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World Scene

- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 10, 2008

ECUADOR

Military leaders quit in protest

QUITO — Ecuador's top four military commanders resigned yesterday to protest President Rafael Correa's criticism of their performance and his charges Washington influenced his intelligence agencies.

Tensions have simmered between Mr. Correa and the armed forces since the left-wing reformer criticized their handling of a crisis last month after Colombian military forces killed a top rebel hiding in a camp across the frontier inside Ecuador.

Mr. Correa earlier fired Defense Minister Wellington Sandoval and appointed in his place Javier Ponce, a close personal aide, the defense ministry said.

The country's top four officers include the chief of staff and the commanders of the army, navy and air force.

BRITAIN

Court stops extradition

LONDON — A preacher accused of having ties with al Qaeda and militant groups should not be extradited from Britain to his native Jordan, a court ruled yesterday on the grounds that evidence obtained by torture might be used against him there.

The government said Abu Qatada, who has been jailed in Britain since 2002, would remain in prison while it appealed the ruling.

The Court of Appeal told the government to stop extradition proceedings against Abu Qatada and also said two Libyan terrorist suspects should not be deported because they face the threat of torture.

The rulings are a major blow to government plans to send foreign-born terrorist suspects back to their homelands.

COLOMBIA

Mission to save Betancourt fails

BOGOTA — Colombia's most famous hostage, Ingrid Betancourt, faces more time chained in a jungle prison while suffering from illness after France abandoned a multinational mission in the face of a snub from leftist rebels.

A delegation that tried to meet with Mrs. Betancourt and her rebel captors flew out of Colombia in a French government jet. The rebels said in a statement posted Tuesday on the Internet that they would no longer unilaterally free captives.

EGYPT

Pro-democracy activist arrested

CAIRO — A key leader of Egypt's main pro-democracy group was arrested last night during a raid on his home in Cairo, police and group officials said.

George Ishaq, director-general of Kifaya, was taken away by security officers who stormed the home around 8 p.m., one of the group's founders, Abdel-Halim Qandil, told the Associated Press. He said more than 50 members of the movement had been arrested this week.

Meanwhile, an Egyptian court convicted five men yesterday on charges of homosexual behavior and sentenced them to three years in prison, officials said.

BURMA

Referendum set for May 10

RANGOON — Burma's military government has scheduled a referendum on an army-drafted constitution for May 10, state television said yesterday.

Copies of the charter — which Western governments have dismissed as a sham to entrench more than four decades of military rule — would go on sale immediately, the announcement also said.

The constitution is a key step in the junta's seven-point "road map to democracy" meant to culminate in multi-party elections in 2010.

From wire dispatches and staff reports