- The Washington Times - Friday, February 5, 2010

ROMANIA

Country to accept U.S. missile killers

BUCHAREST | Romania’s top defense body on Thursday approved a U.S. proposal to place anti-ballistic missile interceptors in the country as part of a revamped U.S. missile shield, the president said.

President Traian Basescu said Romania will host “ground capabilities to intercept missiles” that will increase its national security and go into operation starting in 2015.

There was no official confirmation from the U.S. government, but a U.S. State Department official in Washington said the Obama administration had asked Romania to host the system.

GAZA STRIP

Explosion jolts Red Cross convoy

GAZA | A roadside explosion in the Gaza Strip on Thursday blew out the windows of a jeep in a Red Cross convoy, but no one was injured, the organization said.

Residents living nearby told Reuters they thought the explosion was a roadside bomb. A spokesman for the Hamas group, which runs the Gaza Strip, suggested the blast was from a previously unexploded Israeli shell.

“The convoy was on its way to the [Israeli-controlled] Erez crossing, when an explosion took place on the side of the road,” Eyad Naser, a spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Gaza, told Reuters.

The Red Cross convoy leaves the Gaza Strip regularly every Thursday via the Erez route.

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

New offshore oil field found

DUBAI | Dubai’s government, under pressure to repay billions of dollars in debt, said Thursday it has discovered an offshore oil field - the first such find by the city-state in decades.

The media office of the sheikdom’s ruler did not provide details, such as the size of the field or preliminary estimates of its production capacity, making it impossible to gauge the effect on Dubai’s strained budget. An e-mailed statement from the media office announcing the find said the new deposit is located east of the existing Rashid oil field.

Dubai’s ruler, Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, “brought the good news of a new oil discovery in Dubai to the people of United Arab Emirates, stressing that the new field will boost the economic capabilities of the state,” the statement said.

AFGHANISTAN

NATO: 32 suspected militants killed

KABUL | NATO and Afghan forces have killed 32 suspected militants in a southern province that is the focus of an imminent anti-Taliban offensive, officials said Thursday.

A start date for the push to capture the Helmand province town of Marjah from the militants has not been released for security reasons. But U.S. and Afghan commanders have said it will be soon.

Joint forces raided Taliban compounds in the village of Khushan in Helmand’s Nad Ali district on Wednesday morning, killing 32 militants, according to provincial government spokesman Daoud Ahmadi.

Three Afghan soldiers were killed and four others wounded, he said.

IRAQ

Bomb-sniffing dogs rushed to Iraq

BAGHDAD | The American military is stepping up the delivery of bomb-sniffing dogs to Iraq, with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government under pressure for using equipment that may be ineffective in finding explosives.

The first 25 of 145 bomb-detection dogs are scheduled to arrive Friday in Baghdad, Army Maj. Sylvester Wegwu told the Associated Press. The remaining 120 dogs will be delivered over the course of a year, said the major, who works as military adviser to the Baghdad Police College.

The airlift follows a request to the U.S. military from Iraqi officials for more of the specially trained dogs, signaling that Iraq is looking to use other bomb-detection methods after questions were raised about the capabilities of a wandlike, bomb-detection device widely used at checkpoints across Iraq.

IRAQ

Ruling sought on candidate ban

BAGHDAD | Iraq’s ballot process was thrown back into uncertainty Thursday after election officials asked the nation’s highest judicial authority for a final ruling on whether to open next month’s balloting to hundreds of candidates banned because of suspected ties to Saddam Hussein’s regime.

The request by the election commission could re-ignite feuds between Shiite-led authorities and Sunnis who claim they are being politically undermined before March 7 parliamentary elections, which U.S. officials hope could be a milestone in reconciliation among Iraq’s rival groups.

NORTHERN IRELAND

Sinn Fein: Talks over, pact possible

DUBLIN | The Irish Catholic party Sinn Fein halted marathon negotiations to save Northern Ireland’s power-sharing government on Thursday and said it’s now up to the Protestant side to accept a compromise deal.

Sinn Fein negotiator Gerry Kelly told reporters that the talks “have come to a conclusion. And our negotiating team believes we have the basis for moving the whole thing forward.”

Sinn Fein is threatening to withdraw from Northern Ireland’s government - collapsing the Catholic-Protestant coalition at the heart of the region’s 1998 peace accord - unless Protestant politicians stop blocking plans for a new justice department that would oversee the courts and police in the British territory.

The major Protestant party, the Democratic Unionists, declined to comment.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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