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NCP will never join hands with BJP and compromise on secularism: Sharad Pawar

NCP supremo Sharad Pawar has scotched rumours that his party was cosying up to BJP, saying it will never support the saffron party nor join hands with communal forces and compromise on secularism.

"There are rumours being spread that NCP is growing close to BJP. This is absolutely false news. NCP will never support BJP," he said addressing a public meeting in Vasco last night where he was canvassing for his party candidate Jose Philipe D Souza.

"We will never compromise on secularism. NCP will never be with the communal forces. Those who are favouring and spreading communalism, we will never be with them," said Pawar, who was recently honoured with the Padma Vibhushan, country s second highest civilian award.

With Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray calling off their two-decade-old alliance with the BJP, speculation was rife that it could look at NCP to fill the crucial gap ahead of civic polls in Mumbai and other places in Maharashtra.

SAARC's senior officials to meet in Kathmandu, after scraping of 2016 Islamabad meet

Senior officials of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) are scheduled to meet in Kathmandu this week for the first time since the summit was postponed last year to discuss various issues.

The meet on February 1-2 to attend the Programming Committee will be the first meeting of the SAARC member states since the postponement of the 19th SAARC that was supposed to take place in Islamabad November last year, a Foreign Ministry official said.

During the meeting, SAARC member states will discuss a number of issues, including the budget of the SAARC Secretariat and five regional centers of SAARC, according to Foreign Ministry sources.

The matter relating to rescheduling the next SAARC summit will also come up during the meeting, to be attended by joint secretaries of the SAARC countries.

France's Iris Mittenaere crowned Miss Universe 2017

Miss France Iris Mittenaere won the new Miss Universe title during the 65th edition of the pageant held in the Philippines. Miss Haiti Raquel Pelissier and Andrea Tovar from Colombia emerged as the first and second runner-up.

Iris, 24, is a Parisian native, currently pursuing a degree in dental surgery. She plans to use her Miss Universe platform to advocate for dental and oral hygiene. Out of the 86 contestants in the finals, Iris survived the evening gown, swimsuit and numerous Q&A rounds.

She takes over from the until-now reigning Miss Universe, Pia Wurtzbach from Philippines.

India's Roshmitha Harimurthy failed to advance to the top 13 of the contest. The competitions other top 13 finalists were from Kenya, Indonesia, Mexico, Peru, Panama, Phillippines, Canada, Brazil, Thailand and USA.

Sushmita Sen, who won the pageant in 1994, was one of the judges of the contest and was introduced at the event as "Bollywood superstar, former Miss Universe and champion of women's rights."