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Briefly: Iran rejects claims of cleaning up nuke work

- - Tuesday, March 13, 2012

TEHRAN — Iran on Tuesday rejected allegations it attempted to clean up radioactive traces possibly left by secret nuclear work at a key military site before granting U.N. inspectors permission to visit the facility.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told reporters in Tehran that the allegations were misleading and false, and insisted that such traces could not be cleaned up.

Satellite images of Iran's Parchin military facility that circulated last week appeared to show trucks and earth-moving vehicles at the location. That set off assertions by diplomats, all nuclear experts accredited to the U.N. nuclear agency in Vienna, Austria, about a cleanup operation.

The diplomats said the crews at Parchin may be trying to erase evidence of a test of a small nuclear-weapon trigger.

YEMEN

Officials: Al Qaeda attack kills 3 Yemeni soldiers

SANAA — Yemeni military officials said at least three soldiers died when their outpost was hit by a suicide car bomber and later came under attack by suspected al Qaeda militants.

The officials said Tuesday's attack in Bayda province southeast of the capital Sanaa was followed by a government airstrike targeting a militants' car traveling in the area.

The officials said all four persons in the car were killed. The dead included an al Qaeda leader identified as Nasser al-Zafari.

ALGERIA

Al Qaeda chief sentenced to death in absentia

ALGIERS — An Algerian court Tuesday sentenced the head of al Qaeda's North African offshoot to death in absentia for a string of 2007 attacks, including a deadly bombing at the prime minister's office.

Abdelmalek Droukdel, leader of al Qaeda in the Islamic Magreb, and eight co-defendants were sentenced to death for premeditated murder, membership in a terrorist group and attacks using explosives, said Judge Tayeb Hillali.

They were among 18 people, nine of whom were absent, on trial for three bomb attacks in Algiers on April 11, 2007, that killed 20 people and wounded 222.

Droukdel, 41, whose alias is Abou Moussaab Abdelouadoud, fought in Afghanistan and is said to consider as his mentor Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the al Qaeda leader in Iraq killed by the U.S. military in 2006.

JORDAN

Six activists charged with insulting king

AMMAN — Jordanian military prosecutors have charged six activists with insulting King Abdullah II during a demonstration in the southern city of Tafileh last week, a judicial official said Tuesday.

"Twenty-one have been arrested following the demonstration. State security court prosecutors have charged all of them with rioting and six of insulting the king," the official told Agence France-Presse.

"Police are still searching for 30 more people," he said without elaborating.

If convicted, the six suspects face three years in prison each.

Last week, Tafileh was the scene of several demonstrations to demand the government introduce reforms and find jobs for youths in the city.

From wire dispatches and staff reports