- - Wednesday, January 25, 2012

LIBYA

Defense minister seeks deal in seized town

BENGHAZI | The Libyan defense minister held talks Wednesday with tribal leaders in a town overrun by locals loyal to former leader Moammar Gadhafi, an official said.

The recapture this week of Bani Walid, 90 miles southeast of Tripoli, was the first such organized operation by armed remnants of Gadhafi’s regime.

But there were no immediate signs that the operation was part of some wider attempt to restore the family of Gadhafi, who was swept out of power in August and killed in the nearby city of Sirte in October.

Rather, the fighting seemed to reflect a rejection of Libya’s new Western-backed authorities by a town that never quite accepted the revolutionaries’ rule.

INDIA

Driver rams bus down busy streets, kills 9

NEW DELHI | A bus driver mowed down pedestrians and rammed cars, scooters and food stalls in a rampage through crowded Indian streets Wednesday that killed nine people and injured more than two dozen.

Police chased the bus for an hour through the central city of Pune, with traffic officers firing on it in an attempt to stop it, before they managed to arrest the 30-year-old driver. He is being held on murder charges.

The licensed bus driver had driven his route as normal Tuesday, but Wednesday morning jumped into another driver’s bus and took off, police said.

“He just went berserk,” slamming into people, cars, school buses, scooters and vegetable stands, Pune Police Commissioner Meeran Borwankar said.

Pedestrians tried to flee, with some throwing children out of the way of the oncoming bus, she said.

“He went on ramming vehicles, hitting pedestrians. He was in such a dangerous mood,” the police commissioner said.

IRAN

Lawmakers eye banning oil sales to Europe

TEHRAN | Iran’s parliament will begin debating a draft bill requiring the government to halt oil exports to Europe, a prominent lawmaker said Wednesday, as Tehran weighs its options after the European Union’s decision to stop importing fuel from the country.

The EU embargo, announced Monday, is the latest attempt to try to pressure Iran to abandon its suspected nuclear weapons program.

The embargo came just weeks after the United States approved, but has yet to enact, new sanctions targeting Iran’s Central Bank and, by extension, its ability to sell its oil.

Many Iranian lawmakers and officials have called for an immediate ban on oil exports to the European bloc before the EU ban fully goes into effect in July. They argued that the 27 EU nations account for only about 18 percent of Iran’s overall oil sales and would be hurt more by the embargo than Iran.

IRAQ

Town says justice failed victims of U.S. raid

HADITHA | In this town that saw 24 unarmed civilians die in a U.S. raid seven years ago, residents expressed disbelief and sadness that the Marine sergeant who told his troops to “shoot first, ask questions later” reached a deal with prosecutors to avoid jail time.

They were outraged both at the U.S. military justice system and at the refusal of Iraq’s Shiite-led government to condemn the killings and at least try to bring those responsible to face trial in this country.

“We are deeply disappointed by this unfair deal,” said Khalid Salman Rasif, an Anbar provincial council member from Haditha. “The U.S. soldier will receive a punishment that is suitable for a traffic violation.”

Haditha, a town of about 85,000 people along the Euphrates River valley some 140 miles northwest of Baghdad, is overwhelmingly made up of Sunni Muslims.

Sunnis lost influence in this country with the fall of Saddam Hussein and feel increasingly squeezed out of their already limited political role.

MYANMAR

Foreign minister says no reneging on reforms

NEW DELHI | Myanmar’s foreign minister said Wednesday that the transition to democracy in the once-authoritarian southeast Asian country will be gradual and systematic.

“The reform process that we have started is irreversible,” Myanmar Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin said in New Delhi during a trip to meet with Indian leaders. “There will be no turning back or derailment on the road to democracy.”

Myanmar’s military-backed civilian government has eased restrictions on political activity and released hundreds of political prisoners since it took office in March 2011.

Opposition leader and Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi is now a candidate in parliamentary elections, and President Thein Sein has even suggested that she could be considered for a Cabinet post if she wins.

Mr. Maung Lwin said future reforms will be “incremental, systematic and dynamic.”

• From wire dispatches and staff reports

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