- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 17, 2008

BOLIVIA

Rebel governor held in killings

LA PAZ | Soldiers arrested an opposition governor Tuesday on suspicion of directing a massacre of government supporters, as Bolivia’s political crisis prompted the United States to evacuate its Peace Corps volunteers.

Violent protests against President Evo Morales have swept Bolivia’s eastern lowlands, where opposition-controlled provinces are demanding a larger share of the country’s natural gas wealth and trying to block his attempts to direct resources to the long-suffering indigenous majority.

The arrest of Leopoldo Fernandez, governor of the remote Amazonian province of Pando, abruptly ended efforts by the president and opposition leaders to talk about compromises after protesters against Mr. Morales ransacked government offices in Pando and three other eastern provinces last week.

Mr. Morales said Mr. Fernandez was arrested on charges of genocide for purportedly organizing an armed ambush of Morales supporters. At least 15 were killed.

IRAN

IAEA papers hint at missile work

VIENNA, Austria | The U.N. nuclear monitoring agency shared new photos and documents purporting to show that Iran tried to refit its main long-distance missile to carry a nuclear payload, said diplomats who attended the meeting Tuesday.

Responding to the presentation to the 35-nation board of the International Atomic Energy Agency, a senior U.S. envoy said the information was compelling evidence against the Islamic Republic. His Iranian counterpart said the material shown was fabricated.

The presentation relied on photos and documents pertaining to what U.S. intelligence says were Iranian efforts to work on nuclear weapons program up to 2003. After that year, according to a U.S. intelligence estimate, Iran apparently stopped such activity.

IRAQ

U.S. sanctions 5 cited in violence

BAGHDAD | The Bush administration said Tuesday it was imposing economic sanctions on five people accused of supporting violence in Iraq, including an Iranian who purportedly planned one of the most sophisticated attacks against U.S. forces since the war started.

The list released by the Treasury Department includes a Syrian television station that purportedly has been airing Iraqi insurgent propaganda videos as the U.S. steps up pressure on Damascus to clamp down on supplies being funneled to extremists in the neighboring nation.

The Iranian, Abdul-Reza Shahlai, was identified as a deputy commander in the Quds Force, an elite unit of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps that U.S. officials think is supporting Shi’ite extremists in Iraq.

“In one instance, Shahlai planned the January 20, 2007, attack by JAM Special Groups against U.S. soldiers stationed at the Provincial Joint Coordination Center in Karbala, Iraq,” the statement said. JAM is the Arabic acronym for the Mahdi Army militia - one of the most feared groups in Iraq before anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr ordered it to uphold a cease-fire.

SOMALIA

French troops save 2 from pirates

PARIS | France dispatched elite commandos to free two French hostages under cover of night, then called on other nations to join in taking decisive action against Somali pirates disrupting commerce and aiding operations off the East African coast.

French troops wearing night-vision goggles killed one pirate, captured six others and pulled the French Polynesian couple to safety in an overnight operation described by French President Nicolas Sarkozy in a triumphant news conference.

SRI LANKA

Riders escape bus blast

COLOMBO | A bomb blamed on the Tamil Tiger rebels ripped through a passenger bus in the heart of Sri Lanka’s capital Tuesday, but no one was seriously hurt because the conductor saw a suspicious package and evacuated the passengers in time, the military said.

The blast came a day after Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa ruled out negotiations with the rebels, saying the military would soon destroy the rebel group and end the country’s long-running civil war.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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