- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 18, 2008

THAILAND

Ousted leader’s kin elected premier

BANGKOK | A brother-in-law of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was elected prime minister by parliament Wednesday but faced immediate opposition from protesters who vowed to force him from office.

Somchai Wongsawat, 61, called for reconciliation with the protesters who have occupied the prime minister’s offices for the last three weeks in a bid to topple the government.

His predecessor, Samak Sundaravej, was removed from the post last week by a court that found he was illegally paid for hosting TV cooking shows.

Mr. Somchai, who is married to Mr. Thaksin’s politically powerful sister, will not take office until he is endorsed by King Bhumibol Adulyadej, a process that could take several days.

The parliamentary vote came almost exactly two years after Mr. Thaksin was toppled by the military following months of rallies by the same anti-government activists, known as the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD).

PAD quickly vowed to press ahead with its campaign to force Mr. Somchai and his entire People Power Party (PPP) out of government, with the ultimate goal of curtailing democracy in Thailand.

GERMANY

Americans charged with murder in Iraq

FRANKFURT | The U.S. Army has charged three soldiers with murder for their role in the killing of Iraqis last year.

Authorities say the Iraqi men were blindfolded, shot in the head and dumped in a Baghdad canal around April 2007 in purported retribution for casualties suffered by the 172nd Infantry Brigade.

The Army said in a statement released Wednesday that Sgt. John Hatley, Sgt. 1st Class Joseph P. Mayo and Sgt. Michael P. Leahy Jr. — all formerly assigned to 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment — face charges of premeditated murder, conspiracy to commit premeditated murder and obstruction of justice.

MALAYSIA

Prime minister eyes early resignation

KUALA LUMPUR | Facing a resurgent opposition and fresh defections from his ruling coalition, Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said Wednesday he may relinquish power earlier than planned.

In new setback for Mr. Abdullah, a small party announced Wednesday it was leaving the ruling coalition because of dissatisfaction with his leadership.

Mr. Abdullah, meanwhile, ceded control of the Finance Ministry to Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak, and said he was taking over the less crucial Defense Ministry from Mr. Najib.

“I will not be staying [longer] than 2010 naturally. If I should want to go earlier, that is [possible]. That is a flexibility that we have arranged,” Mr. Abdullah said during a news conference.

But Mr. Abdullah said he still intends to defend his post as the ruling party’s leader in a December ballot. Mr. Najib appeared to endorse that stand.

The announcement is apparently aimed at appeasing dissidents who have demanded Mr. Abdullah’s early resignation after he led the ruling National Front coalition to its worst election results in its 51 years. It has been in power since Malaysia gained independence from Britain in 1957.

INDIA

Bombings blamed on Indian militants

NEW DELHI | India must revamp its intelligence agencies to deal with a new threat from homegrown militants, the prime minister said Wednesday, a rare acknowledgment that Indians - and not foreign Islamic groups - may have carried out a series of recent bombings.

India has routinely blamed Pakistani or Bangladesh-based militant groups for dozens of attacks in the last three years. But increasingly, evidence has pointed to the involvement of Indian Muslims, raising difficult questions for the government about growing anger among India’s large Muslim minority.

Speaking for the first time since the serial blasts that killed 21 and wounded about 100 more in New Delhi on Saturday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said local Muslims posed the biggest threat.

Mr. Singh did not address the reasons for the rise of militancy among India’s Muslims, who account for about 14 percent of this country of some 1.1 billion people and lag far behind the Hindu majority in almost every social indicator, from household income to literacy.

A group calling itself the Indian Mujahideen has claimed responsibility for the New Delhi attacks.

BULGARIA

Leaders trapped in stalled ski lift

SOFIA | Bulgaria’s prime minister and other government officials were trapped for about an hour Wednesday when cable cars malfunctioned during the inauguration of a new ski resort, state radio said.

No one was hurt, but the officials were stuck in the packed gondolas about 100 feet above the ground before being rescued by emergency services, Bulgarian National Radio reported. State radio said the cause appeared to be a power failure.

A BNR reporter who was covering the inauguration said that when the power went off the gondolas slid slowly backward, colliding with each other.

It wasn’t immediately clear if the victims were rescued from the gondolas or the power was restored to bring them back down.

An official at Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev’s office declined to comment on the mishap.

BROWN

Deadly IRA bombing to be revisited

LONDON | Prime Minister Gordon Brown on Wednesday ordered a review of Northern Ireland’s deadliest bombing, following a media report that British spies were tapping the bombers’ phones before the 1998 attack.

The Cabinet Office said Mr. Brown had authorized an investigation into whether Britain’s electronic eavesdropping agency was monitoring the mobile phones of senior Irish Republican Army dissidents on the day they car-bombed the crowded Northern Ireland market town of Omagh.

A splinter group opposed to Northern Ireland’s peace process, the Real IRA, claimed responsibility for the Aug. 15 attack, which killed 29 people, including three generations of one family, more than a dozen children and two Spanish tourists.

Anti-terrorist police claim they know the identities of those responsible, but nobody has been successfully prosecuted.

The British Broadcasting Corp. reported Sunday that the Government Communications Headquarters eavesdropping agency recorded the bombers’ calls as they drove two cars - one loaded with 500 pounds of explosives, the other acting as a scout - from the Republic of Ireland into Omagh.

From wire dispatches and news reports

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