- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 27, 2006

IRAN

Envoy summoned over Blair remarks

TEHRAN — Iran summoned the British ambassador yesterday to complain about comments made by Prime Minister Tony Blair during a recent Middle East tour.

Senior Foreign Ministry official Ebrahim Rahimpour “strongly criticized Blair’s baseless accusations and comments on Iran,” the Iranian Students News Agency said.

During his tour this month, Mr. Blair called on Middle Eastern states to help rein in the “forces of extremism” in Iran, which he called a threat to the region’s stability. He also accused Iran of undermining the Lebanese government.

“By accusing Iran, it seems that Mr. Blair is trying to divert attentions from his failure in … Afghanistan, Iraq and the region,” Mr. Rahimpour was quoted as saying to British Ambassador Geoffrey Adams. “But he will not reach his aims.”

SAUDI ARABIA

29 from Guantanamo freed on return home

RIYADH — Saudi authorities said yesterday that they had freed 29 prisoners released to them from the U.S. detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The 28 Saudis and a foreigner born in the oil-rich kingdom were freed last week.

Fifty-three Guantanamo detainees from Saudi Arabia have returned home. The bodies of two Saudi inmates, who the United States said committed suicide at the camp in June, also have been repatriated. At least 74 Saudis still are being held at the military facility.

IRAQ

Allawi seeks Arab conference

CAIRO — Former Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi is trying to organize a conference among major Arab states, which he hopes to persuade to help create new Iraqi military and intelligence agencies that could restore order.

Mr. Allawi said the conference also would consider other regional issues, including what he called Iran’s forceful interference in Iraq’s internal affairs.

Weekly notes …

More than 2 million Muslims begin the hajj in Saudi Arabia this week amid fears of sectarian violence and stampedes that have marred the pilgrimage in recent years. Pilgrims converge on the Grand Mosque in Mecca and follow a route around the rocky mountains of the ancient city in line with a tradition established by the prophet Muhammad. Overcrowding is a perennial worry, but this time regional tension between Shi’ites and Sunnis has heightened security concerns. … Cluster bombs injured five persons in southern Lebanon over the weekend, officials said Monday. At least 28 persons have died in cluster bomb and land mine explosions in Lebanon since Israel’s war with Lebanon’s Hezbollah guerrillas ended in a cease-fire brokered by the United Nations on Aug. 14.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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