- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 22, 2009

IRAN

Quick trial eyed for U.S. hikers

BEIRUT | Iran’s foreign minister said Monday that he expects a speedy trial for three American hikers jailed since crossing the border from Iraq in July.

Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki declined to specify what charges the Americans faced, but Iran’s chief prosecutor said last month that the Americans are accused of spying.

“These Americans entered Iran illegally and with aims that arouse suspicions and doubts,” Mr. Mottaki said at a news conference in Beirut on Monday. “We expect appropriate sentences to be issued very soon.”

Josh Fattal, 27, Shane Bauer, 27, and Sarah Shourd, 31, had been trekking in Iraq’s northern Kurdistan region when they accidentally crossed the border, according to their families.

The Americans’ jailing comes amid a standoff over Tehran’s disputed nuclear program.

YEMEN

Two killed in blasts at al Qaeda target

AL-MAAJALA | Two people were killed and nine wounded Monday in two explosions at the site of a suspected al Qaeda training camp in southern Yemen that was hit by an air strike last week.

The explosions went off after a protest by thousands of southern tribesmen demanding an investigation into the attack in the village of al-Maajala.

“The al Qaeda terrorists mined the ground targeted in Thursday’s raid … in the expectation that the security forces would inspect the site as part of their investigation,” Ahmed al-Muyasari told the official SABA news agency.

Thursday’s air raid killed 23 children and 17 women, a local official and tribal sources said. The government said it killed about 30 militants, some of them foreigners.

EGYPT

Barrier built on Gaza border

CAIRO | Egyptian officials confirmed Monday that Egypt is building an underground steel barrier next to its border with Gaza, where Palestinians have built tunnels to smuggle in goods to evade an Israeli blockade.

Government workers have begun placing steel tubes nearly 7 inches in diameter and 20 yards long one above the other, the Egyptian security officials said. It was not clear how deep the barrier would extend.

BRITAIN

Brown promises televised debates

LONDON | British Prime Minister Gordon Brown will take on the leaders of the Conservative and Liberal Democrat opposition in live, televised debates in the run-up to next year’s election, the ruling Labor party said Monday.

Three debates, the first of their kind in British politics, will be broadcast on BBC, Sky and ITV television channels at peak times before an election which must be called by June.

Opinion polls have given Conservative leader David Cameron, regarded as more media-friendly than Mr. Brown, enough of a lead to win a workable majority in Parliament next year, ending 13 years of Labor rule.

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