- - Wednesday, February 1, 2012

IRAQ

U.N. approves new camp for Iranian dissidents

Conditions at a new camp for Iranian dissidents in Iraq meet international standards, U.N. officials said late Tuesday, adding that they have asked the Iraqi government to prepare to move the exiles to the site.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and the U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq human rights office confirmed that conditions at Camp Liberty uphold the standards stipulated in a deal struck between the U.N. and Iraqi government.

Camp Liberty is to be the new home for more than 3,000 Iranian dissidents who now are housed at Camp Ashraf, located about 30 miles north of Baghdad.

Camp Ashraf residents slammed the UNAMI statement.

“They have put a gun to our head and claim that this is not a forcible relocation. We have been given two choices: Either we die in Camp Ashraf or we go to a prison called Camp Liberty,” Shahriar Kia, a spokesman for Camp Ashraf, said in a phone interview.

UNITED KINGDOM

4 men admit bomb plot against stock exchange

LONDON | Four British men fueled by the words of a U.S.-born Muslim cleric pleaded guilty Wednesday to involvement in an al Qaeda-inspired plot to spread terror and cause economic damage by bombing the London Stock Exchange at Christmastime.

The nine men, from several parts of the country, were brought together through radical Islamist groups and nurtured plans to attack the stock exchange and other high-profile targets.

Unbeknown to the men, British authorities learned of the plot and put them under surveillance.

They were arrested in raids in December 2010 and all initially denied all the charges against them.

On Wednesday, as their trial was scheduled to start, four of the defendants pleaded guilty at Woolwich Crown Court to involvement in the Stock Exchange plan, and the five other British Muslims to lesser charges.

Mohammed Chowdhury, 21; Shah Rahman, 28; Gurukanth Desai, 30; and Abdul Miah, 25, all admitted preparing for acts of terrorism by planning to plant an improvised explosive device in the toilets of the London Stock Exchange.

AFGHANISTAN

Taliban deny reports of talks with Afghanistan

KABUL | The Taliban on Wednesday denied reports that the insurgency faction is planning direct talks with the Afghan government to end the 10-year-old war, as Pakistan’s foreign minister promised to back any peace process as long as it is a Afghan-led one.

Rumors have swirled for days that President Hamid Karzai’s government was seeking direct talks, to be held in Saudi Arabia, in an effort to take charge of the peace effort that has so far been dominated by American efforts and talks with Taliban representatives.

A statement Wednesday from Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid rejected those reports as “baseless.”

He also noted that exploratory talks between the insurgency and the U.S.-led international military coalition in Afghanistan have not yet reached the stage for negotiations.

ITALY

Oil spreads from wreck of ship off Italy’s coast

GIGLIO | A thin film of oil spread from the Costa Concordia cruise ship as waves battered the wreck off Italy’s coast Wednesday, adding to fears of an environmental disaster in the area’s pristine waters.

Authorities were trying to assess the extent of the leakage.

Italian authorities also identified a German woman, Siglinde Stumpf, as being among those killed in the Jan. 13 capsizing of the vessel.

Ms. Stumpf is the 17th person whose body has been identified. Fifteen others are listed as missing, including a U.S. couple.

The search for the missing has been hampered by rough seas; a decision not to keep looking within the submerged hulk of the ship was made because it has become too dangerous.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports

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