- - Thursday, January 26, 2012

IRAQ

Shiite leader urges end to political crisis

ANKARA, TURKEY | A top Iraqi Shiite official said Thursday that the political crisis pitting Shiite officials against his country’s largest Sunni-backed bloc must end.

But Ammar al-Hakim, a powerful cleric and leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, did not offer any change in the legal challenge that started the standoff.

The Shiite-led government has filed an arrest warrant against the Sunni vice president, Tareq al-Hashemi, on terrorism charges, sending him into virtual exile to the Kurdish autonomous region in northern Iraq.

Mr. al-Hashemi’s Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc has responded by boycotting Iraq’s parliament and Cabinet sessions, bringing government work to a standstill.

ROMANIA

Central Europe hit hard with snow

BUCHAREST | Parts of Eastern and Central Europe were hit hard by heavy snow for a second day Thursday, leaving hundreds of people trapped in cars and dozens of communities without power.

Some areas saw as much as 10 feet of snow.

In Romania, a train with 123 passengers derailed on icy tracks in the country’s south, but nobody was injured. Ten flights to and from Bucharest were canceled Wednesday night, and planes arriving from Dubai, Tel Aviv and Munich were diverted to other airports.

ISRAEL

Deadline looming over settlement evacuation

MIGRON OUTPOST | Religious zealots living in a rogue settlement on a wind-swept West Bank hilltop are defying the Israeli government’s plans to evict them, setting up a showdown that has threatened to rip the ruling coalition apart.

The outcome could hurt Israel internationally should it choose again to flout its 2003 promise to Washington to knock down Migron and other unauthorized settler enclaves built on land Palestinians claim for a future state.

The government says the settlers of Migron - 100 adults and 200 children living in a jumble of cramped trailers - seized the territory unlawfully in 2001 from private Palestinian landowners.

Israel’s Supreme Court has ordered the government to remove them by March 31.

But with hard-line lawmakers threatening to bolt Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition if Migron is dismantled, and a history of clashes with settlers in mind, officials are scrambling to find a solution that will satisfy the settlers and a court impatient with government delays.

IRAQ

Iraq to take legal action over U.S. raid in Haditha

BAGHDAD | Iraq will take legal action to ensure justice for the families of 24 unarmed Iraqi civilians killed in a U.S. raid in Haditha seven years ago, a government spokesman said Thursday after the lone U.S. Marine convicted in the killings reached a deal to escape jail time.

Residents in Haditha, a former Sunni insurgent stronghold of about 85,000 people along the Euphrates River valley about 140 miles northwest of Baghdad, have expressed outrage at the American military justice system for allowing Staff Sgt. Frank Wultrich to avoid prison.

“The Haditha incident was a big crime against innocent civilians,” said Ali al-Moussawi, a spokesman for the Iraqi government. “We will follow up all legal procedures and judiciary measures” to seek justice in the case, he added.

Mr. al-Moussawi did not offer specifics, and the Iraqi Justice Ministry declined to comment.

FRANCE

Police arrest ex-chief of breast-implant maker

PARIS | The former head of a French company at the center of a breast-implant scandal affecting tens of thousands of women worldwide was arrested along with his former deputy Thursday in southeastern France, officials said.

Jean-Claude Mas, who founded and ran the now-defunct implant maker Poly Implant Prothese, was detained as part of a judicial investigation in the southeastern city of Marseille into manslaughter and involuntary injuries, an official said.

A regional official said the company’s former No. 2 executive, Claude Couty, also was detained.

The arrest before dawn at a family residence in the Mediterranean resort town of Six Fours Les Plages culminates weeks of speculation about whether judicial investigators would be able to assemble enough evidence to detain Mr. Mas, 72.

An official with knowledge of the probe said Mr. Mas was expected to face preliminary charges after appearing before an investigating judge in Marseille later Thursday.

Investigating Judge Annaick Le Goff opened the probe after a woman in the southwestern Gers region filed a lawsuit in the wake of the 2010 death from cancer of her daughter, who had received a suspect implant.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports