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His high-profile arrest in a 2008 U.S. sting operation in Bangkok ended nearly a quarter-century of cat-and-mouse chases. It also raised Washington’s hopes for a quick transfer of a man who has never been prosecuted despite being the subject of U.N. sanctions, a Belgian money-laundering indictment and a travel ban.

Instead, it spurred a diplomatic tug of war between Moscow and Washington that led to delays and prompted a lower-court judge to seek input from the Foreign Ministry, saying he was in “a tough position” and feared ties with both countries could be at stake. The Bangkok Criminal Court rejected the U.S. extradition request in August 2009.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Thursday that the Thai ambassador in Washington was summoned to the State Department this week so that U.S. officials could “emphasize that this is of the highest priority to the United States.”

LEBANON

Gaza-bound ship to try Cyprus passage

TRIPOLI | A Lebanese ship carrying aid and female activists hoping to break Israel’s Gaza blockade will set sail Sunday from Lebanon despite warnings that they will not be allowed to make it past Cyprus, organizers said Thursday.

The ship cannot travel directly to Gaza from Lebanon because Beirut is still technically at war with Israel, forcing the vessel to pass through a third country - in this case, Cyprus - before heading for the blockaded Palestinian territory.

On Thursday, the Cypriot ambassador to Lebanon told the Associated Press that the boat, the Mariam, will be turned back when it reaches Cyprus.

From wire dispatches and staff reports