- - Sunday, August 22, 2010

IRAN

Iran unveils drone bomber

TEHRAN | Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Sunday inaugurated the country’s first domestically built unmanned bomber aircraft, calling it an “ambassador of death” to Iran’s enemies.

The 4-meter-long drone aircraft can carry up to four cruise missiles and will have a range of 620 miles, according to a state TV report — not far enough to reach archenemy Israel.

“The jet, as well as being an ambassador of death for the enemies of humanity, has a main message of peace and friendship,” said Mr. Ahmadinejad at the inauguration ceremony, which fell on the country’s national day for its defense industries.

The goal of the aircraft, named Karrar or striker, is to “keep the enemy paralyzed in its bases,” he said, adding that the aircraft is for deterrence and defensive purposes.

The president championed the country’s military self-sufficiency program, and said it will continue “until the enemies of humanity lose hope of ever attacking the Iranian nation.”

Iran has been producing its own light, unmanned surveillance aircraft since the late 1980s.

CHINA

China premier calls for political reform

BEIJING | China has to pursue political reform to safeguard its economic health, Premier Wen Jiabao said during a visit to the booming town of Shenzhen, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

Mr. Wen’s call for political reform lacked specifics. But his comments reflect broader worries that unless the Communist Party embraces at least limited reforms to make officials more answerable, then corruption and abuses may erode the country’s economic prospects.

“Without the safeguarding of political restructuring, China may lose what it has already achieved through economic restructuring, and the targets of its modernization drive might not be reached,” Mr. Wen was quoted by Xinhua as saying.

“People’s democratic rights and legitimate rights must be guaranteed. People should be mobilized and organized to deal with, in accordance with the law, state, economic, social and cultural affairs,” Mr. Wen added.

Mr. Wen has developed a reputation as the member of China’s ruling Communist Party leadership most sympathetic to relaxing some of the country’s top-down controls.

YEMEN

Al Qaeda fighters killed in Yemen

ADEN, Yemen | Five al Qaeda members were killed in clashes on Sunday with the Yemeni army in the south of the country after an ultimatum for the militants to surrender expired, a local official said.

“The army raided the house of a local al Qaeda leader, killing three of his supporters” in the southern city of Loder, the official said on the condition of anonymity.

Two other al Qaeda operatives “who were preparing to fire an RPG [rocket-propelled grenade] at the headquarters of the security services were killed by soldiers,” the official added.

The latest violence erupted two hours after a government ultimatum for suspected al Qaeda militants in Loder to surrender expired and two days after 21 people were killed in fighting in the city.

Earlier, another local official said the authorities had issued an ultimatum to the militants to surrender by 3 p.m. on Sunday.

“If the wanted militants do not leave the city’s streets and neighborhoods and hand themselves over to the authorities, then we will carry out another raid until the area is free from Qaeda elements and their allies,” he said.

South Yemen, and Abyan province in particular, is feared to have become a base for al Qaeda militants to regroup under the network’s local franchise Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

IRAQ

Iraq says killer of Briton escaped

BAGHDAD | Iraq’s deputy justice minister has acknowledged the convicted killer of British aid worker Margaret Hassan has escaped from prison.

The announcement is an embarrassment for authorities because it is being made 11 months after the escape, and the victim’s family had already made the news public last month.

Hassan’s 2004 kidnapping and videotaped beheading prompted most international aid organizations to suspend activities in Iraq and evacuate foreign staff.

The deputy minister, Busho Ibrahim, said Sunday that authorities only discovered last month that Ali Lutfi al-Rawi was missing.

Al-Rawi was convicted last year but was granted a retrial after saying he was not in Iraq when Hassan was killed. The retrial has repeatedly been postponed.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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