produces tell-tale changes in the brain, researchers announced Sunday at a neuroscience conference in San Diego.

Brain scans of volunteers asked to tell lies showed changes as the subjects tried to suppress what they knew was true. The result might eventually form the basis of highly accurate lie-detector tests, scientists said.

Unlike conventional polygraphs, which assume that liars are anxious and that such anxiety causes measurable changes in skin and blood pressure, brain scans offer even cold-blooded liars little opportunity to cheat since people cannot mask the mental processes responsible for lying.

“We see that a neural network is engaged when someone tries to deceive,” said Ruben Gur, a professor of neuropsychology at the University of Pennsylvania, where the research was conducted. “The components of that network are both the tendency to suppress telling the truth and the emotional response involved with the act of deception.”

“A procedure like this is very likely in the future for lie detection,” he said. Compared to conventional polygraph tests, Gur said the brain scans “can be much more powerful.”

That’s because skilled liars show less anxiety than novices and can sometimes pass polygraph tests, while truthful people can be intimidated into showing anxiety and be branded as liars. There are also physiological differences between people that can lead to polygraph unreliability.

Trying to separate liars from truth-tellers has been the bane of investigators from ancient times. Philosophers have wrestled with the origins of untruthfulness and psychologists have struggled to characterize the mental processes involved in lying.