- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 11, 2006

SAUDI ARABIA

Russia asked to block U.N. OK to hit Iran

RIYADH — Concerned that potential U.S. military action against Iran would bring further havoc to the Middle East, Saudi Arabia has asked Russia to block any attempt by the Bush administration to obtain United Nations approval for an attack, a Russian diplomat said yesterday.

During a visit to Moscow last week, the head of the Saudi National Security Council “urged Russia to strive to prevent the adoption of a U.N. Security Council resolution that the United States could use as justification to launch a military assault to knock out Iran’s nuclear facilities,” the diplomat told Agence France-Presse in Riyadh.

Prince Bandar bin Sultan, a longtime ambassador to the United States who is often given delicate missions, met Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow on April 4. Saudi officials did not provide details of the meeting. Mr. Lavrov said Iran’s nuclear program was a focus of the meeting, but did not mention Moscow’s response.

TURKEY

Court drops charges against 4 journalists

A Turkish court dropped charges yesterday against four prominent journalists, but will continue to try a fifth in a high-profile freedom-of-speech case over massacres of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire.

The five were indicted in December for criticizing a court decision that briefly blocked a landmark conference in Istanbul on the World War I massacres, a long-standing taboo that Turks have only recently begun to discuss. The prosecution charged them under articles that penalize insults to the judiciary and carry up to 10 years in prison.

The European Union, which Turkey is seeking to join, has repeatedly warned Ankara to stop prosecuting intellectuals for exercising their right to free speech.

Weekly notes …

China welcomed yesterday a planned visit to Iran by International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei and repeated that it wants the crisis over Tehran’s nuclear program solved through diplomacy. “We welcome the active impact of [Mr. ElBaradei] in properly resolving Iran’s nuclear problem through the IAEA framework,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao told reporters at a press conference. … Israeli and Palestinian politicians are to meet in Morocco next month for unofficial talks aimed at renewing the stalled peace process. Ami Ayalon, former head of the domestic intelligence agency Shin Bet and a newly elected Labor Party lawmaker, will lead the Israeli delegation at the talks in Casablanca, Morocco, starting May 4. He will be joined at the talks by allies of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, a moderate, including former ministers Yasser Abed Rabbo and Sufian Abu Zaida, though no representatives of the new Hamas-led Palestinian government will attend.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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