- - Thursday, January 17, 2013

MOSCOW — Russia on Thursday harshly criticized a U.S. court ruling fining it $50,000 a day for holding onto tens of thousands of religious books and manuscripts stolen from Jews during the Russian Revolution and World War II.

Russia’s State Library and the Russian military archive have refused to give up the books, some hundreds of years old, even after a U.S. court ruled that the Brooklyn-based Chabad-Lubavitch group is the rightful owner. The country says the books are part of its national heritage.

Chief Judge Royce Lamberth of the U.S. District Court ruled Wednesday that Russia should pay the fine until it complies with his 2010 order to return the collection to the Jewish group.

The Russian Foreign Ministry on Thursday called the ruling “an absolutely unlawful and provocative decision,” and threatened a tough response if U.S. authorities try to seize Russian property in an attempt to get the fine.

There are two collections at issue: 12,000 religious books and manuscripts seized during the Bolshevik Revolution and the Russian Civil War nearly a century ago and 25,000 pages of handwritten teachings and other writings of religious leaders stolen by Nazi Germany during World War II, then transferred by the Soviet Red Army as war booty to the Russian State Military Archive.

IRAN

Official: Opposition leaders excluded from elections

TEHRAN — A semi-official Iranian news agency reported that the country’s two main opposition leaders are not competent to run as candidates in the presidential election in June.

Fars news agency quoted state prosecutor Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejehei as saying Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mahdi Karroubi have committed “atrocities against the ruling system and the nation” and will be barred from running in the June 14 election, unless they repent.

Mr. Mousavi and Mr. Karroubi led massive street rallies in the aftermath of the 2009 election to protest official election results declaring President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad the winner.

Opposition supporters claimed “monumental vote fraud” in Mr. Ahmadinejad’s favor, but their peaceful protest was crushed by security forces.

SYRIA

Activists say dozens were killed in village

BEIRUT — Activists said Thursday that forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad wielding knives and guns swept through a small farming village in central Syria earlier this week, torching houses and killing at least 37 people, including women and children.

A government official in Damascus denied the reports of carnage in the hamlet of Haswiyeh just outside the city of Homs, saying no such killings took place at all in the area.

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