- The Washington Times - Friday, January 4, 2008

IRAQ

Al-Sadr makes overture to rival

BAGHDAD — Representatives of radical Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr met yesterday with officials from his chief rival’s party in an effort to cement a tenuous peace agreement the two signed in October after violent clashes between their followers.

It was at least the second formal overture Sheik al-Sadr has made to Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim and his Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, the largest Shi’ite political party, in less than a week.

Peace between the two — who each control powerful militias — is seen as key to preventing the outbreak of widespread fighting in oil-rich southern Iraq.

The U.S. military, meanwhile, announced the deaths of three of its soldiers.

NORTH KOREA

Nuke delay natural, China says

BEIJING — China, host of six-party talks aimed at reining in North Korea’s nuclear program, yesterday described North Korea’s failure to meet a deadline to account for its nuclear activities as a natural delay.

North Korea failed to meet a year-end deadline to make a full declaration of its nuclear programs under a disarmament-for-aid deal involving the two Koreas, the United States, Japan, Russia and China.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the United States was eager to see North Korea’s declaration but added that Pyongyang should “not sacrifice completeness and accuracy for speed.”

RUSSIA

Britain warned over cultural agency

MOSCOW — Russia warned Britain yesterday that reopening two offices of a British cultural organization would inflame already tense relations between the countries.

Last month, Russia ordered offices of the British Council in St. Petersburg and Yekaterinburg to close as of Jan. 1. The offices are closed for Russia’s winter holidays, but British officials say they will defy the order and resume operations on Jan. 14.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin said Russia expects the operations to be permanently closed and “any other actions would be provocative and build up bilateral tensions.”

The order against the British Council was issued during high tensions stemming from the 2006 poisoning of former KGB officer and Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko in London.

AFGHANISTAN

Suicide bomb targets road crew; 7 dead

KANDAHAR — A suicide bomber attacked Indian road construction workers and their Afghan police escorts yesterday in southwestern Afghanistan, killing seven and wounding 12.

The convoy had been traveling on a main road toward the city of Khash Rod in Nimroz province when it was hit by a remote-controlled bomb that was planted on a motorcycle, wounding one policeman, said Nimroz Gov. Ghulam Dastagir Azad.

The convoy stopped after the first explosion, and a suicide bomber set off a second attack, killing six policemen and an Indian worker.

TURKEY

Parliament expands smoking ban

ANKARA — Parliament approved legislation yesterday extending a smoking ban in this tobacco-growing nation to all bars, restaurants and coffeehouses by next year.

The new law — backed by the Islamic-rooted government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan — will prohibit smoking in all enclosed public areas next year.

Turkey already bans smoking on buses, airplanes and large offices, and within four months, it will be prohibited on taxis, ferries, trains and some open-air locations such as stadiums and playgrounds.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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