- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 15, 2005

IRAQ

30 insurgents killed in U.S. offensive

BAGHDAD — U.S. and Iraqi forces swept through most of an insurgent stronghold near the Syrian border yesterday, encountering pockets of fierce resistance, defusing five car bombs and killing at least 30 guerrillas, the U.S. command reported.

Three Marines died in the last two days of the operation to clear the town of Obeidi, the military said, adding that more than 80 insurgents have been killed, mostly in air strikes, in that period.

Separately, three U.S. Army soldiers were killed yesterday in a roadside bombing near Baghdad, the U.S. command said.

IRAN

New culture minister faults former regime

TEHRAN — Mohammad-Hossein Saffar-Harandi, who was appointed as Iran’s culture minister by new hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in August, says he is purging his ministry of officials who failed to protect Islamic values, the Iranian Students’ News Agency reported yesterday.

Mr. Saffar-Harandi also complained that under the earlier pro-reform government, literary censors “lacked the will” to ban offending texts. “The new official we have named is in the process of meticulously changing his subordinates,” Mr. Saffar-Harandi was quoted as telling a gathering of Friday prayer leaders.

He said that under his control, the ministry has moved to ban a book on 2,500 years of Persian monarchy in Iran that had been approved by President Mohammed Khatami. Iran’s monarchy was ousted in 1979.

Weekly notes …

A Lebanese judge turned down yesterday a request to release two of four high-ranking security officials detained on suspicion of a role in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, a judicial source told Agence France-Presse. Investigating magistrate Elias Eid turned down the request by attorneys for Raymond Azar, former head of Lebanese military intelligence, and Mustafa Hamdan, head of the presidential guard. … Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari said yesterday that he sees little prospect of improving relations with neighboring Syria as long as Damascus does nothing to stop foreign fighters from crossing the border to join Iraqi rebels. Mr. al-Jaafari said he recently sent an envoy to Syria to try to improve ties but recalled him after President Bashar Assad suggested in a Nov. 10 speech that Iraqi leaders cannot act freely because their country is occupied by U.S.-led forces.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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