- The Washington Times - Friday, May 23, 2003


Al Qaeda charge blamed on bad U.S. intelligence

TEHRAN — Iran said U.S. charges that the Islamic country harbored al Qaeda members were based on faulty intelligence, but vowed to arrest any militants who might have entered the country without its knowledge, IRNA agency reported yesterday.

“America should not blame others because it suffers from weak intelligence. We would arrest al Qaeda members wherever we see them,” the official IRNA news agency quoted Iranian Intelligence Minister Ali Yunesi as saying. “I can counter by saying that many al Qaeda members are in America right now.”

The United States said Wednesday it had told Iran this week to crack down on suspected al Qaeda members that Washington believes are operating in the country.


Trial of 12 Muslims ends on weak note

AMSTERDAM — The trial of 12 Muslim men suspected of links with terrorism closed yesterday, with the reluctant public prosecutor acknowledging the weakness of his case.

After a brief concluding session in the Rotterdam court, the three-judge panel adjourned to consider its verdict, which is due June 5.

Two men were charged with attempting to aid enemies of the Netherlands during wartime — a reference to the U.S.-led campaign in Afghanistan — which carries a maximum life sentence. The prosecutor, however, recommended a maximum three years’ imprisonment.

Midway through the trial, similar charges against the other 10 defendants were downgraded to “membership in a criminal organization.”


Afghans to open voter registration

KABUL — Afghanistan’s government wants to begin the difficult task of registering 10 million voters for next year’s presidential elections by September, a U.N. official said yesterday.

Officials will have to figure out how to find 2 million refugees and 600,000 people displaced by conflict or drought, said Reginald Austin, chief of the U.N. Mission in Afghanistan’s electoral unit.

At least 2 million Afghans are living in exile abroad, mostly in neighboring Pakistan and Iran, while about 600,000 people are displaced inside the country.


Teachers join protests against government cuts

PARIS — French teachers formed a human chain around the Education Ministry yesterday in the latest of a wave of protests against government plans to freeze spending, reform pensions and devolve powers to local authorities.

Trade unions reported one in two teachers went out on strike and 35,000 people joined the Paris protest. Official estimates put the proportion of strikers at roughly 30 percent.

Crowds waving huge banners snaked across the Left Bank of the French capital, paralyzing the trendy Boulevard St. Michel.

The protest was the sixth teachers’ strike since the academic year began in September and set the stage for a big nationwide demonstration Sunday and further strikes to come.


WHO seeks funds to cut measles deaths

GENEVA — The World Health Organization said yesterday it needs an extra $200 million to fight the 750,000 “unacceptable and preventable” measles deaths among children in developing countries each year.

“This mortality is unacceptable as it is fully preventable,” Daniel Tarantola, director of vaccines and biologicals at the WHO, said at a news briefing.

The funds are earmarked for vaccination programs in 45 priority countries, many of them in Africa, where 400,000 children die every year. The WHO will forward the resolution to the annual World Health Assembly of its 192 members tomorrow.

A single dose of measles vaccine, which costs 25 cents, is “one of the most potent public health tools we have,” according to Brad Hersh, a WHO medical officer.

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