- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 30, 2002

Iraq's top diplomat rates Iran trip success
BAGHDAD Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri yesterday pronounced his three-day visit to Iran a success, saying Tehran wants to resolve outstanding issues between the two former foes.
He traveled to Iran seeking to resolve the fate of thousands of refugees and prisoners of war, the main hurdle to a normalization of ties between the neighbors since their devastating 1980-88 war.
The two sides have never signed a formal treaty ending the war, which cost about 1 million lives. But in a sign of the thaw between the erstwhile foes, Mr. Sabri exchanged warm words Sunday night with Iran's President Mohammed Khatami.

Lebanon voices regret at UNIFIL drawdown
BEIRUT The Lebanese government expressed regret yesterday at a U.N. decision to scale back its Interim Force in southern Lebanon (UNIFIL) but is satisfied that its peacekeeping mission has not been altered.
"It is not the right moment to reduce [UNIFIL] when its mission has not been totally completed," Foreign Minister Mahmud Hammud told reporters. Insisting that the Israeli pullout is not complete until its withdrawal from the Shebaa Farms, Lebanon has refused to send its army to the borders, where Hezbollah guerrillas are deployed.
In another development, Mr. Hammud told reporters Lebanon has received U.N. maps showing 405,000 land mines Israel left buried in southern Lebanon after its 2000 pullout.

Hajj pilgrims begin reaching Saudi Arabia
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia Thousands of Muslim pilgrims are flocking to Saudi Arabia for the annual hajj pilgrimage amid tight security in the wake of the September 11 attacks on the United States.
Saudi security forces, worried that Islamic militants might use the event as a political platform, said yesterday they are keeping a close watch. Airport officials said more than 150,000 Muslim pilgrims had arrived, of more than 2 million who perform the five-day observance each year.
The hajj traces the route the prophet Muhammad took 14 centuries ago. One of the Five Pillars of Islam, it must be performed at least once in a lifetime by every able-bodied Muslim who has the financial means. It climaxes this year on Feb. 22 at Mount Arafat, site of the prophet's last sermon.

Weekly notes
Jordan's King Abdullah II renewed his support for Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat yesterday on the eve of a visit to the United States, saying he will discuss the Palestinian crisis with President Bush. The monarch is to meet Mr. Bush on Friday for talks that he said will dwell largely on the Palestinian-Israeli crisis. … The U.S. 6th Fleet searched two Syrian-registered merchant vessels off Cyprus as part of Washington's anti-terrorism campaign but found nothing suspicious, the fleet announced yesterday. A statement by the U.S. European Command in Germany identified the vessels as the Capten Mohamed and Haji Rahmeh.

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