- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 17, 2007

IRAQ

Gates finds blessing in push for timetable

AMMAN, Jordan — The push by Democrats to set a timetable for U.S. withdrawal from Iraq has been helpful in showing the Iraqis that American patience is limited, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said yesterday.

At the same time, Mr. Gates renewed his opposition to congressional approval of a timetable. Both the House and Senate have passed bills calling for an end to the war, and President Bush has said he would veto either version.

“I’ve been pretty clear that I think the enactment of specific deadlines would be a bad mistake,” Mr. Gates said.

“But I think the debate itself, and I think the strong feelings expressed in the Congress about the timetable … probably has had a positive impact — at least I hope it has in terms of communicating to the Iraqis that this is not an open-ended commitment,” he said.

FRANCE

Mosque construction ordered stopped

MARSEILLE — A French court yesterday ordered construction work on a mosque in the Mediterranean port of Marseille to be suspended in response to legal action by far-right groups.

The court found in favor of the National Front (FN), the Movement for France (MPF) and the National Republican Movement (MNR), who accused the city of granting a veiled subsidy for the mosque’s construction, violating French law on the separation of church and state.

Marseille’s city hall decided in July to break a decades-long deadlock over the future mosque by allocating a plot of land for its construction, on a 99-year lease, for a charge of 300 euros per year.

RUSSIA

U.S. officials to tout missile shield

MOSCOW — The U.S. secretaries of state and defense are expected in Russia in the next few weeks to discuss a planned anti-missile defense system that Moscow sees as a threat, a Kremlin official said yesterday.

Igor Ivanov, secretary of Russia’s Security Council, said Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates is expected Monday and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is likely to visit in May.

Washington wants to deploy a radar system in the Czech Republic and interceptor missiles in Poland as part of the missile shield, which it says is intended to repel any missile launch from rogue states such as Iran or North Korea. Russia says the bases so close to its borders would threaten its security and could undermine global disarmament efforts.

NIGERIA

Opposition parties demand new vote

ABUJA — The main opposition parties joined forces today to demand the annulment of results from state balloting that they branded “sham elections” and called for a postponement of the presidential vote scheduled for this weekend.

A communique signed by 18 parties called on Nigerians to “protest in a non-violent manner” against election results that showed the governing party rolling up huge victories in state governor and legislator races.

The opposition parties, including those of presidential candidates Gen. Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Atiku Abubakar, demanded a “level playing field” for all candidates and threatened to boycott Saturday’s vote setting up Nigeria’s first-ever transfer of power from one civilian leader to another.

MOROCCO

Solution pushed for Western Sahara

NEW YORK — U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will try again later this month to get the Security Council to call for Morocco and Western Sahara’s independence movement to negotiate over the territory, diplomats said yesterday.

The Security Council did not heed a similar call by Mr. Ban’s predecessor, Kofi Annan, six months ago. Earlier in the year, the Algeria-based Polisario independence movement rejected direct talks with Rabat.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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