Cabinet backs Barak as defense minister
JERUSALEM — The Israeli Cabinet yesterday approved the appointment of Ehud Barak as defense minister, capping the political comeback of the former prime minister six years after a humiliating election defeat.
The appointment follows Mr. Barak’s election this week as leader of the dovish Labor Party. The Cabinet ministers approved Mr. Barak’s appointment in a special vote conducted over the telephone, an official said. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert wanted the vote before he heads to the United States today.
7 get jail terms in U.S. bomb plot
LONDON — Seven Britons linked to a plot to blow up U.S. financial institutions, including the New York Stock Exchange, and stage a series of attacks in Britain were jailed for a total of 136 years by a London court yesterday.
Prosecutors said the men were part of a group headed by senior al Qaeda operative Dhiren Barot who is currently serving a life jail term after admitting last year he had planned bomb attacks in Britain and the United States.
President calls referendum on office
ANKARA — Turkey’s secular president called a referendum yesterday on plans backed by the Islamist-rooted government to have his successors as head of state elected directly by the people rather than by parliament.
The move highlights a dangerous power struggle between Turkey’s secular elite, which includes top judges, the army and opposition parties as well as President Ahmet Necdet Sezer, and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party.
Bomber kills children, Dutch soldier
KABUL — Suicide bombers attacked foreign troops in central and southern Afghanistan yesterday, killing five children and a Dutch soldier in a day of renewed bloodshed.
A suicide bomber rammed his car into a convoy of NATO troops in Tirin Kot, capital of the central province of Uruzgan, killing five Afghan children playing nearby, a government official said.
Another foreign soldier, belonging to a U.S.-led coalition force, also died in combat in eastern Paktika province yesterday.
Congress passes gay-rights bill
BOGOTA — Colombia’s Congress approved a bill late Thursday granting same-sex couples rights similar to their straight counterparts, a move seen as the biggest advance for homosexuals in this Roman Catholic country.
The measure, supported by President Alvaro Uribe but opposed by the church, grants same-sex couples living together for more than two years the same social security and estate inheritance guarantees as heterosexuals in common law marriages.
4 soldiers killed in camp fighting
BEIRUT — Lebanese troops raided an Islamist militant position inside a besieged Palestinian refugee camp, sparking a battle that killed at least four soldiers yesterday.
Troops unleashed artillery barrages into the Nahr el-Bared camp on the outskirts of the northern city of Tripoli as they stepped up their four-week assault against Fatah Islam, the al Qaeda-inspired militant group barricaded inside.
From wire dispatches and staff reports