- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 12, 2008

IRAQ

Jordan’s king visits Baghdad

BAGHDAD | Jordan’s King Abdullah II held talks Monday with Iraq’s prime minister after coming to Baghdad on an unannounced visit, the first by an Arab head of state since the U.S.-led invasion toppled dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003.

An Iraqi government statement said King Abdullah had “frank and positive talks” with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on relations between the two countries. Mr. al-Maliki told the king that Iraq wanted to improve relations with all Arab countries.

Ties between the two neighboring countries had been strained since the fall of Saddam because of Jordanian fears that Iraq’s Shi’ite-led government was too friendly with Shi’ite-dominated Iran.

Mr. al-Maliki visited Jordan in June for the first time in nearly two years.

Monday’s visit had not been announced. An earlier trip set for last month was canceled because Jordanian officials did not want any advance publicity. Iraqi officials said that the visit lasted only four hours and that the king left ahead of the announcement.

NORTH KOREA

U.S. delays action on terrorist label

The United States said Monday that it would not remove North Korea from a terror blacklist until Kim Jong-il’s government has agreed to a plan to allow international inspectors to verify an accounting of its nuclear programs.

Monday was the soonest that the United States could have taken North Korea off the state sponsor of terror list, which Washington said it would do in exchange for Pyongyang’s disclosure of its nuclear programs in June. State Department spokesman Robert Wood told reporters that the North, which exploded a nuclear device in 2006, would not receive the concession until there was a “strong verification regime” in place.

The North views its presence on the State Department list - which includes Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria - as evidence of U.S. hostility. It will prove difficult for the five nations pushing North Korea to abandon its atomic weapons to reach a disarmament agreement unless it is removed from the blacklist.

PHILIPPINES

Troops wrest villages from rebels

MANILA | Philippine troops, backed by helicopter gunships, regained control of two southern villages from Muslim rebels on Monday and pressed ahead with a massive assault to clear 13 others, officials said.

At least one soldier and seven Moro Islamic Liberation Front guerrillas have been killed since nearly 3,000 troops and police launched the attacks on Sunday. The assault, backed by artillery and rocket-firing helicopters, came after the guerrillas defied an ultimatum to withdraw from five towns in North Cotabato province, military vice chief of staff Lt. Gen. Cardozo Luna said.

The fighting has forced about 130,000 villagers to flee their homes.

MAURITANIA

Coup leaders free prime minister

NOUAKCHOTT | Mauritania’s prime minister was released Monday as junta leaders bowed to international pressure after a coup that prompted the U.S. to cut off more than $20 million in aid.

But the junta was still holding the country’s president and said it had no immediate plans to release him, indicating that although the military is willing to make some conciliatory gestures, power remains firmly in their hands.

Monday’s announcement said the army-led “state council” had freed Prime Minister Yahya Ould Ahmed Waqef and three other key allies of President Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi.

TURKEY

Roadside bomb kills 9 soldiers

ANKARA | A roadside bomb exploded in eastern Turkey on Monday, killing nine soldiers who were on their way back from an operation against Kurdish rebels, an official said. Two other soldiers were wounded.

There was no claim of responsibility, Erzincan provincial Gov. Ali Gungor said, but the blast occurred in an area where Kurdish rebels are fighting Turkish soldiers and often use roadside bombs in their attacks.

The Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, has been fighting for self-rule in southeastern Turkey since 1984. The fighting has killed tens of thousands of people.

BELARUS

American gets to 3 years jail

MINSK | A court in Belarus jailed a U.S. lawyer for three years on Monday on convictions of industrial espionage and carrying forged documents.

The trial of New York-based Emmanuel Zeltser, a specialist in Russian law and organized crime, was held behind closed doors.

Mr. Zeltser’s secretary, Vladlena Bruskova, was jailed for a year.

The U.S. State Department has repeatedly expressed concern about his arrest and sought his release on grounds of ill health.

Mr. Zeltser was detained in March on his arrival in Belarus, where he was to represent the interests of Josef Kay, a relative of the late Georgian businessman Badri Patarkatsishvili.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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