- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 9, 2009

SYRIA

U.S. renews sanctions

The Obama administration said Friday it is renewing economic and diplomatic sanctions on Syria, even as two U.S. envoys are in the Syrian capital exploring prospects for improved relations.

In a letter to Congress, President Obama said he was compelled to renew the penalties, which were first imposed by George W. Bush’s administration four years ago as diplomatic contact dwindled. Washington has not had an ambassador in Damascus since Margaret Scobey was recalled in 2005.

The government of Syria is “supporting terrorism, pursuing weapons of mass destruction and missile programs, and undermining U.S. and international efforts [in] Iraq,” Mr. Obama said in the letter dated Thursday.

State Department spokesman Robert A. Wood said the president is required by law to review the sanctions every year and to renew them or allow them to lapse.

ITALY

U.S. student held in killing of man

ROME | An Italian police investigator said Friday that a visiting American art student has confessed to killing a man in Florence.

Lead investigator Filippo Ferri said 24-year-old Jonathan Robert Hindenach, of Charlotte, Mich., suffered from some psychological problems and had consumed drugs and alcohol before the killing early Thursday. He was detained near the storefront where police discovered the body of 62-year-old Riccardo Nistri.

Mr. Hindenach, an art major at Olivet College in Olivet, Mich., was on a 16-day college-sponsored trip to Italy for an art class, the school said.

MYANMAR

American sneaks into Suu Kyi home

YANGON | The U.S. Embassy said Friday that the Myanmar government has ignored its repeated requests for access to an American arrested for purportedly swimming to the lakeside home of detained Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and sneaking inside.

The embassy said so far the only information the military-ruled government has offered is the man’s name - John William Yettaw - and his passport number. A state-controlled newspaper reported that the American stayed for two nights until he was caught by authorities on Wednesday morning, swimming away.

Mrs. Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest for 13 of the past 19 years, is rarely allowed visitors by Myanmar’s ruling junta. Her home is tightly guarded.

IRAN

Ahmadinejad enters race

TEHRAN | Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Friday officially declared his candidacy for a second term in an election that is expected to pit him against a moderate former prime minister.

The hard-line president registered as a candidate in the June 12 vote at the Interior Ministry in Tehran. Moderate former Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mousavi, who is widely seen as Mr. Ahmadinejad’s main challenger, is expected to register Saturday.

CROATIA

Lawmaker convicted of war crimes

ZAGREB | A Croatian court convicted an opposition lawmaker of war crimes Friday, but he vowed in a video statement to avoid imprisonment.

Branimir Glavas is Croatia’s first senior politician to be held responsible for atrocities committed during the 1991 Serbo-Croat war. As a legislator, however, he has parliamentary immunity, and was not required to attend court proceedings.

The Zagrab court sentenced him Friday to 10 years, and asked parliament to lift his immunity so he could be arrested to serve his time in prison.

LEBANON

5 held, accused of spying for Israel

BEIRUT | Authorities arrested five people in southern Lebanon on Friday for purportedly spying for Israel as part of the two countries’ long-running espionage battle, security officials said.

At least seven others accused of spying have been arrested in recent weeks in what appears to be part of a stepped-up campaign against those suspected of gathering information on Hezbollah militants for Israel. The Iranian-backed Hezbollah guerrilla group fought a 34-day war with the Jewish state in 2006 that killed 1,200 people in Lebanon and 159 in Israel.

SUDAN

Carjackers kill Darfur peacekeeper

KHARTOUM | Carjackers fatally shot an international peacekeeper at the gate of his residence in Sudan’s Darfur region, the UNAMID peacekeeping force said Friday, describing the attack as a “war crime.”

The military observer, who died Thursday evening, was the second peacekeeper to be killed in Darfur since the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Sudan’s President Omar Bashir on March 4 on charges of masterminding violence in the western region.

HONG KONG

Tourists leave quarantined hotel

HONG KONG | Authorities in Hong Kong released some 280 people from a weeklong quarantine at an upscale hotel late Friday, with guests towing suitcases and beaming after the lockdown imposed after Asia’s first swine flu case was traced there.

Authorities in the Chinese territory imposed the quarantine on all guests and employees at the Metropark Hotel in the downtown Wanchai district last week after it was discovered that the 25-year-old Mexican swine flu carrier had stayed there. The Mexican was also released from a Hong Kong hospital Friday after a weeklong stay.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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