- The Washington Times - Friday, September 12, 2008

SRI LANKA

Second blast hits railroad tracks

COLOMBO | An explosion struck a railroad track near the capital Thursday for the second time in two days but caused no injuries and only minor damage, the military said. The blast hit the rail line near Kelaniya, about six miles north of Colombo.

On Wednesday night, a small explosion hit a section of rail line in Mount Lavinia south of the capital but caused no damage or injuries. Authorities said Thursday they were still investigating.

The rebel Tamil Tigers have repeatedly set off bombs in Colombo in their 25-year fight against the government for a separate homeland for the ethnic-minority Tamil people.

Officials said it was too early to assign blame for Thursday’s explosion. Police said a blast that wounded nine in Colombo on Monday was the work of criminals.

THAILAND

Party picks Samak again

BANGKOK | Thailand’s Samak Sundaravej accepted his party’s nomination Thursday to return as prime minister, the official party spokesman said, resuming a collision course with protesters bent on stopping him.

“The party chief declared his determination at the meeting to return to work for the country again,” chief spokesman Kudeb Saikrachang told reporters after Mr. Samak met officials at the headquarters of his ruling People Power Party.

He said the party and its coalition partners would re-elect Mr. Samak as prime minister on Friday, two days after a court removed him from office after finding him guilty of a conflict of interest for hosting a television cooking show.

The People’s Alliance for Democracy, whose supporters are occupying the seat of national government in Bangkok, said it would not accept Mr. Samak, who also faced opposition from within his own party ahead of Friday’s parliamentary vote.

A spokesman for a ruling party faction said Mr. Samak’s return would exacerbate weeks of political tension and damage the party.

LAOS

Ex-President Nouhak dies at 98

BANGKOK | Nouhak Phoumsavanh, a former president of Laos and a founding member of its ruling communist party, has died, the state news agency reported Thursday. He was 98.

Mr. Nouhak died Tuesday after an illness, the KPL news agency said. It said his death would be marked by a five-day national mourning period.

Mr. Nouhak was considered to be the No. 2 figure in the ruling Lao People’s Revolutionary Party from the late 1950s into the 1990s. He served as the country’s president from 1992 to 1998.

BANGLADESH

Ex-prime minister released on bail

DHAKA | Bangladesh’s army-backed interim government freed former Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia on bail Thursday after a year in prison on graft charges, paving the way for a credible election to restore democracy.

Mrs. Zia was arrested Sept. 3, 2007, in an anti-corruption drive by the interim authority, but the high court granted her bail Tuesday on the last of four charges she faced.

Analysts said the release of Mrs. Zia and her rival, former Prime Minister Sheik Hasina Wazed, who is now on parole, was important to ensure their parties took part in a parliamentary election planned for December that would be fair and peaceful.

Thousands of supporters and party officials greeted Mrs. Zia, 63, after she left the jail and drove to the graveside of her slain husband, former President Ziaur Rahman.

She then went to a city hospital to visit her ailing son and political heir Tareque Rahman, and announced he had resigned from his top party post.

Mr. Rahman, the most influential young leader during his mother’s rule, left Thursday night for London with his wife and daughter for treatment of what his doctors said is a broken spine.

MONGOLIA

Parliament OKs prime minister

ULAN BATOR | Mongolia laid to rest more than two months of political turmoil Thursday when parliament approved Sanjaagiin Bayar as prime minister, potentially paving the way for lucrative mining deals.

Mr. Bayar, a former journalist, is the head of the ex-communist Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party (MPRP), which emerged victorious in disputed elections held in June.

The party’s coalition government with the Democratic Party has the required support in parliament, Mr. Bayar said in an address to the Great Hural legislature.

The MPRP holds a narrow majority with 42 of the 76 seats in the parliament, according to state news agency Montsame. The opposition Democrats hold 25, while the tiny Civil Will party holds one seat and an independent candidate another one.

This means the fate of six seats are undecided as the General Election Committee continues to investigate results in disputed constituencies. The disputes sparked riots in the capital on July 1 that left five dead and hundreds wounded.

Mr. Bayar, 52, ended the deadlock by agreeing to allow some Democrats into his Cabinet. It is widely expected the newly elected opposition leader Norovyn Altankhuyag will serve as deputy prime minister.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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