- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 3, 2006

EGYPT

Outrage voiced after charges dropped

CAIRO — Egyptians expressed outrage yesterday over the judiciary’s dismissal of sexual assault charges against thugs who attacked female activists and journalists during a referendum on constitutional change.

The journalists’ syndicate, human rights groups and the pro-reform Kefaya movement all denounced the move and called on the justice minister to intervene and appoint a judge to investigate the accusations.

The assaults, some of which were caught on video, triggered an international outcry and cast a pall over electoral reforms touted by President Hosni Mubarak.

The footage showed presumed ruling-party thugs beating and sexually groping the women, but Attorney General Maher Abdul Wahid’s office said there was “no basis for a criminal suit.” The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights issued a statement expressing “deep anxiety over the decision.”

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

Assault planned to free five Italians

DUBAI — Yemeni forces may intervene to try to free five Italian hostages despite Rome’s appeal to refrain from force, Yemen’s top diplomat told Al Arabiya television yesterday.

“In the end, if [the kidnappers] reject negotiations and refuse to give up the hostages … security forces will have to step in,” Abu Bakr al-Kurbi said in a telephone interview broadcast on the Dubai-based network.

IRAN

Ahmadinejad faults his predecessors

TEHRAN — Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told lawmakers yesterday that the foreign policy of detente adopted by his two predecessors had achieved little and reduced Iran’s standing in the Islamic world.

Since taking office in August, Mr. Ahmadinejad has stiffened Iran’s foreign policy stance, replacing dozens of pro-reform diplomats, pushing ahead with atomic work and delivering searing verbal attacks against Israel.

In a closed-door meeting with parliament’s Foreign Policy and National Security Committee, he said that under Presidents Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammed Khatami, Iran had tried to appease Europe but “had not achieved anything for Iran,” committee member Kazem Jalali told the Islamic Republic News Agency.

Weekly notes …

Egypt will begin deporting more than 600 Sudanese tomorrow, part of a group of about 2,000 people detained after police broke up a protest in Cairo. “They will repatriate 654 Sudanese by sea on Thursday,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Fatma al-Zahr’a Etman said yesterday, adding that more would follow. “This is the first group,” she said. … A Syrian general accused of involvement in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri said yesterday he is ready to resign, as Damascus said it received a request from the United Nations to interview Syrian President Bashar Assad. Brig. Rustom Ghazaleh told Al Jazeera television he is ready to step down, or even die a martyr.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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