- - Tuesday, June 22, 2010

IRAQ

5 killed by bombs targeting officials, allies

BAGHDAD | Bombs targeting Iraqi officials and al Qaeda foes killed at least five people Tuesday and wounded more than 13 in separate attacks in Baghdad and beyond the capital, officials said.

Government officials and employees, as well as members of Iraq’s security forces have been targeted frequently by insurgents seeking to destabilize the country as U.S. forces prepare for a full withdrawal from Iraq by the end of next year.

The violence began Tuesday with an 8 a.m. roadside bomb in the mainly Sunni area of Dora, a former insurgent stronghold in southern Baghdad, that was aimed at a convoy of a senior Transportation Ministry official. It missed its target and killed two bystanders.

Abdullah Loaebi, the director-general of the ministry’s private transportation department, was unharmed, but police and hospital officials said that along with the two killed, eight others were wounded.

In Diyala province north of Baghdad, bombs attached to cars belonging to members of an anti-al Qaeda Sunni group killed two of its leaders in separate attacks.

PAKISTAN

Taliban wants exchange of prisoners

PESHAWAR | The Pakistani Taliban on Tuesday threatened to kill 33 soldiers they say have been captured in the country’s lawless northwest unless the government releases detained Taliban fighters.

A Taliban spokesman told Reuters by telephone that the soldiers had been seized during various raids.

“We want our men back and if they don’t free them, they’ll lose their soldiers,” spokesman Ikramullah Mohmand said.

About 40 paramilitary soldiers went missing after the Taliban overran their post near the Afghan border last week. Fourteen were found later in Afghanistan and flown home.

It was not clear if the missing soldiers were the ones in Taliban custody.

ISRAEL

Defense chief slams Jerusalem demolition plan

JERUSALEM | Israel’s defense minister on Tuesday criticized the approval by a Jerusalem planning body of a plan to raze 22 Palestinian homes in the disputed eastern part of the city to make room for an Israeli tourist center, saying it lacked “common sense” and “a sense of timing.”

Ehud Barak is in the United States for talks with the Obama administration, and his statement comes after the U.S. State Department criticized the plan to build shops, restaurants, art galleries and a large community center on the site where some say the biblical King David wrote his psalms.

Mayor Nir Barkat’s office rejected the defense minister’s comments, saying the plan would rehabilitate a neglected section of the city and that he wants to build thousands of apartments for Arab residents.

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

Iranian trade gets tougher scrutiny

DUBAI | Iranian firms in the United Arab Emirates are increasingly coming under tougher measures in line with U.N. sanctions against Tehran over its nuclear drive, a senior Iranian businessman said on Tuesday.

“We are observing a very strict application of the U.N. sanctions against Iran,” Morteza Masoumzadeh, vice president of the Iranian Business Council in Dubai, told Agence France-Presse.

Mr. Masoumzadeh said the implementation of sanctions started about two years ago but have “become tougher in the past couple of months especially at Dubai ports.”

“All containers that arrive to the UAE for Iranian traders and which are normally sent to Iran by smaller vessels, have now to be unloaded and put into new containers, which cost the traders 1,000 extra dollars per container,” he said.

ISRAEL

Soldier’s dad upset as Gaza siege eased

JERUSALEM | The father of an Israeli soldier held for four years by Palestinian militants said on Tuesday he was disappointed by the government’s decision to ease its blockade of the Gaza Strip.

“I am disappointed. It is a terrible feeling to learn that the prime minister gives in to international pressure without taking our son into account,” said Noam Shalit, whose son Gilad was captured by Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups on June 25, 2006.

He also denounced what he called “the current government’s failure to bring my son home.”

On Monday, Mr. Shalit told parliamentarians that by easing the blockade the government had given away a means of applying pressure on Hamas, the Islamist rulers of the Gaza Strip.

Several demonstrations of support for the 23-year-old soldier are planned over the next few days in Israel as well as in other countries.

Noam Shalit will participate in a rally in Rome on Thursday. On Sunday, he and his family will start a march from their home in northern Israel to the Jerusalem residence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a distance of about 120 miles.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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