- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 16, 2006

TAIWAN

First lady faints at corruption trial

TAIPEI — Taiwan’s first lady passed out during the opening session of her embezzlement and forgery trial yesterday, throwing into chaos the court proceedings that could force her husband from office.

Wu Shu-chen, who is paralyzed from the waist down and uses a wheelchair, collapsed shortly after pleading not guilty to charges she and three aides to President Chen Shui-bian skimmed $450,000 from a special presidential fund used to sustain Taiwanese diplomatic activities abroad.

TURKEY

Blair seeks support for Mideast peace

ANKARA — British Prime Minister Tony Blair began a Middle East trip yesterday by holding talks with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on how to revive Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking.

Mr. Blair, who has set great store on resuscitating the peace process before he steps down next year, wants to generate new momentum among Muslim countries to help get Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table.

His trip coincided with tensions reaching their highest level in a decade in the Palestinian territories, triggering new gunbattles.

LEBANON

Hezbollah says war killed 250 guerrillas

BEIRUT — A senior Hezbollah official said yesterday that about 250 members of the guerrilla group were killed in the summer war with Israel, the highest toll acknowledged by the Shi’ite Muslim movement.

Mahmoud Komati, deputy chief of Hezbollah’s politburo, dismissed Israeli claims that many more Hezbollah fighters were killed, saying the group does not hide its casualties.

A tally compiled by the Associated Press from Hezbollah and police reports during the July 12-Aug. 14 war put the guerrilla losses at 70 dead.

CUBA

U.S. lawmakers hope for improved ties

HAVANA — A delegation of American lawmakers sought improved diplomatic and economic ties with Cuba yesterday, anticipating leadership changes in Havana and on Capitol Hill.

The 10 U.S. congressmen are expected to discuss the possibility of easing U.S. trade and travel sanctions in meetings with communist officials.

Separately, Venezuela President Hugo Chavez, a close ally of Fidel Castro, denied reports that the ailing Cuban leader has cancer, but said Mr. Castro was fighting a “great battle” against a “serious” illness.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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