- - Tuesday, September 14, 2010

IRAN

Bail decision for hiker stirs backlash

TEHRAN | Iran’s internal battles over the handling of U.S. detainee Sarah Shourd flared again Monday as the mouthpiece of the powerful Revolutionary Guard led the backlash against a decision to free her on $500,000 bail.

The criticism by the Guard-linked Fars news agency and others — including one lawmaker calling it a “bonus for Koran burners” in the United States — show the judiciary’s offer to release Miss Shourd on health grounds had failed to quiet the political tempest among Iran’s hard-line factions.

The political sniping also shows the country’s simmering political rivalries and the various groups vying for greater portions of power since last year’s disputed re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Mr. Ahmadinejad, who first tried to shepherd the release of Miss Shourd last week, was rebuked by the courts, who insisted that any release had to be on their terms.

Now Mr. Ahmadinejad’s supporters, led by the Revolutionary Guard, are pushing back against the judiciary’s decision.

UNITED KINGDOM

Officials won’t meet U.S. investigators

LONDON | The British government said Monday it has refused a request from a U.S. Senate committee to interview officials involved in the release of the man convicted of blowing up a passenger plane over Lockerbie, Scotland, more than two decades ago.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is sending a staffer to Britain as part of its investigation into the release of Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, the only person convicted of the 1988 attack, which killed all 259 people aboard the Pan Am plane — most of them American — and 11 on the ground.

The Foreign Office said it had declined a request for officials to meet the Senate staffer because the Civil Service Code prevents serving staff from discussing the policies of previous governments and because of concerns over international jurisdiction.

UNITED NATIONS

Top Chinese official apologizes for rant

The most senior Chinese official at the U.N. made a personal apology to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for an alcohol-fueled rant at the U.N. leader, a spokesman said Monday.

Sha Zukang, undersecretary-general for economic and social affairs, erupted at a retreat for top U.N. officials last week when he told Mr. Ban: “I know you never liked me, Mr. Secretary-General. Well, I never liked you, either.”

AFGHANISTAN

NATO: Airstrikes kill 14 insurgents

KABUL | A series of NATO airstrikes killed 14 insurgents in central Afghanistan after a joint patrol with Afghan soldiers came under fire, the Western military alliance said Monday.

The clash happened Sunday while the patrol was crossing a river in Uruzgan province, a center of the Taliban insurgency, NATO said in a statement.

NATO troops requested air support after receiving small-arms fire and concluding there was no danger of civilian casualties, it said.

Initial reports indicated no civilian casualties occurred, and members of the joint patrol were unhurt in the attack, NATO said.

FINLAND

Iranian diplomat to seek asylum

HELSINKI | An Iranian diplomat who quit his job at his country’s embassy in Finland said Monday he will apply for political asylum there.

Hossein Alizadeh said he stepped down as the embassy’s No. 2 because of the Iranian government’s crackdown on citizens protesting the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last year.

“I cannot accept, tolerate this fraud election. The situation got worse because … my people are being killed still,” Mr. Alizadeh told reporters in Helsinki.

He is the second Iranian diplomat in Europe known to have quit to protest the Iranian government’s clampdown on dissent.

INDONESIA

Christians attacked on way to prayers

BEKASI | Indonesia’s president ordered police to arrest the assailants who stabbed a Christian worshipper in the stomach and beat a minister on the head with a wooden plank as they headed to prayers.

Neither of the injuries appeared to be life-threatening.

Indonesia, a secular country of 237 million people, has more Muslims than any other in the world. Though it has a long history of religious tolerance, a small extremist fringe has become more vocal — and violent — in recent years.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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