U.S. to seek more Arab backing
STOCKHOLM - The United States will prod Arab states to offer more support to the Iraqi government at a conference in Sweden this week as a way of countering the growing influence of non-Arab Iran in neighboring Iraq.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki will chair the conference on Thursday, aimed at assessing progress in implementing a plan adopted at a meeting in Egypt last year to help Iraq rebuild after five years of war.
Analysts are watching for any contacts between U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her Iranian counterpart, Manouchehr Mottaki, who will be attending the meeting, though U.S. officials say none is scheduled in Stockholm.
Washington accuses Tehran of trying to destabilize the Shi’ite-led Iraqi government by training and arming local militias, a charge Iran denies.
Olmert denies offer to Syria
JERUSALEM - Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said yesterday that Israel had made no commitment to Syria to pull out of the Golan Heights in indirect talks that began last year under Turkish auspices.
Israel and Syria announced last Wednesday they had begun indirect talks in Turkey, their first negotiations in eight years.
Syria has demanded the return of the Golan Heights, a plateau overlooking Damascus on one side and the Sea of Galilee on the other. Israel captured the territory in a 1967 war, annexing it in 1981 in a move not recognized internationally.
Tamil rebels cited in train bombing
COLOMBO - At least eight people were killed and scores more wounded yesterday in the bombing of a packed commuter train by suspected Tamil rebels in the suburbs of the Sri Lankan capital, officials said.
Hospital officials said eight bodies had been recovered, among them five women, and that more than 72 people were being treated, mostly for burns.