- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 21, 2008

IRAQ

Top Saddam aide back in court

BAGHDAD — Tariq Aziz, the international face of the regime of hanged Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, was back in the dock yesterday on charges of crimes against humanity.

Mr. Aziz, 72, is on trial along with seven other defendants over the execution in 1992 of 42 Baghdad merchants accused of racketeering while Iraq was under U.N. sanctions.

The former foreign minister and deputy prime minister, who surrendered to American forces in April 2003 shortly after the invasion, said people who had tried to assassinate him in the past were out to finish the job.

Mr. Aziz, the only Christian in Saddam’s inner circle, said he was “proud” to have been a member of the now-disbanded ruling Ba’ath Party, but that he could not be held responsible for the charges against him.

ISRAEL

Olmert faces second grilling

JERUSALEM — Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will be questioned this week for a second time in the latest corruption probe against him, which has stirred calls for his resignation, police said yesterday.

Police are seeking to establish whether Mr. Olmert dispensed any favors in exchange for questionable funds he received from U.S. financier Morris Talansky during the 13 years before he became Israel’s leader in 2006.

Mr. Olmert, 62, was mayor of Jerusalem from 1993 to 2003 and then the Cabinet’s trade and industry minister. State Prosecutor Moshe Lador told the Israeli High Court on Monday that Mr. Olmert received envelopes stuffed with cash from Mr. Talansky.

QATAR

Electoral reform offers more choice

DOHA — Qatar’s appointed consultative council has adopted an electoral law paving the way for two-thirds of its 45 members to be directly elected in a first for the Gulf emirate, according to press reports.

The elections have been in the offing since a new constitution came into force in the emirate in June 2005.

Qatar has held three sets of local elections, in 1999, 2003 and 2007, to a single municipal council that covers the whole emirate. In last year’s vote, a female candidate won a contested election for the first time.

SAUDI ARABIA

Leading reformer back behind bars

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Leading Saudi reformist Matruk al-Faleh, who once served almost 18 months in jail for demanding a constitutional monarchy, has been arrested, his wife said yesterday.

Jamila al-Ukalaa said she was informed by the security services in a telephone call at midnight Monday that her husband had been arrested in Riyadh. She said no reason was given.

Mr. al-Faleh was one of three reformists who spent nearly a year and a half behind bars for demanding a constitutional monarchy before being pardoned by King Abdullah in August 2005.

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