- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 7, 2008

IRAQ

Parliament fails to pass voting law

BAGHDAD | Iraqi lawmakers adjourned for the month Wednesday after failing to agree on a provincial election law, thus casting doubt on whether U.S.-backed balloting can be held in the country’s 18 provinces this year.

The development is a setback to U.S. hopes for reconciliation among rival communities despite the decline in violence.

The decision to go into summer recess came after lawmakers failed to break a deadlock over Kurdish opposition to a power-sharing formula for the northern oil-rich city of Kirkuk despite days of intense negotiations and heavy pressure from U.S. and U.N. officials.

ISRAEL

Olmert offers to free 150 Palestinians

JERUSALEM | Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert pledged to free at least 150 Palestinian prisoners in a meeting Wednesday with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, a gesture meant to energize their sluggish peace talks.

The release could also boost the prestige of the embattled Palestinian leader, whose Fatah movement is engaged in a tense power struggle with the militant Islamic Hamas.

The meeting at Mr. Olmert’s official Jerusalem residence was the first since the Israeli leader announced last week that he would resign next month because of corruption investigations against him.

AFGHANISTAN

Pakistan accused of aiding insurgents

KABUL | Afghanistan’s spy agency asserted Wednesday that a Pakistani consulate official directed and funded terrorist activities carried out by a Taliban commander.

Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security said a diplomat at the consulate in the southern Kandahar province gave “orders and money” to Mullah Rahmatullah, a Taliban militant in the region who was captured by Afghan intelligence agents on Tuesday in Kandahar city.

Afghanistan and reportedly the United States believe Pakistan’s powerful spy service, the Inter-Services Intelligence, orchestrated the July 7 bombing outside the Indian Embassy in Kabul that killed more than 60 people. Pakistan denies the claim.

PAKISTAN

Musharraf delays China trip

ISLAMABAD | Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf delayed a visit to China on Wednesday by a day, the foreign ministry said, as opponents in the coalition government consulted over his possible impeachment.

Mr. Musharraf was to fly Wednesday to attend opening ceremonies for the Beijing Olympics and meet China’s leadership but he put off his departure.

Asif Ali Zardari, the head of the ruling alliance, was meeting with former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to resolve their differences over the issues of Mr. Musharraf’s impeachment and the restoration of Supreme Court judges who were dismissed by the president last November during a brief period of emergency rule.

COLOMBIA

Red Cross objects to misuse of emblem

GENEVA | The International Red Cross said Wednesday that Colombia violated the Geneva Conventions by deliberately using its humanitarian emblem during the covert military mission that freed Ingrid Betancourt and other hostages.

New video footage of the operation contradicts an earlier claim by Colombia’s government that the emblem was a last-minute addition to the daring ruse that rescued 15 hostages from the FARC rebel group last month, the International Committee of the Red Cross said.

Use of the Red Cross symbol in a military operation violates the first Geneva Convention because it could damage the relief group’s neutrality in conflicts, endangering medical personnel on the battlefield who are using the cross for protection.

UNITED NATIONS

Karadzic seeks U.S. witnesses

AMSTERDAM | Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic applied Wednesday to the U.N. war crimes tribunal to summon three former U.S. officials and a former prosecutor to support his claim that he was offered an immunity deal.

Mr. Karadzic, who is charged with genocide and war crimes, petitioned the court to call former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and her envoy, Richard Holbrooke, to testify about an agreement he contends he made in 1996 to quietly leave Bosnian politics and “disappear.”

He also sought to call Richard Goldstone, a former chief war crimes prosecutor, and the U.S. special adviser to the prosecutor, William Stuebner, to testify that the State Department requested to have the indictment against Mr. Karadzic suspended.

Last week, Mr. Holbrooke repeated his denial of Mr. Karadzic’s account, calling “it an invented story” that no one should believe.

ISRAEL

Al Jazeera ‘party’ draws rebuke

JERUSALEM | Israel said Wednesday it would no longer assist Al Jazeera because of what it said was a televised party hosted by the influential Arabic television station for a Lebanese prisoner freed last month.

The head of Israel’s Government Press Office said Al Jazeera would get only minimal services until it provided a “reasonable answer” about a program that featured a birthday party for Samir Qantar, who spent 29 years in an Israeli jail for a 1979 attack in which five Israelis were killed.

During the program, produced and hosted by Al Jazeera, Mr. Qantar uses a scimitar to slice a cake with his picture on it, while fireworks are set off around him and a band plays Arabic music.

THAILAND

Air force helicopter crashes, killing 10

YALA | A Thai military helicopter crashed while transporting officers to a base in the country’s restive south Wednesday, killing all 10 on board, an air force spokesman said.

The cause of the late-morning crash was under investigation but authorities had ruled out the involvement of Islamic separatists in the downing of the chopper. The helicopter was carrying two pilots and two engineers. The rest were search and rescue officers.

The helicopter crashed in Yala province’s Bethong district, near the Malaysian border. Yala is among three Muslim-dominated provinces where an insurgency has raged for four years.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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