- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 29, 2011


Cuba abolishes Ministry of Sugar

HAVANA — Cuba announced the elimination of its Ministry of Sugar on Thursday in a sign of how far the symbolic crop has fallen since its heyday when much of the population was mobilized to the countryside at harvest time to help cut cane.

President Raul Castro’s government determined that the ministry “currently serves no state function” and therefore will replace it with an entity called Grupo Empresarial de la Agroindustria Azucarera, the Communist Party daily newspaper Granma reported.

The goal is to “create a business system capable of turning its exports into hard currency to finance its own expenses,” Granma said. There was no mention of any private or foreign investment.

Like coffee and tobacco, sugar is a highly emblematic crop on the Caribbean island. Cuba used to be a world leader in sugar, annually producing 6 million to 7 million tons.


Lawyer: Appeals court may acquit pastor

TEHRAN — The U.S. called for the release of a pastor sentenced to death in Iran for apostasy, while his lawyer said Thursday he is hopeful an appeals court will acquit his client.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said 32-year-old Yusuf Naderkhani, who converted to Christianity when he was 19, has done nothing more than stay devoted to his faith.

Mr. Carney said Iran’s attempt to force Mr. Naderkhani to renounce the faith “crosses all bounds of decency” and breaches Iran’s international obligations.

Meanwhile, Germany summoned Iran’s top diplomat in Berlin to protest the planned execution.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s office said Germany “urges Iran to lift the death sentence against pastor Yusuf Naderkhani,” and said “an execution would be inhuman and a gross violation of human rights.”

Attorney Mohammad Ali Dadkhah told the Associated Press on Thursday he believes in a “95 percent chance” of acquittal for Naderkhani.

He said neither Iranian law nor clerics have ever stipulated the death penalty as punishment for converting from Islam to Christianity.

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