- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 24, 2009

PAKISTAN

Taliban says rebels head to Afghan war

SHAKTOI | A top Pakistani Taliban commander told the Associated Press that he has sent thousands of fighters to neighboring Afghanistan to counter the influx of new American troops.

The claim from Pakistani Taliban deputy chief Waliur Rehman’s could be an attempt to exacerbate tension between the U.S. and Pakistan, as President Obama presses Islamabad to prevent militants from staging cross-border attacks on coalition troops in Afghanistan.

“Since Obama is also sending additional forces to Afghanistan, we sent thousands of our men there to fight NATO and American forces,” Mr. Rehman told AP in a face-to-face interview Monday night in Shaktoi, South Waziristan, part of Pakistan’s semiautonomous tribal area near the Afghan border.

AFGHANISTAN

Lawmaker killed by police in error

KABUL | A member of the Afghan parliament was mistakenly killed in an early morning shootout between his bodyguards and police officers, officials said Wednesday.

Mohammad Yunos Shirnagha, a lawmaker from northern Baghlan province, was killed as he returned home about 2:30 a.m. Wednesday, said provincial police chief Gen. Kabir Andarabi.

CHINA

Diplomats shut out of dissident’s trial

BEIJING | A high-profile Chinese dissident accused of subversion was tried at a two-hour hearing Wednesday that shut out foreign diplomats concerned about a case that reflects the communist government’s deep suspicion of calls for political reform.

Liu Xiaobo was detained a year ago, just before the release of an unusually direct appeal for more civil rights in China he co-authored called Charter 08, signed by scores of China’s top intellectuals. He faces up to 15 years in jail. The verdict is due Friday.

Mr. Liu, 53, a literary critic and former professor, spent 20 months in jail for joining the 1989 protests in Tiananmen Square that were crushed in a military crackdown.

VATICAN CITY

Jews reassured on Pius sainthood

VATICAN CITY | The Vatican sought Wednesday to quell its latest public dispute with Jewish groups, saying the pope’s decision to move Pope Pius XII closer to sainthood isn’t an act of hostility against those who say he failed to sufficiently denounce the Holocaust.

In what has now become a routine effort at fence-mending, the Vatican issued a statement saying the German-born Benedict XVI feels great respect for and friendship toward Jews - a sentiment he hopes to reinforce during his first visit to Rome’s synagogue next month.

Benedict sparked renewed outrage among some Jewish groups Saturday by signing a decree on Pius’ heroic virtues, paving the way for him to be beatified once a miracle attributed to his intercession is confirmed.

RUSSIA

Patriarch urges acceptance of gays

MOSCOW | The head of the Russian Orthodox Church said Wednesday that although the church views homosexuality as a sin, gays should not face discrimination.

Patriarch Kirill said “those who sin” must not be punished and therefore the church opposes any discrimination. Same-sex unions, however, should not be considered equal to heterosexual marriages, he said.

“We accept all the choices a person makes - in terms of their sexuality as well,” the patriarch said in comments carried by the state RIA Novosti news agency. Opposition to gay rights remains widespread in Russia, where homosexuality was decriminalized only in 1993.

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