- - Wednesday, August 25, 2010

NORTH KOREA

Carter in Pyongyang to free American

SEOUL | Former President Jimmy Carter arrived Wednesday in the capital of communist North Korea on a mission to bring home an American sentenced to eight years’ hard labor for trespassing.

North Korea’s top nuclear envoys led the delegation of officials on hand to welcome Mr. Carter at the airport in Pyongyang, according to TV news agency APTN.

The rare journey to win the release of 31-year-old Aijalon Gomes of Boston comes a year after another former president, Bill Clinton, traveled to North Korea on a private mission to bring home two American journalists also sentenced to prison for sneaking into the country illegally.

Senior U.S. officials in Washington stressed that Mr. Carter was not representing the U.S. government but was on a private mission.

North Korea had agreed to release Mr. Gomes, who was believed to be in poor health, to Mr. Carter if the ex-president visits, a senior U.S. official told the Associated Press in Washington. Mr. Carter was expected to spend one night in North Korea and return home with Mr. Gomes on Thursday, a second U.S. official said.

Both spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.

ISRAEL

Official says no peace deal in a year

JERUSALEM | Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Wednesday that renewed peace talks with the Palestinians were unlikely to get anywhere within the one-year time frame set by the United States.

“It’s clear that the two sides are so different; in content, in approach, that it’s hard to talk about a peace agreement within a year,” Mr. Lieberman told Israeli public radio.

The two sides, due to relaunch direct talks in Washington next week after a 20-month hiatus, have been negotiating since 1993, when they signed interim accords after secret peace talks in Norway, but have yet to reach an agreement leading to Palestinian statehood.

“What have we been doing for the 17 years since Oslo?” Mr. Lieberman asked rhetorically.

“Suddenly we’re going to reach a peace agreement within a year? I think that the more we can lower expectations the healthier it will be.”

IRAN

Tehran tests indigenous missile

TEHRAN | Iran showed off an improved domestically made missile on Wednesday, the latest in a string of announcements about new military hardware it hopes will dissuade enemies from attacking.

State television showed a test-firing of the 30-foot missile it said was a new version of the Fateh-110 weapon with an improved range of 140 miles and better precision than previous models.

In recent days, Iran has also publicized new mini-submarines, armed speed boats and a prototype long-range bomber drone. Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi said neighboring countries had nothing to fear from Tehran’s improved defenses.

BRITAIN

Suspected British spy’s body found

LONDON | Detectives searching for a missing British spy said Wednesday they had launched a murder investigation after a body matching the man’s description was discovered stuffed in a bag in his apartment near the headquarters of the MI6 spy agency.

British authorities who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the investigation said the body of the man in his 30s was found in the bathroom Monday.

Scotland Yard refused to say whether there were signs of a struggle or how the man may have been killed, but said suicide had been ruled out. An autopsy and formal identification was expected later Wednesday.

The man had been working for MI6 on temporary assignment from GCHQ, Britain’s eavesdropping agency, said several British officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

They all declined to say exactly what work the man was doing or how long he had been employed with the government, but officials said initial indications did not suggest his death was related to his job, or national security issues.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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