- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 17, 2003

FRANCE

Chirac seeks ban on head scarves

PARIS — French President Jacques Chirac asked parliament yesterday for a law banning Islamic head scarves and other religious insignia in public schools, a move that aims at shoring up France’s secular tradition, despite cries that it will stigmatize the 5 million Muslims in the nation.

Mr. Chirac said he would push for a law to be enacted in time for the school year beginning in autumn. Islamic head scarves, Jewish skullcaps and large crucifixes would be subject to the ban. Discreet items such as a small pendant with the Star of David could be allowed, he said.

IRAN

Nu clear protocolto be signed today

VIENNA, Austria — Iran will sign a key agreement today opening its nuclear facilities to outside scrutiny, the United Nations’ atomic agency said, ending weeks of speculation that Tehran was stalling despite mounting Western pressure and an implicit threat of sanctions.

Mohamed ElBaradei, chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency, and an unidentified Iranian government official will sign the pact this afternoon at the agency’s headquarters in Vienna, the IAEA said.

SAUDI ARABIA

U.S. sharpens warning on threat to Americans

The State Department yesterday urged nonessential diplomats and families of all U.S. officials to leave Saudi Arabia, citing increased risks of terrorist attacks.

The upgraded alert also advised private U.S. citizens to consider leaving, while Americans in the country or those planning a trip there should register with the embassy in Riyadh or the two U.S. consulates in the kingdom.

Saudi Arabia, which recently banned female dolls and stuffed animals to conform with its strict interpretation of Islam, has faced several attacks since May on housing compounds and other sites favored by Westerners.

AFGHANISTAN

Chaos reigns at loya jirga

KABUL — Afghanistan’s constitutional council erupted in chaos yesterday, with one delegate denouncing her colleagues as “criminals” and others threatening to walk out in a dispute over whether to adopt a presidential system.

After three days of hopeful speeches and some low-level procedural squabbling, the outbreaks were a sharp reminder of the fractured politics that dominate Afghanistan after more than two decades of conflict.

The constitutional council, or loya jirga, is being billed as a historic opportunity to shape a new and democratic system for this war-ravaged land.

KENYA

Officials investigate missing billions

NAIROBI — Investigators tracking the plunder of Kenya’s resources during the regime of President Daniel arap Moi have discovered that $1 billion to $4 billion were shipped abroad illegally.

John Githongo, permanent presidential secretary for ethics and governance, said his team had sought assistance in February from the global security firm Kroll International to recover the money.

ISRAEL

Iraqi baby dies after heart surgery

JERUSALEM — A month-old Iraqi baby brought to Israel with a serious heart defect died yesterday, a little over three weeks after undergoing emergency surgery here.

The Israeli medical charity that arranged the flight for Bayan Jassem and her parents said that after the 10-hour operation on Nov. 26, Bayan developed bleeding in her lungs and other complications that led to a multiple failure of vital functions.


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