- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 3, 2007

IRAN

Diplomats tour nuclear facility

ISFAHAN — Iran yesterday opened the gates to a key uranium conversion facility to visiting diplomats and journalists in an effort to show that its disputed nuclear program is peaceful and not a cover for nuclear bomb making.

The visit to the Isfahan plant in central Iran was the first such tour since Iran resumed uranium conversion in August 2005.

The U.N. Security Council slapped economic sanctions on Iran on Dec. 23 over the country’s refusal to halt the program.

The diplomats visiting the plant came from Sudan, Cuba, Egypt, Malaysia and Algeria. On Friday, Iran blocked U.N. nuclear inspectors from installing cameras at another key nuclear site, Nantaz.

AFGHANISTAN

Villagers flee, fearing NATO attack

KABUL — Hundreds of villagers fled a southern Afghan town yesterday overrun by Taliban militants, fearful of a NATO attack on the insurgent fighters who have hoisted their signature white flag over the town’s ransacked government center, residents said.

Gen. David Richards, NATO’s outgoing commander, said “very surgical and deliberate” force would be used to evict the fighters from the town of Musa Qala, where he said the alliance’s strategy of avoiding military action has driven a wedge between residents and Taliban insurgents.

Col. Tom Collins, a spokesman for NATO’s International Security Assistance Force, said yesterday no NATO forces were in Musa Qala, which they left in October after a peace agreement was signed between the government and village elders. But he added that it was “only a matter of time” before the Afghan government re-established control.

SOMALIA

Islamic leader fears peacekeepers

NAIROBI, Kenya — One of Somalia’s top Islamic leaders warned yesterday that the deployment of a foreign peacekeeping force will only fuel growing insecurity in the anarchic country.

Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed told the Associated Press in a rare interview since being taken into Kenyan protective custody last month that he wanted talks with the interim government to help foster peace in Somalia.

“Peacekeepers could not bring peace in Somalia,” he said. “Their deployment will add to the already difficult security situation in the country. Only Somalis can bring peace if they are given the chance to do so.”

Sheik Ahmed, who was seen as a moderate within the Islamic movement that was ousted by Somalia’s government with the help of Ethiopian military forces earlier this year, spoke by telephone from an undisclosed location in Kenya, where he sought sanctuary.

CHINA

Communists keep control of courts

BEIJING — The Communist Party must safeguard its control of China’s courts to combat enemy forces that want to “Westernize” the country, a party leader said in comments published last week.

His remarks highlighted the clash between the party’s desire to maintain control and its promises to create an independent court system in a society where officials traditionally have unchecked power.

The party “must defend against infiltration and sabotage activities that threaten state security,” Luo Gan, a member of the party’s ruling nine-man Standing Committee, said in a speech reprinted in the party magazine Seeking Truth.

China’s courts have undergone sweeping changes in recent years as the party expanded their role in settling commercial and social disputes and promised to use them to promote human rights.

But judges still submit important rulings for approval by ruling party officials before they are issued.

From wire dispatches and staff reports.

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