- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 31, 2008

IRAQ

Special session called on vote law

BAGHDAD | Iraq’s parliament speaker on Wednesday called a special session to try to resolve a bitter row over a provincial elections law that has triggered several days of street protests by Kurds.

Mahmoud al-Mashhadani said the session would be held Sunday. Parliament went into summer recess Wednesday, but the electoral commission needs the law in place before it can complete preparations for the elections.

The election is expected later this year or early in 2009.

Parliament passed the law last week but Kurdish lawmakers boycotted the session. President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, then rejected the law as unconstitutional and sent it back.

The row is over voting in Kirkuk, a northern city that is disputed between Kurds, Arabs and ethnic Turkmen. The law would have delayed voting in Kirkuk, assigned fixed seat allocations to each ethnic group and replaced Kurdish Peshmerga security forces in the city with troops from other parts of Iraq, all measures Kurdish parliamentarians rejected.

PARAGUAY

Pope lets president quit as bishop

ASUNCION | Paraguay’s president-elect has received unprecedented permission from the pope to resign as bishop, the papal nuncio said Wednesday, ending a dispute over Fernando Lugo’s priestly status.

Church officials earlier insisted that Mr. Lugo, 57, would always be a bishop under church law.

Mr. Lugo also made history with April’s presidential election victory, which ended the 61-year rule of the Colorado Party in Paraguay. The former “bishop of the poor” takes office on Aug. 15.

Mr. Lugo resigned as bishop of San Pedro in 2004 and said he had resigned from the status of bishop itself in 2006, when he decided to run for president. That alarmed church leaders who said it violated papal rules against priestly involvement in politics.

BRITAIN

Military hacker to face U.S. trial

LONDON | A British computer expert lost his appeal Wednesday against extradition to the United States where he is accused of “the biggest military hack of all time” and could face up to 70 years in prison.

Gary McKinnon was arrested in 2002 after U.S. prosecutors charged him with illegally accessing computers, including the Pentagon, U.S. Army, Navy and NASA systems, and causing $700,000 worth of damage.

Using his own computer at home in London, Mr. McKinnon hacked into 97 computers belonging to and used by the U.S. government between February 2001 and March 2002. If found guilty in the United States, Mr. McKinnon could face up to 70 years in prison and fines of up to $1.75 million.

GERMANY

Smoking ban partially overturned

BERLIN | Germany’s highest court partially overturned bans on smoking in bars Wednesday, ruling that states must either ban smoking in all restaurants and pubs or offer exceptions for single-room establishments.

Smoking laws in German bars are set individually by each of the 16 states. A patchwork of legislation has taken effect across the country over the past year.

Most states allow larger establishments to cordon off separate rooms for their smoking patrons. But the Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe ruled that practice is unconstitutional, because it discriminates against smaller establishments.

The court was ruling on appeals brought by owners of one-room pubs in two states, Berlin and southwestern Baden-Wuerttemberg, but the court ordered all states to review their laws.

It gave state parliaments until the end of 2009 either to ban smoking entirely or to create new exceptions for one-room bars.

BELARUS

U.S. lawyer faces trial for spying

MINSK | A U.S. lawyer went on trial behind closed doors in Belarus on Wednesday charged with carrying forged documents, drug offenses and industrial espionage - offenses that could carry up to seven years in prison.

Emmanuel Zeltser, a New York-based specialist in Russian law and organized crime, was arrested in March at the height of a diplomatic row between ex-Soviet Belarus and the United States.

He was initially charged with using forged documents, and the other accusations were added subsequently. Also standing trial on the documents charge was Mr. Zeltser’s secretary, Vladlena Funk.

Belarus, accused by Western countries of repressing basic human rights, asked the U.S. ambassador to leave in March following U.S. sanctions against its oil producer, Belneftekhim.

WEST BANK

Rights report faults both Hamas, Fatah

JERUSALEM | Palestinian security forces loyal to Hamas and Fatah have both carried out serious human rights abuses over the past year, including arbitrary arrests and torture, according to a report on the bitter power struggle.

Human Rights Watch, in the report released Wednesday, cited a pattern of politically motivated arrests, mock executions and severe beatings in detention centers run by Hamas Islamists in the Gaza Strip and President Mahmoud Abbas’ secular Fatah faction in the West Bank.

It faulted the United States and other donors, who have bankrolled Mr. Abbas’ Palestinian Authority and Fatah-dominated security forces, for “not paying adequate attention to the systematic abuses by those forces.”

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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