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    NCP ministers, MLAs rush to Nashik
    Pawar flown to Breach Candy

    By A Staff Reporter

    Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) president, Mr. Sharad Pawar, who was admitted to a hospital in Nashik yesterday after he experienced giddiness at a function, was flown down to the Breach Candy Hospital by a Reliance aircraft for further treatment this morning.

    Excise Minister Anil Deshmukh, who was with Mr. Pawar at Nashik this morning, said that the Maratha strongman was fine. He was accompanied by Deputy Chief Minister Chhagan Bhujbal and other NCP ministers who had rushed to Nashik last night on learning about his illness.

    Mr. Pawar had taken ill with high blood pressure during a function to felicitate NCP Nashik president, Dr. Vasant Pawar, on his birthday. The function had to be abruptly wound up after a brief address by Mr. Pawar who was unable to even stand while speaking.

    Mr. Pawar was rushed to Sushrut Hospital in Nashik where his blood pressure was found to have shot up. He was immediately admitted to the intensive care unit and attended to by Dr. Makrand Patel and Dr. Dharmadhikari who advised him complete bed rest.

    Mr. Bhujbal, on learning about the illness of his mentor, rushed to Nashik at 9.30 p.m. along with other NCP ministers like Mr. R. R. Patil, Mr. Anil Deshmukh, Dr. Padamsinh Patil, Mr. Vijaysinh Mohite-Patil, etc. NCP national spokesman, Mr. Praful Patel, as well as many MLAs belonging to other parties, also rushed to Nashik.

    187 SARS cases in Canada

    TORONTO (AFP): Canadian health officials have reported nine more possible cases of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), bringing the nationwide total to 187.

    Canada, which has seen seven deaths from possible SARS cases, has been hit the hardest outside Asia, where it is believed to have started last November.

    The majority of the cases remain in Canada's largest province, Ontario, where 149 possible cases - up three from Thursday - were tallied yesterday. An elderly woman, who travelled to Hong Kong and stayed in the Metropole Hotel, is believed to have brought the disease to Canada's largest city and unknowingly infected others.

    Thousands of people in Ontario remained in quarantine yesterday to help halt the spread of the mysterious illness, for which there is no diagnostic test or known cure.

    The WHO said yesterday that 2,482 cases of SARS had been registered worldwide so far and 81 people had died.

    Meanwhile, Chinese health and human services secretary Zhang Wenkang has pledged to boost Beijing's cooperation in the fight against the fast-spreading pneumonia strain.

    Delays in allowing WHO experts to travel to the area have been blamed by officials for delays in controlling SARS.

    Advani to felicitate Ram Naik


    Union Home Minister L. K. Advani will felicitate veteran Parliamentarian and Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas Ram Naik on his completion of 25 years of public service at a function to be held at Kora Kendra Maidan, Borivali (west), tomorrow.

    The other political stalwarts who are scheduled to speak at the function include Union Defence Minister George Fernandes, Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, NCP president Sharad Pawar, RPI chief Ramdas Athawale and Shiv Sena CEO Uddhav Thackeray.

    Explosions rock Baghdad city again

    BAGHDAD (AP): Heavy machine-gun fire reverberated through the center of Baghdad and a massive explosion shook buildings as US forces tightened their grip around the Iraqi capital.

    Flashes from what appeared to be machine guns could be seen from the southern end of the presidential Old Palace Complex on the West Bank of the Tigris River late yesterday Hours later, artillery shells dropped on the outskirts of the city, and more explosions were heard intermittently around 2.45 a.m. (today, 0435 IST).

    Earlier in the day, with US troops in control of the international airport southwest of the city, Baghdadis fled the capital by the tens of thousands.

    President Saddam Hussein, in an unannounced TV broadcast, urged Iraqis to fight the invasion. "Strike them forcefully. Strike them by the force of faith wherever they come close to you. Resist them, oh people of valiant and beautiful Baghdad," he said.

    Information Minister Mohammed Saeed Al-Sahhaf promised an "unconventional" response to the US-led attacks and warned of more suicide attacks against foreign troops.

    Asked whether "unconventional" meant the use of weapons of mass destruction, he replied: "No. That's not what I said ... I meant martyrdom operations."