- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 21, 2004

IRAN

U.S. said courting People’s Mojahedin

TEHRAN — U.S. agents are trying to stop the People’s Mojahedin, an Iranian rebel group, from splintering in order to retain it as a weapon against the Iranian government, a hard-line newspaper said yesterday, quoting what it said were two defectors.

Although the People’s Mojahedin is listed by Washington as a terrorist group, Resalat newspaper said U.S. agents were courting the exiled guerrillas. Its political wing sometimes has given reliable information on Iran’s nuclear program, which Tehran says focuses only on building electric power stations.

“In the last two months, people from the U.S. State Department and the FBI have been interviewing all members of the organization,” said one unnamed defector. “These talks tried to stop members leaving the Mojahedin.”

The Red Cross announced Monday that 28 men had returned voluntarily to Iran from Camp Ashraf in Iraq.

EGYPT

Delayed U.N. report due out in January

CAIRO — A U.N.-commissioned report on human development in the Arab world will be issued three months late and only under the name of its authors, after its contents raised strong objections from Cairo and Washington, the report’s chief author said yesterday.

Nader Farghani said the report, initially due in October, will be published in January, but not as an official report by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) as previously planned. He told Agence France-Presse that the United States and Egypt “voiced reservations over its contents.”

“They threatened to considerably reduce their financial contribution to the United Nations’ development budget” if it officially sponsored the report, Mr. Farghani said.

Nur Farahat, a law professor at Zagazig University in Egypt and a member of the team that wrote the report, confirmed the UNDP’s reluctance to antagonize Washington, which contributes 70 percent of its budget.

Weekly notes

Two French journalists freed yesterday after being held hostage for four months in Iraq are to return to Paris today. Christian Chesnot of Radio France Internationale and Georges Malbrunot of Le Figaro newspaper were abducted Aug. 20 with their Syrian driver on the road to Najaf, south of Baghdad. The driver, Mohammed al-Joundi, was found safe by U.S. Marines during an offensive last month in Fallujah. … Kuwait’s highest court yesterday upheld a life sentence against a Kuwaiti convicted of killing a U.S. contractor and wounding another last year. An appeals court had reduced the death sentence of Sami al-Mutairi, 26, who officials said was inspired by Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda network. American Michael Rene Pouliot died when his vehicle was peppered with automatic rifle fire near a U.S. military base in southern Kuwait in January 2003; his colleague, David Caraway, was wounded.

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