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Assad makes peace plea

DAMASCUS — Syrian President Bashar al-Assad called on Israel to respond to peace overtures from Damascus after he was sworn in for a second seven-year term yesterday.

The 41-year-old leader, who secured 97 percent of the vote in a May referendum in which he was the only candidate, also vowed to pursue economic reform and to crack down on corruption he said had spread to the highest levels.

Mr. Assad was seen as a reformer when he took office on the death of his father Hafez al-Assad in 2000, but he is now under U.S. pressure about Syria’s purported role in the Lebanon and Iraq crises and a crackdown on political opponents.


Torture kit found at police station

CAIRO — Egyptian officials have found implements of torture including a whip, clubs and a barbed wire-studded stick at a police station in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, a security source said yesterday.

An investigating team found that 40 persons had been kept in custody “illegally” at the Montaza police station, after receiving complaints from the families of those detained, the source told Agence France-Presse.

The prosecutor promptly ordered the release of the detainees, confiscated the torture equipment and began an inquiry into the matter, calling the police officers in charge in for questioning, the source said.

In a statement, nine Egyptian rights organizations condemned the detentions and called on authorities to announce the results of the probe at Montaza and begin inquiries into all violations in other Egyptian police stations.

In January, the London-based rights watchdog Amnesty International called on the Egyptian government to investigate all torture claims, after a series of videos of purported torture in police stations were leaked on the Internet.

From wire dispatches and staff reports