- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 1, 2010

IRAN

China agrees to start work on sanctions

UNITED NATIONS | Six world powers, including China, agreed Wednesday to start drawing up new sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program in the next few days, diplomatic sources with knowledge of the talks said.

The diplomats said that senior foreign ministry officials from Britain, the United States, France, Russia and Germany had reached an agreement with China during a conference call.

The Western powers in the group hope to organize a meeting of the six at the ambassadorial level in New York in the coming days to get the process of drafting a sanctions resolution going, several diplomats said.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters in Washington that Wednesday’s six-power call was “the latest in a series of ongoing consultations” on Iran. He declined to provide details on the conversation.

Diplomats say China has been slowly and reluctantly falling in line with the other powers involved in the negotiations on Iran by backing the idea of new U.N. sanctions against Tehran, though Beijing, like Moscow, wants any new steps to be weak.

Meanwhile, Iran’s nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili was heading to Beijing and will discuss Tehran’s atomic program with high-ranking Chinese officials Thursday, Iran’s official Islamic Republic News Agency reported Wednesday.

BAHRAIN

U.S. Navy plane crashes, 1 missing

MANAMA | A U.S. Navy aircraft crashed in the Persian Gulf region on Wednesday and one of the four crew members was missing, the military said.

Search and rescue efforts were under way, the Navy said. Three crew members were rescued.

The E-2C Hawkeye, which is primarily used to detect incoming aircraft with its 24-foot diameter radar, crashed in the North Arabian Sea after it “experienced mechanical malfunctions,” the Navy said.

The plane was used for command and control functions and operated from the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Helping in the search for the missing crew member were the Eisenhower and several of its aircraft, helicopters from guided-missile destroyer USS Carney and a replenishment ship.

NORTH KOREA

Kim likely to visit China soon

SEOUL | North Korean leader Kim Jong-il is highly likely to visit China soon, South Korea’s presidential office said Wednesday, a move that could signal his country’s return to nuclear disarmament talks.

Yonhap news agency cited diplomatic sources as saying Mr. Kim might leave as early as Thursday or Friday and return before the annual meeting of the North’s parliament on April 9.

It quoted a senior Seoul official as saying there were “indications” of an impending visit. The official noted unusual activity near the Chinese border city of Dandong and in Beijing, but gave no details.

Mr. Kim previously traveled by train to China in 2000, 2001, 2004 and 2006. He reportedly dislikes flying.

Analysts say any trip this year would be aimed at seeking badly needed economic aid from China, and the North in return may feel bound to return to the six-nation nuclear dialogue which Beijing hosts.

VATICAN CITY

Vatican attacks New York Times

VATICAN CITY | The Vatican on Wednesday attacked the New York Times for its coverage of the sexual abuse of children by priests, rejecting accusations that Pope Benedict XVI had mishandled a series of abuse cases before he was elected.

Signaling that it had decided to take the gloves off in its reaction to coverage of sexual abuse, a Vatican statement referred specifically to two reporters and a columnist.

A 20-paragraph statement written by Cardinal William J. Levada and published on the Vatican Web site said, “I ask the Times to reconsider its attack mode about Pope Benedict XVI and give the world a more balanced view of a leader it can and should count on.”

Cardinal Levada, an American, succeeded the pope as head of the Vatican’s doctrinal body after the pontiff’s election in 2005. A spokeswoman for the New York Times was not immediately available to comment on the scathing Vatican attack.

The Vatican has denied any cover-up in the abuse of 200 deaf boys in the United States by Rev. Lawrence Murphy from the 1950s to the 1960s. The New York Times reported that the Vatican and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now the pope, were warned about Murphy but he was not defrocked.

BELGIUM

Parliament panel approves burqa ban

BRUSSELS | A parliamentary committee unanimously voted Wednesday to ban the wearing of face-covering veils in public, a major step in the legislative process that could make Belgium the first European country to impose such a religious prohibition.

The full House of Representatives is expected to vote on the issue late April. The Interior Affairs Committee representing all major parties was unanimous Wednesday in backing the bill.

In France on Tuesday, the Council of State, the nation’s highest administrative body, warned that a prohibition on full-body Islamic veils in public risked being found unconstitutional. President Nicolas Sarkozy said last year that such clothing was “not welcome” in France.

Such a ban could also be challenged at the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights.

MEXICO

Suspect admits role in consulate killings

CIUDAD JUAREZ | A gang leader has confessed to participating in the killings of a U.S. Consulate worker in Mexico, her husband and another man, prosecutors said Tuesday.

Ricardo Valles, 45 — high up in the notorious Los Aztecas gang — told investigators another Aztecas leader had “ordered him by telephone, a few days earlier, to locate the white van” carrying a U.S. Consulate worker and her husband, who were later killed, the Chihuahua state prosecutors office said.

Mr. Valles, according to the prosecutor’s statement, said he followed the van carrying the couple until other gang members told him to withdraw, then moments later he heard several shots.

Mr. Valles, a U.S. resident of Mexican origin, was captured by Mexico’s military Friday on suspicion of involvement in the killings.

AUSTRALIA

Kissinger helps Rio Tinto end row with China

SYDNEY | Australian mining giant Rio Tinto turned to U.S. elder statesman Henry Kissinger for help in building bridges with China following the jailing of four of its employees, it was reported Wednesday.

The 86-year-old former secretary of state has been well-connected in China since a secret 1971 visit that led to former President Richard Nixon’s historic meeting with Chairman Mao Zedong.

The Sydney Morning Herald, without naming its sources, said Mr. Kissinger helped secure a meeting on Rio’s behalf with Wang Qishan, a Politburo member and former banker who handles many of China’s international financial affairs.

SWEDEN

Diplomat accused of leak to Russia

STOCKHOLM | A Swedish diplomat leaked classified and sensitive political information about the European Union to Russia, a Swedish newspaper reported Wednesday, quoting a Russian foreign intelligence officer who defected.

“He gave us large amounts of information and documents, especially about how former Soviet states were trying to approach the EU and NATO,” Sergei Tretyakov told the Expressen daily.

Mr. Tretyakov said the diplomat, who was not named, was recruited in the late 1990s in New York, where he had regular meetings with Russia’s foreign intelligence service, the SVR in 1999 and 2000.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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