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IRAN

Defector applies for asylum in Norway

OSLO | An Iranian diplomat who quit his job in Belgium said Tuesday he will seek political asylum in Norway — the latest of three Iranian emissaries in Europe to defect this year over Tehran's post-election crackdown.

Farzad Farhangian, who stepped down as press attache at the Iranian Embassy in Brussels, told reporters in Oslo that he wanted to "take a stand in support of the Iranian people and the [opposition] movement."

Mr. Farhangian left his post Friday and flew to Norway, where he joined Mohammed Reza Heydari, a former Iranian diplomat in Oslo who defected in January and was granted asylum by Norway.

On Monday, the No. 2 man at Iran's mission in Helsinki said he would apply for political asylum in Finland after resigning last week.

The defections follow last year's presidential election in Iran, which resulted in large-scale protests and accusations that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had won by fraud. Iranian security forces responded harshly, arresting numerous people.

Since the disputed vote, authorities have tried more than 100 activists and opposition members on security charges. More than 80 of them have been sentenced to prison terms from six months to 15 years, and 10 of them have been sentenced to death.

The crackdown has given impetus to opposition forces — including the Europe-based Green Wave movement, which works to overthrow the Islamic regime in Tehran.

SYRIA

U.S. envoy Mitchell to meet Assad

SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt | U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell was due in Syria later this week for talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad over renewed Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, a U.S. official said Tuesday.

The official told Agence France-Presse that Mr. Mitchell would have "consultations" with Mr. Assad after participating in negotiations in Egypt, Israel and the West Bank.

In the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on Tuesday, Mr. Mitchell joined Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Mrs. Clinton was due to hold similar talks in Jerusalem on Wednesday and then visit Mr. Abbas in the West Bank town of Ramallah on Thursday, the day she travels to Jordan for talks with King Abdullah II.

It was not clear if Mr. Mitchell will travel with Mrs. Clinton to Jordan.

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

Plane recorders reveal visibility problems

DUBAI | Emirati investigators said Tuesday that flight-recorder data indicate pilots on a UPS cargo plane that crashed in Dubai faced visibility and communication problems as the cockpit filled with smoke from an onboard fire.

Initial details gleaned from the recorders — commonly known as "black boxes" — appear to confirm pilot reports of smoke in the cockpit less than half an hour after takeoff from the Middle East's busiest airport, in Dubai.

The two pilots, hobbled by radio difficulties that kept them out of direct contact with Dubai's tower, attempted to turn back to the Gulf city-state but were unable to land on their first attempt and crashed into a military base shortly afterward. Both men were killed.

The UAE's General Civil Aviation Authority is leading the investigation into the Sept. 3 crash with help from investigators at the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board.

IRAN

Iran: U.N. watchdog errs on nuke program

TEHRAN | Iran's nuclear chief said Tuesday that the head of a U.N. watchdog agency made a dangerous mistake by criticizing Tehran for not fully cooperating.

Yukiya Amano, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said Monday he cannot confirm that all of Iran's nuclear activities are peaceful, as Tehran claims, because the country has offered only selective cooperation to the U.N. nuclear watchdog and has rejected several inspectors.

"If Mr. Amano has expressed the remarks knowingly, he has committed a big mistake, and it is very dangerous," said Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran's nuclear program.

In blunt remarks, Mr. Amano suggested that it is still not clear whether Iran is developing nuclear weapons because the country continues to stonewall an IAEA investigation.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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