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LIBYA

Bush in letter seeks better ties

TRIPOLI — President Bush has written to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi calling for better bilateral ties, but added that Libya must adhere to agreements under which it scrapped weapons of mass destruction programs, the White House and Libyan news agencies announced yesterday.

Mr. Bush, in a letter delivered by senior aide Frances Fragos Townsend on a visit to Tripoli, also “noted the importance” of resolving outstanding issues between the United States and Libya, including compensation for U.S. relatives of victims of the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am flight over Scotland.

The United States resumed diplomatic relations with Libya after a 24-year break in June 2004 after Libya announced it was abandoning efforts to build nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.

IRAN

U.S. scholars face new probes

TEHRAN — Iran’s judicial authorities have launched investigations based on fresh evidence in the cases of two Iranian-Americans detained on spying charges, a judiciary spokesman said yesterday.

Haleh Esfandiari, a Middle East analyst at the U.S.-based Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and Ali Tajbakhsh, urban planning consultant with George Soros’ Open Society Institute, are being held on security charges.

The United States has denied the espionage charges and called for the immediate release of the Iranian-Americans.

ISRAEL

Olmert wants talks with Syria

JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in an interview published yesterday called on Syrian President Bashar Assad to reopen direct peace talks between the two countries.

Israel had already appealed to Mr. Assad to open negotiations, but Syria insisted that talks be mediated by the Americans, who are not interested, Mr. Olmert said.

Mr. Assad has also called for the reopening of peace talks with Israel, but Mr. Olmert has rebuffed the offer as a Syrian attempt to win favor with the United States.

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