- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 18, 2002

Conservative cleric replaces Khatami ally

TEHRAN Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, appointed conservative Ayatollah Yousef Tabatabai as Friday prayer leader in Isfahan to replace a top liberal cleric who resigned in July, accusing those in power of betraying the Islamic revolution.

In his letter of resignation, the Ayatollah Jalaleddin Taheri made a stinging attack on those "astride the unruly camel of power" whom he accused of assisting "a bunch of club-wielders" who sought to "marry the ill-tempered, ugly witch of violence to religion."

The Ayatollah Taheri was the only big-city prayer leader to support President Mohammed Khatami's drive for reforms.

Costly Kurdish cash kills 80,000 jobs

ISTANBUL Some 80,000 Iraqi Kurds have lost their jobs because of currency volatility in a region that could play a key part in U.S. plans to oust Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, local officials there say.

Northern Iraq has been outside Baghdad's control since the 1991 Persian Gulf war, when the Kurdish region began to be protected from Iraqi attack by U.S. and British air patrols operating from Turkey. Unlike the rest of Iraq, the Kurds in the north use old Iraqi dinar bank notes printed in Switzerland. None has been issued in years, and scarcity from wear drives up the bills' value.

The Kurdistan regional government said on its Web site that its old dinars are worth the U.S. equivalent of 7.7 cents this week, up from 5.6 cents a few months ago. Local contractors who carry out U.N.-sponsored infrastructure projects are paid in dollars and no longer can afford to pay their employees in old dinars.

Election law change called delay tactic

ANKARA,Turkey President Ahmet Necdet Sezer said yesterday that a planned bid by three political parties to change electoral rules was intended to stall a general election set for November.

"Their aim is to postpone the elections," Mr. Sezer told reporters at Ankara's airport as he was leaving for a visit to Azerbaijan.

On Monday, the opposition New Turkey (YT) party said it was planning along with the ruling coalition's Motherland Party (ANAP) and the opposition Islamist Saadet Party (SP) to summon parliament back from summer recess to consider changes in the election law.

The proposed changes include slashing the percentage of votes a party needs to win parliament seats from 10 percent to 5 percent, and lifting a ban on electoral alliances between parties.

Observers say that changing rules less than two months before elections automatically would force a postponement of the Nov. 3 balloting.

Weekly notes

A tiny robot broadcast live television pictures to the world yesterday as it crept through an ancient Egyptian pyramid, solving one puzzle but uncovering a new one. Researchers said they planned more explorations after their machine, the size of a toy train, took two hours to traverse a narrow shaft in the Great Pyramid outside Cairo, drill through a door at the end and push through its camera to reveal still another door.

A Yemeni man divorced his first wife because she was loud and argumentative and picked a deaf and mute woman to replace her, a Sanaa newspaper reported. The 40-year-old man from Dhamar province was so tired of his wife's "screaming and endless disputes" that he left her after 15 years for "one deprived of hearing and speech and who is quiet and mild-mannered," Al-Thawra daily said. Men in Muslim Yemen may marry up to four wives and divorce without giving reasons.

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