- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 17, 2005

LEBANON

New prime minister starts Cabinet talks

BEIRUT — Lebanon’s new prime minister began talks yesterday to form a Cabinet to lead the country to elections after winning the support of the anti-Syrian opposition, reviving hopes the vote may be held on time in May.

Najib Mikati, a wealthy businessman with close ties to Damascus, met with veteran politicians and was set to consult lawmakers tomorrow to form a Cabinet palatable to both allies and opponents of Lebanon’s longtime political master, Syria.

Mr. Mikati won the nomination of the 128-member parliament late on Friday, drawing vital opposition votes.

PAKISTAN

Bhutto supporters held before rally

LAHORE — Pakistani police detained hundreds of activists who tried yesterday to greet the husband of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto on his return from a trip overseas in a major security operation to block an opposition rally.

Asif Ali Zardari condemned the government for heavy-handed treatment of his supporters after police whisked him from a plane and dropped him off at his home. Authorities said Mr. Zardari was neither charged nor arrested.

AFGHANISTAN

Taliban denies talks with government

KABUL — A leader of Afghanistan’s ousted Taliban movement has rejected as baseless reports that he held reconciliation talks with President Hamid Karzai’s government.

Mawlavi Abdul Kabir, thought now to be No. 2 in the Taliban hierarchy after its fugitive leader Mullah Mohammed Omar, also dismissed reports of rifts among remnants of the hard-line Islamic movement overthrown by U.S.-led forces in late 2001.

Afghan Chief Justice Fazl Hadi Shinwari said recently that senior Taliban figures, including Mr. Kabir, were in touch with him about giving up the insurgency they have waged for the past 3 years since being driven from power.

EUROPEAN UNION

Conference planned on Iraq rebuilding

LUXEMBOURG — The European Union said yesterday it plans to host an international conference on rebuilding Iraq within the next two months, picking up an idea EU leaders discussed with President Bush at a summit in February.

Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn, whose country holds the EU’s rotating presidency, said the conference would take place in Brussels in either late May or early June.

BANGLADESH

22 sentenced to die in lawmaker’s killing

DHAKA — A Bangladeshi court yesterday sentenced 22 persons to death and six others to life imprisonment for the murder of an opposition lawmaker nearly a year ago.

Ahsanullah Master, a lawmaker from the Awami League, the main opposition party, was slain May 7 by gunmen at a party rally in Tongi, an industrial town near Dhaka. Violent opposition protests erupted across Bangladesh after the attack, in which three party workers also were killed.

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