- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 12, 2006

SYRIA

Iraq reopens Damascus Embassy

DAMASCUS — Syria and Iraq reopened their embassies in each other’s capitals yesterday, ending more than two decades of diplomatic boycott since Syria sided with Iran during the Iraq-Iran war.

The flag of Iraq was raised on the roof terrace of its embassy in Damascus in a ceremony that Syrian and Iraqi officials attended. A similar event took place in the Mansour district of Baghdad, outside the U.S.-controlled Green Zone, officials said.

The two governments agreed to restore full diplomatic ties last month when Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem visited Baghdad.

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani visited the Iranian capital Tehran last month, and Iran has announced it plans to reopen its consulate in the southern Iraqi city of Basra. Iraq and Iran broke off diplomatic ties in the 1980s when they fought a war.

SAUDI ARABIA

Ambassador to head foreign ministry

Saudi Ambassador Prince Turki al-Faisal is due to return to Saudi Arabia to serve as foreign minister, a source close to the ambassador said last night. The Saudi government is expected to announce the appointment today.

He is the former Saudi Head of Intelligence, Saudi ambassador to Ireland and since July 2005, the Saudi ambassador to the United States. He is a son of the late King Faisal and a nephew of the late King Fahd.

Prince Turki, 61, earned his degree from the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. He also studied at Princeton and Cambridge. As head of Saudi intelligence, he met with Osama bin Laden on several occasions during the 1980s, in an attempt to persuade him to lead a militia in Afghanistan against the Soviets.

IRAQ

Marine helicopter makes hard landing

BAGHDAD — A Marine helicopter made a hard landing yesterday in a remote desert area of Anbar province, injuring 18 persons, making it the third U.S. aircraft to go down in the insurgent stronghold in two weeks.

The CH-53E Super Stallion, the U.S. military’s largest helicopter, was conducting a routine passenger and cargo flight with 21 persons on board, the U.S. command said, adding hostile fire did not appear to be the cause. The military also announced that three U.S. troops were killed in a roadside bombing north of the capital on Sunday.

Meanwhile, gunmen disguised as Iraqi soldiers stopped a bank truck carrying $1 million in downtown Baghdad, stole the money and kidnapped its four guards yesterday, police said.

NORTH KOREA

China announces talks on Dec. 18

BEIJING — Disarmament talks on North Korea’s nuclear-weapons program will resume next week, China said yesterday, announcing an apparent end to Pyongyang’s 13-month boycott of the negotiations over U.S. financial sanctions.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said on his ministry’s Web site that the talks, which include the United States, would resume in Beijing on Dec. 18.

Diplomats have been trying to set a date since North Korean leader Kim Jong-il’s government agreed to return to the six-nation talks, a breakthrough that followed the communist regime’s Oct. 9 test of a nuclear bomb.

EUROPEAN UNION

Partial freeze on Turkey talks

BRUSSELS — European Union foreign ministers agreed yesterday on a partial freeze of Turkey’s EU membership talks to penalize Ankara for failing to normalize trade with Cyprus, the EU’s Finnish presidency said.

Ministers said they would suspend eight of the 35 chapters or policy areas into which the negotiations are divided, covering trade, financial services, agriculture and transport, and to review Turkey’s compliance annually until 2009.

They agreed there should be no breakdown in talks with the EU’s biggest and most strategically important candidate. Sectors not affected by the freeze should go ahead but not be concluded until Ankara complies with its customs union obligation.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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