- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 17, 2006

IRAQ

Release sought of Iraqi coast guards

BAGHDAD — Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari met the Iranian ambassador here yesterday to seek the return of nine Iraqi coast guardsmen seized by Iran Saturday on the two countries’ tidal waterway border.

“Eight men from the coast guard and an officer were taken prisoner by Iranian coast guards,” said a spokeswoman in the prime minister’s office. A senior Iraqi officer running patrol boats on the Shatt al-Arab between Basra and the open waters of the Gulf said one of the men was gravely wounded by gunfire when Iranian forces intervened as an Iraqi patrol tried to search a ship suspected of smuggling oil.

Iraq and Iran have a long history of disputes along their tidal border. Iran seized three British naval patrol boats there in June 2004 at a time when British forces were responsible for policing the border. Now, relations between Iraq and Iran are at the warmest in decades with the arrival in power of Shi’ite leaders since the fall of Saddam Hussein.

ISRAEL

Olmert said he wants Palestinian peace

JERUSALEM — Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said yesterday he wants to resume final peace talks with the Palestinians and take harsh action against Israeli squatters in the West Bank — a sign the election front-runner is ready for bold steps to end the conflict.

The new leader’s first policy statement carries special weight because of a widespread assumption among Israelis that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who suffered a devastating stroke Jan. 4, will never return to power and that Mr. Olmert will replace him. Hospital officials reported no change yesterday in Mr. Sharon’s condition: critical, stable and comatose.

Mr. Olmert, 60, a former mayor of Jerusalem and the vice prime minister under Mr. Sharon, has a commanding lead in the polls for the March 28 election, putting him in a strong position to begin carrying out Mr. Sharon’s vision of delineating Israel’s final borders.

But Mr. Sharon’s way was unilateral. Flanked by reporters, Mr. Olmert said that after parliamentary elections — the Palestinians vote Jan. 25 — “I hope … I can enter negotiations with Abu Mazen,” referring to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas by his nickname.

SAUDI ARABIA

Cheney holds talks on Syria crisis

RIYADH — Vice President Dick Cheney yesterday held talks with Saudi, Egyptian and Lebanese leaders in a bid to resolve a standoff between Syria and the United Nations over the assassination of a former Lebanese prime minister.

Egypt and Saudi Arabia, two Arab heavyweights who are key U.S. allies in the region, are trying to defuse tension over the killing of ex-Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Syria denies any involvement in the slaying of Mr. Hariri and has said it will not let U.N. investigators question Syrian President Bashar Assad over the killing.

IRAN

Ban on CNN lifted after apology

TEHRAN — Iran lifted its ban on CNN yesterday, a day after the government barred the U.S. network from the country because of its mistranslation of nuclear comments by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, state television reported.

Mr. Ahmadinejad ordered the reversal “due to the expression of an apology” from CNN over the mistranslation, the state-run TV broadcast said.

Iran imposed the ban after CNN misquoted the president as speaking of developing “nuclear weapons” when he actually referred to “nuclear technology.”

LEBANON

Protesters oppose anti-Syrian policies

BEIRUT — About 10,000 Lebanese students chanting “America out” marched to the U.S. Embassy yesterday to protest Washington’s policy in Lebanon.

The demonstration, called by pro-Syrian parties including the Shi’ite Muslim Hezbollah, came three days after clashes between police and a much smaller anti-U.S. demonstration in downtown Beirut.

TURKEY

Erdogan: Chicken safeto eat despite bird flu

ANKARA — Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told consumers yesterday it is safe to eat chicken despite an outbreak of bird flu in the country that has killed four children and forced the culling of about a million birds.

“There is no need to worry about consuming poultry and eggs that have been produced in industrial conditions,” Mr. Erdogan told a meeting of his ruling Justice and Development Party. “There is no advantage in harming our poultry sector, which employs thousands of people,” he said.

Poultry sales have plunged since last month’s outbreak of avian flu in Turkey. Slaughtering and defeathering a diseased bird pose the greatest risk of the virus passing to people.

Weekly notes …

An Egyptian human-rights group called on the United States yesterday to investigate the case of a detainee who had a leg amputated at U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The Human Rights Association for the Assistance of Prisoners (HRAAP) said it found out about Adel Fattouh Gazar’s situation after three American lawyers visited the facility and urged the “U.S. government to open a fair investigation of the incident.” … A hemophiliac from Gaza City who has the AIDS virus has been denied entry by the Israeli army for treatment in Israel on three occasions despite warnings by doctors that his life is in danger, medics said yesterday. The man, who is in his 20s, got HIV from a blood transfusion and had been treated regularly at Tel Hashomer hospital in Beersheva. Six AIDS specialists said in a petition that his condition recently declined so sharply that he must return to Tel Hashomer.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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