- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 25, 2006

JORDAN

Hamas members arrested in plot

AMMAN — Jordan yesterday announced the arrests of members of the Palestinian movement Hamas who it said received orders from a leader based in Syria to carry out attacks on officials in the kingdom. The plot was in its final stages when it was foiled, government spokesman Nasser Jawdeh told reporters.

“Jordanian security services, over a long period of time, shadowed attempts to bring in arms from a neighboring country,” he said. “Elements of Hamas” suspected of involvement were arrested and “an inquiry has shown that they received orders from a military leader of Hamas who is currently in Syria,” the spokesman said.

In Gaza City, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri denied the charges, which he said were part of a campaign against the movement.

Hamas has been under pressure to recognize Israel and renounce violence.

In Ramallah, meanwhile, the chief Hamas spokesman in the West Bank, Farhad Assad, was seized by Israeli soldiers overnight, family sources said yesterday. Four jeeps pulled up at his house shortly after midnight. The soldiers gave no explanation for his arrest.

IRAN

Lawmakers appalled at women in stadiums

TEHRAN — Several Iranian lawmakers were up in arms yesterday over a decision by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to end a long-standing ban on women in soccer stadiums, warning of the dangers of players’ bare legs and male spectators shouting obscenities at referees.

“We call on the president to annul the order to allow women into stadiums,” an ultraconservative lawmaker from Isfahan, Mohammad-Taghi Rahbar, was quoted as saying by the Iranian Students News Agency.

Another religious conservative in parliament, Saeed Abutaleb, complained of “a lack of cultural preparation” for letting women into soccer stadiums for the first time since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

SYRIA

Assad questioned in Hariri slaying

DAMASCUS — Chief U.N. investigator Serge Brammertz interviewed President Bashar Assad yesterday about Syria’s reputed role in the killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, Syrian officials said.

“The meeting has ended and Brammertz returned to Lebanon,” a source in the ruling Ba’ath Party told Reuters. Mr. Brammertz is in charge of an investigation into the killing of Mr. Hariri and 22 others in a truck bombing in Beirut in February 2005.

The official Syrian Arab News Agency said Mr. Brammertz also met with Syrian Vice President Farouk Shara, who was foreign minister when Mr. Hariri was assassinated. Aides of Mr. Brammertz attended the two meetings, along with senior Syrian Foreign Ministry official Ahmad Arnous and Riad Daoudi, the ministry’s legal adviser, the news agency said.

Weekly notes …

The World Bank announced yesterday the approval of a $34.4 million loan to help Turkey prepare for a potential bird-flu epidemic. The loan would sponsor projects aimed at boosting the protection of animal and human health and efforts to raise public awareness about avian influenza, which has killed four persons in Turkey. It “will also give assurances to visitors and tourists … that Turkey has a comprehensive plan to help stop the spread of future bird-flu outbreaks,” said Andrew Vorkink, World Bank director for Turkey. … Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika returned to Algiers yesterday after a brief visit to Paris for what were described as postoperative examinations, the Algerie Presse Service reported. It said the tests at Val de Grace hospital were planned after Mr. Bouteflika’s three-week hospitalization in France in December for a bleeding ulcer. The postoperative results were “very satisfying,” the news agency said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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