- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 23, 2003

IRAN

Al Qaeda members sent to Saudi Arabia

LONDON — Iran has extradited a number of Saudi members of al Qaeda to Saudi Arabia, the official Iranian news agency IRNA, monitored in London by the British Broadcasting Corp., reported yesterday.

IRNA quoted Tehran’s ambassador to Riyadh as saying the members of al Qaeda had been arrested in Iran after the U.S.-led war on Afghanistan but did not identify them nor say how many had been extradited or when they had been handed over to Saudi Arabia.

Last Sunday, IRNA quoted Hassan Rohani, secretary-general of the Supreme National Security Council, as saying Iran had foiled a number of attacks al Qaeda had been planning to carry out on its soil.

Tehran has said previously that it has arrested a number of al Qaeda members, including some senior figures but has refused to hand them over to U.S. officials for questioning.

GREECE

Businessman arrested on fraud charges

ATHENS — Former Russian media magnate Vladimir Gusinsky, who lost his business after falling afoul of the Kremlin, was arrested at Athens airport on an international warrant, Greek police said yesterday.

Mr. Gusinsky, 51, arrived on a flight from Tel Aviv on Thursday, carrying Russian and Israeli passports. Police said he would appear before a Greek prosecutor tomorrow. Police said there was an Interpol warrant from Russia on him because of suspicion of a $250 million fraud.

Mr. Gusinsky owned Russia’s biggest independent television station, NTV, which won international acclaim for its coverage of Moscow’s war in separatist Chechnya, before the state wrested control from him using the company’s massive debt as leverage. He fled Russia after prosecutors opened a fraud case against him. He first was arrested in Spain in 2000, but a Spanish court threw out all charges.

CANADA

Wildfire destroys more than 200 homes

KELOWNA — A firestorm that forced 30,000 people to flee from a town in western Canada has destroyed more than 200 houses, officials said yesterday.

The Okanagan Mountain forest fire — moving at 100 yards per minute and with 400-foot-high flames — has forced the evacuation of nearly one-third of Kelowna’s residents.

Officials ordered 20,000 people to flee with a few minutes’ warning Friday evening as the forest fire began to crown, or move rapidly from tree top to tree top. Similar conditions had forced 10,000 to evacuate late Thursday.

The fire, about 185 miles east of Vancouver, began Aug. 16 with a lightning strike in the mountains.

VENEZUELA

Chavez supporters rally against vote

CARACAS — More than 100,000 supporters of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez jammed a central Caracas avenue yesterday in a show of strength to challenge a referendum campaign to oust the leftist leader.

Salsa music and drums rose above a sea of revolutionary red banners and flags as protesters celebrated the halfway mark of the populist president’s six-year mandate and rejected an opposition bid to unseat him through the ballot box.

ECUADOR

Ex-president flees to Dominican Republic

QUITO — Former Ecuadorean President Gustavo Noboa left the country yesterday for the Dominican Republic, where he obtained political asylum to avoid arrest in an investigation of his government’s use of state bonds.

Mr. Noboa, a 66-year-old former university professor, drove to Quito’s airport at dawn, escorted by police, and left on a commercial flight. He was accompanied by his wife.

Mr. Noboa, who governed from 2000 to 2003, says he is persecuted by his powerful political foe — former President Leon Febres Cordero — who called for the investigation.

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