- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 7, 2004

GEORGIA

4 explosions hit breakaway region

TBILISI — Four explosions shook the capital of Georgia’s breakaway region of Abkhazia yesterday but caused no casualties or damage, the Interfax news agency reported, after the two candidates vying for the region’s presidency agreed to conduct new elections.

Russian news agencies, citing opposition leader Sergei Bagapsh, reported that the election date could be set for Dec. 26. That would put it on the same day a repeat runoff presidential vote will be held to resolve a similar political crisis in Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin openly backed the establishment candidate, Raul Khadzhimba, and all indications were that Mr. Bagapsh won in spite of purported fraud by the rival camp.

IRAN

Al Qaeda men tried in defiance of U.S.

TEHRAN — Iran’s judiciary has tried a number of arrested al Qaeda members and verdicts have been issued, a senior judiciary official was quoted as saying yesterday.

News of the trials is likely to anger Washington, which has repeatedly called on Iran to hand over all al Qaeda suspects it is holding. Guilty verdicts and long jail terms would make that an even more distant prospect. Western intelligence and Saudi sources believe Iran may have captured al Qaeda’s security chief and a son of Osama bin Laden.

THAILAND

Attacks erupt hours after origami flights

BANGKOK — A massive airdrop of paper birds intended to promote peace failed to halt violence in Thailand’s restive south, with a spate of new attacks yesterday that targeted soldiers and local officials.

The bombings, shootings and arson attacks came hours after Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said Sunday’s airdrop of nearly 100 million Japanese-style origami cranes over the predominantly Muslim region had achieved an “enormous, positive psychological effect” toward peace.

BRITAIN

Palace invites woman facing deportation

LONDON — A respected community volunteer fighting efforts by the British government to deport her to her native Pakistan has been invited to celebrate Christmas with Queen Elizabeth II.

Farhat Khan came to Britain in 2000 with her five children to escape domestic violence from her husband and the threat of arranged marriages for her two young daughters, and began working in a benefits and immigration advice center in Manchester.

FRANCE

Soldier ends standoff at explosives depot

CONNANTRAY-VAUREFROY — A French soldier who locked himself in an explosives depot and threatened to blow it up surrendered yesterday, ending a three-day standoff, the Interior Ministry said.

Officials said Regis Le Tohic, a 46-year-old warrant officer and explosives expert, had been angry about being forced to retire and demanded the army reconsider his request for a promotion that could have prolonged his career. Under French law, a soldier holding the rank of warrant officer must retire at age 47.

JAPAN

Strong earthquake rattles the north

TOKYO — A strong earthquake shook northern Japan yesterday, slightly injuring two persons, but causing no serious damage.

Japan’s Meteorological Agency said the magnitude 7.0 quake, which struck off the coast of Japan’s northernmost main island of Hokkaido at 11:15 p.m., was centered about 31 miles beneath the ocean floor.

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