- - Wednesday, July 21, 2010

IRAN

Report: Scientist gave information about CIA

TEHRAN | An Iranian nuclear scientist who returned home last week from the U.S. provided valuable information about the CIA, a semiofficial news agency reported Wednesday, adding that his spy’s tale would be made into a TV movie.

U.S. authorities have claimed Shahram Amiri willingly defected but changed his mind and decided to return home without the $5 million he had been paid for what a U.S. official described as “significant” information about his country’s disputed nuclear program.

The Fars news agency, which is close to Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard, quoted an unidentified source as saying Iran’s intelligence agents were in touch with Mr. Amiri while he was in the U.S. and that they won an intelligence battle against the CIA.

Mr. Amiri claims he was kidnapped by U.S. agents in May 2009 while on a pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia.

ROMANIA

Scientists exhume Ceausescu, wife

BUCHAREST | The mystery of where former Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife, Elena, were buried moved closer to resolution Wednesday after forensic scientists dug up their official graves in a hunt for DNA.

Ceausescu ruled Romania for 25 years with an iron fist before being ousted and executed during the 1989 anti-communist revolt in which more than 1,000 eople were killed.

Many Romanians have doubted for years that the Ceausescus were really buried in the Ghencea military cemetery in west Bucharest.

Conspiracy theories have ranged from the graves being empty to the Ceausescus’ bodies being spirited away by supporters and replaced in their coffins by anonymous victims of Europe’s bloodiest anti-communist revolt.

By the end of the day, one theory had been ruled out. “There weren’t empty graves, there were bodies,” Valentin Ceausescu, the couple’s 62-year-old son, told the Associated Press.

GUATEMALA

Soldiers to help police fight bus killings

GUATEMALA CITY | Guatemalan soldiers will deploy in the capital to help police crack down on armed attacks on public buses, which have left 18 dead in less than two weeks, the Interior Ministry said Wednesday.

Combined police-military forces will guard bus stops and patrol in dangerous areas in and around Guatemala City, said Interior Minister Carlos Menocal.

Some 1,800 buses on 43 routes servicing some 1.5 million people are involved, the statement said.

Guatemala has one of the highest crime rates in Latin America, with an average of 18 murders daily.

YEMEN

Government frees southern prisoners

SAN’A | Yemeni authorities freed 82 prisoners detained during anti-government protests in the south in a step toward implementing an accord sealed with the opposition, a local official told Agence France-Presse on Wednesday.

“Eighty-two prisoners were freed in Al-Mukalla,” the main city in the southeastern province of Hadramawt, “on the orders of President Ali Abdullah Saleh after the deal was signed with the opposition,” the official said.

All of those released have “participated in protests” in support of Yemen’s Southern Movement, the official added, referring to a coalition of groups with demands ranging from greater autonomy to full independence for the south.

The agreement to embark on a national dialogue was signed Saturday with the opposition Common Forum.

AFGHANISTAN

Taliban: Donors’ conference ‘futile’

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates | Afghanistan’s Taliban dismissed this week’s international donors’ conference in Kabul in a statement posted on the Internet saying it showed the bankruptcy of U.S. policy.

Tuesday’s “futile conference has proved that America has lost the initiatives and is unable to resolve Afghanistan issue,” said the statement carried by U.S. monitoring group SITE. “Whatever actions are taken in this regard have already been doomed to failure.”

The conference was billed as a bid by the Afghan government to set a road map for moving from dependence on foreign backers to greater self-sufficiency, allowing the tens of thousands of Western troops currently in the country to be drawn down.

CHAD

Minister: Bashir has nothing to fear

N’DJAMENA | Chad reassured Sudan President Omar Bashir that he had nothing to fear Wednesday as he began a visit to the country despite a warrant for his arrest for genocide and war crimes.

The president, greeted on his arrival by President Idriss Deby Itno, a former foe, said his priority was to open a new chapter in relations between the two countries.

“My presence in N’djamena bears witness to our wish to turn the page after the differences between our two countries,” he told journalists at the airport.

The president was in Chad to take part in a meeting Thursday of the Community of Sahel-Saharan States trade bloc. The visit is his first to a country that recognizes the International Criminal Court, which wants him on genocide and war crimes charges.

ARGENTINA

Convicts escape prison ‘guarded’ by a mannequin

BUENOS AIRES | Two convicted armed robbers escaped from a prison in southeastern Argentina that was so understaffed it used mannequins to man its watchtowers, prison authorities admitted Wednesday.

“I admit we have a type of mannequin, but in this sector there are cameras that enable us to observe all movements,” said Daniel Verges, director of prisons in Neuquen province.

The inmates escaped Saturday by climbing over a wall at Penal Unit No 11 in Neuquen.

The watchtower guarding the wall was manned by a makeshift doll nicknamed “Wilson,” after the ball that kept a marooned Tom Hanks company in the movie “Cast Away,” prison officials said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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