- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 18, 2006

BRITAIN

Plot to kidnap Blair’s son foiled

LONDON — British police have foiled a plot to kidnap Prime Minister Tony Blair’s 5-year-old son, Leo, the Sun newspaper reported yesterday.

Citing a security source, the tabloid said people on the fringe of a group that campaigns for the rights of divorced fathers had planned to snatch the child and hold him for a short period as a publicity stunt.

Fathers 4 Justice said it had decided to disband because of the report, but insisted that none of its current members was involved.

The group has staged several high-profile protests in the past few years. A campaigner dressed as Batman climbed Queen Elizabeth’s London residence in 2004, and another threw purple flour bombs at Mr. Blair while he addressed Parliament.

SYRIA

Opposition figures freed from prison

DAMASCUS — Five prominent Syrian opposition figures, whose freedom had been demanded by the United States, were released from prison yesterday, a human rights activist said.

Anwar al-Bunni said Riad Seif and Maamoun al-Homsi, both former deputies, as well as Walid al-Bunni, Habib Issa and Fawaz Tello, were freed after a court cut their jail terms by seven months.

The five men were sentenced to five years in prison in 2002 for violating the constitution, but activists said they were targeted because of their calls for reform.

GAZA STRIP

Fatah, Hamas agree to disarm for vote

GAZA CITY — Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah movement and the rival militant group Hamas agreed yesterday not to bring weapons to polling stations in a bid to avoid violence when Palestinians vote next week.

The deal, announced jointly, falls short of a Palestinian Authority plan for militants to put all their weapons into storage during parliamentary elections Wednesday.

ISRAEL

Olmert names new Cabinet

JERUSALEM — Acting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert reshuffled and expanded the Cabinet yesterday, exerting his increasing authority as Prime Minister Ariel Sharon remained in a coma two weeks after suffering a brain hemorrhage.

In the most eye-catching appointment, Tzipi Livni became the second woman in the Jewish state’s history to be named foreign minister. Three other allies of Mr. Sharon were brought into the Cabinet.

Mrs. Livni launched her tenure at the Foreign Ministry with a withering attack on the Palestinian Authority for allowing the Islamist movement Hamas, which is responsible for the majority of attacks during the five-year uprising, to run in next week’s parliamentary elections.

“Can you imagine any European country or the United States allowing a terrorist organization to take part in elections?” she asked.

TAIWAN

Chen picks aide as prime minister

TAIPEI — Taiwanese leader Chen Shui-bian yesterday nominated his former chief of staff, Su Tseng-chang, to be prime minister of a new Cabinet, weeks after adopting a tougher policy stance toward rival China.

Mr. Su, former chairman of the ruling pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party and a front-runner for the 2008 presidential race, replaces Frank Hsieh, who will formally step down with the entire Cabinet Monday.

Analysts said Mr. Chen picked the popular Mr. Su in a bid to shore up his own poll numbers, which had plummeted amid voter disappointment with his administration and a corruption scandal.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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