- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 31, 2001

Iran's top ayatollah nixes talks with U.S.

TEHRAN Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei rejected yesterday any direct talks with the United States and threatened to fire officials who speak in favor of U.S. ties.

"This is not a prejudiced opinion. It is an educated assessment based on thorough studies and experiences of other countries," Ayatollah Khamenei said in a public speech in the central city of Isfahan.

"We have reached the conclusion that not just relations but any negotiation with America is against the nation's interests," he said in remarks broadcast on state television.

Some Iranian reformers have demanded that Iran seize the chance arising from the Sept. 11 suicide attacks in the United States and move to end 23 years of estrangement. They say Iran should think first of its long-term strategic interests, rather than ideological concerns.

Turkey intercepts 269 illegal immigrants

ISTANBUL Turkish security forces have intercepted 269 would-be illegal immigrants including more than 50 Afghans in operations across Turkey, a major route for human trafficking to Europe, Anatolia news agency said yesterday.

Paramilitary Turkish troops discovered 56 Afghan illegals in the southeastern province of Siirt packed in a truck bound for Istanbul, the report said.

Elsewhere, 161 were caught in the western province of Izmir along with four Turks said to have been planning to smuggle them to Italy, according to Anatolia. It said 153 were Turks, six were from Iraq and two from Iran. The group included 20 women and 10 children.

Al-Azhar imam hits Israeli 'aggressions'

CAIRO The imam of Al-Azhar, the highest clerical authority in Sunni Islam, yesterday called Israeli tank-led assaults against the Palestinians a "crime against humanity."

"The Israeli aggressions against the Palestinian territories, against Islamic and Christian holy sites, as well as against men, women and children, constitute a crime against humanity," Sheik Mohammed Sayed Tantawi was quoted by Egypt's official MEAN news agency as saying.

Sheik Tantawi was speaking during a meeting with Sari Nussiebeh. While in Egypt, Mr. Nussiebeh has met with Egyptian officials and Arab League Secretary General Amr Mussa.

Weekly notes

U.S. and German officials signed $145 million in deals at Gaza City yesterday to build health clinics for women and children, as well as sewage and water treatment plants in the Palestinian territories, where health standards have fallen sharply since the Palestinian uprising on Sept. 28, 2000. Croatian President Stipe Mesic opened a new chapter in relations with Israel yesterday, apologizing at a Jerusalem press conference for his country's World War II massacre of around 30,000 Jews. He is the first Croatian president to visit Israel. Iraqi President Saddam Hussein urged the world yesterday to prevent the United States from winning its war in Afghanistan, while his son's newspaper expressed fear that Washington and London would attack Iraq in November. "Perhaps they may suspend their operation in Afghanistan because of winter, and they may commit new aggression against Iraq starting with the beginning of Ramadan," the newspaper Babel said in a rare front-page editorial.

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