- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 17, 2006

BHUTAN

King gives throne to reformist son

GAUHATI, India — Bhutan’s king abdicated yesterday and announced plans to hand power to his Western-educated son, who is expected to usher in a parliamentary democracy for the isolated Himalayan kingdom in coming years.

King Jigme Singye Wangchuck said a year ago he would abdicate in favor of 26-year-old Crown Prince Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck in 2008 as part of a process of adopting a new constitution, which would transform the country from an absolute monarchy to a parliamentary democracy.

The king, who assumed the throne in 1972 when he was 17, astounded his subjects with his announcement that the prince would assume the throne a year earlier than scheduled.

IRAN

Nuclear technology offered to Gulf states

TEHRAN — Iran’s president said yesterday his country was ready to transfer nuclear technology to neighboring countries, Kuwaiti television reported, a week after Arab states on the Persian Gulf announced plans to consider a joint nuclear program.

The television report said Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told a top Kuwaiti envoy he welcomed the decision by the Islamic republic’s Arab neighbors to pursue peaceful nuclear technology.

Such a technological transfer would be legal as long as it is between signatory states to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and as long as the International Atomic Energy Agency that monitors the treaty is informed of the transfer.

Iran is at odds with the United States and its European allies, which accuse Iran of seeking nuclear weapons.

CUBA

Ailing Castro calls provincial leaders

HAVANA — Fidel Castro telephoned provincial legislative leaders in a meeting, the Communist Party daily said yesterday in a report apparently designed to quell rumors about the ailing Cuban leader’s health.

That call on Friday and another to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez the same day constituted the first news in 11 days about the convalescing Mr. Castro, 80, who has not been seen in public in more than four months.

Even if Mr. Castro is not as sick as some think, including many in the U.S. government, his prolonged absence from public life has raised questions about whether he ever will return to power.

Vice President Carlos Lage and National Assembly President Ricardo Alarcon were presiding over the Friday meeting of provincial assembly presidents when Mr. Castro called, Granma newspaper reported.

AFGHANISTAN

Guantanamo prisoners freed, claim innocence

KABUL — Seven Afghan men yesterday arrived in their home country — weary, angry and proclaiming their innocence — after years of imprisonment in the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

With long, unkempt beards and wearing blue numbered uniforms, the men appeared at a press conference beside Sibghatullah Mujaddedi, head of Afghanistan’s reconciliation commission. The commission assists with the release of detainees from Guantanamo and another U.S. prison at the Bagram military base north of Kabul.

All seven men said they were wrongly arrested but that they were not beaten or mistreated in any way during their imprisonment.

In interviews with the Associated Press, one claimed he was forced to join the Taliban, and another said he was arrested merely for being Muslim.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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