- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 15, 2003

IRAN

U.N. observer visit delayed amid arrests

TEHRAN — Iran postponed a planned visit by a top U.N. official charged with promoting free speech after a string of arrests of pro-reform journalists, the United Nations said yesterday.

Ambeyi Ligabo, special representative of the U.N. Commission for Human Rights, had been due to arrive here tomorrow for a 10-day visit at the government’s invitation. Iran’s official IRNA news agency said the visit was postponed owing to scheduling problems.

The visit would have coincided with a new crackdown on reformist media here. About a dozen journalists and newspaper editors have been detained since violent protests last month against clerical rule. A Canadian-Iranian photojournalist died last week after being arrested for taking pictures outside a Tehran prison.

SYRIA

Court drops charges against leading activist

DAMASCUS — A Syrian military court dropped charges against a leading human rights activist yesterday, one of his attorneys said. It was the latest of several Syrian gestures hinting at willingness to ease an authoritarian regime.

An attorney for Haithem al-Maleh, himself a lawyer and senior figure in the country’s Human Rights Association (HRAS), said the court had opted to include his client in a recent amnesty issued by President Bashar Assad for minor criminal offenses.

TURKEY

Coastal sell-off denounced as ‘pillage’

ISTANBUL — A government project to sell off thousands of acres of Turkey’s protected countryside, mostly along the coastline, has sparked outrage from environmentalists, who have condemned the move as “pillage.”

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the sale would bring in $25 billion, allowing the government to reduce the mountain of debt weighing on the state. But the Turkish Society for the Protection of Nature vowed to fight the project.

The proposed law, which has advanced at a snail’s pace, provides for the sale of 782 registered nature sites of unspecified acreage, mostly on the coast in areas highly coveted by the tourism industry. The new owners will be permitted to build on up to 3 percent of the land.

Weekly notes …

The leader of the Egyptian Islamic militants who assassinated President Anwar Sadat 22 years ago voiced “deep sorrow” for the murder and called him a “martyr,” an Arabic newspaper reported yesterday. “Sadat died a martyr during civil strife,” said Jemaah Islamiyah leader Karam Zohdi, who approved the assassination, in a Cairo prison interview with the London-based Asharq al-Awsat newspaper. Mr. Sadat was shot and killed by Khaled al-Islambuli, one of several Jemaah Islamiyah members who broke from the ranks of a military parade Oct. 6, 1981, and attacked the reviewing stand. … A heat wave in southern Algeria with temperatures soaring to 135 degrees Fahrenheit has killed at least 12 persons in the past six weeks, health authorities said yesterday. Most of the victims lived in the Adrar area, about 800 miles southwest of Algiers in the Sahara Desert. Lawmakers from the region hope to change working hours in the south from the current 8:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. until noon.

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