- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 13, 2003

IRAQ

Iranian refugees evicted from homes

GENEVA — A growing number of Iranian refugees in Iraq are being attacked and forced out of their homes, the United Nations refugee agency said yesterday. There are about 23,000 Iranian refugees in the country, most of them Kurds.

Last week, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) issued a similar warning about Palestinian refugees facing harassment and violence. The Geneva agency’s latest concern focused on a group of 6,700 Iranian Arab refugees in southern Iraq.

About 1,000 refugees are thought to have fled the two settlements, and there was a continuous stream of arrivals near the Iranian border at Basra in southern Iraq, according to UNHCR. Agency staff who went to Dujaila during the weekend said they saw evidence of a systematic campaign of intimidation by local militias, including a truck carrying about a dozen masked men.

EGYPT

U.S. returns 6 artifacts stolen in 1860

CAIRO — Egypt recovered this week six Pharaonic artifacts from the United States that had been smuggled out of the country more than 150 years ago.

An EgyptAir flight from New York unloaded crates containing four colored limestone plates with images of Pharaoh Seti I, a stele showing officials worshipping the god Osiris, and a statue of a cobra, officials said. Police accompanied the motorcade carrying the treasures to the Egyptian Museum in central Cairo.

The plates, which were discovered in 1817, were later stolen from the tomb of Seti I, a king of the 19th Dynasty (1314-1200 B.C.) and the father of Pharaoh Ramses II near Luxor.

ALGERIA

Berlin seeks tourists who vanished in Sahara

ALGIERS — German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer met Monday with Algeria’s president to discuss the fate of 32 European tourists, including 16 Germans, who vanished in the Sahara Desert.

Mr. Fischer voiced hope that the tourists would return home safely, but his visit underscored growing concern about their fate. The visitors, who set off in seven groups in four-wheel-drive vehicles or on motorcycles, began disappearing in February.

There has been speculation that Islamic rebels battling Algeria’s military-backed government for more than a decade might be involved. Others suspect smugglers who are active in the area.

Weekly notes …

Kuwait is opening its doors to a multibillion-dollar investment project aimed at transforming Failaka Island into a tourist attraction. A government team outlined to potential local and foreign investors this week a plan to overhaul the emirate’s most populous island with a five-year build, operate-and-transfer (BOT) agreement. … Turkey plans to enact tougher penalties for torture — for which it is subject to frequent international criticism — in a legal-reform package the government has submitted to parliament, officials said yesterday. The bill amending the penal code describes torture as a crime whether committed by officials or civilians, and mandates a prison term of three to six years. If a victim dies of torture, the penalty is life imprisonment without parole.


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