- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 18, 2004

GEORGIA

Leader ends crisis with rebel region

BATUMI — Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili yesterday defused the worst crisis since he came to power, lifting an economic blockade on the rebellious Adzhara region in return for a greater say in local affairs.

The five-day standoff had threatened to spill into armed conflict, blocked oil shipments from the port of Batumi and highlighted strained relations with former Soviet master Russia.

The agreement, reached after three hours of talks, leaves the pro-Moscow leader Aslan Abashidze still in charge of Adzhara on the Turkish border. His militia had prevented Mr. Saakashvili from entering Adzhara during the weekend, sparking the crisis.

BRITAIN

Appeals court orders terror suspect freed

LONDON — A Libyan terror suspect left jail yesterday after Britain’s appeals court ordered the government to free him, upholding the first defeat of emergency post-September 11, 2001, powers to hold foreigners without charge.

The man, referred to as M, had been held without charge for two years. The court upheld a decision by a secretive special tribunal that the authorities had no “reasonable grounds” to suspect that he had links to terrorism.

ISRAEL

Top court imposes freeze on barrier

JERUSALEM — Hundreds of Palestinians demonstrated against Israel’s West Bank separation barrier yesterday after an Israeli court froze construction of a particularly contentious 15-mile stretch.

Soldiers fired rubber-coated steel pellets and tear gas at the crowd, and a 12-year-old Palestinian boy suffered a serious head injury.

Israel’s Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that construction of a stretch of barrier northwest of Jerusalem could not resume until the military responds to accusations that the route creates an unnecessary hardship for Palestinians. The army was given a week to respond.

SAUDI ARABIA

U.S. comment on arrests criticized

RIYADH — Saudi Arabia said yesterday that it was disappointed over U.S. criticism of the kingdom’s arrests of Saudi reformists, adding that the detentions were a domestic issue.

The United States said Wednesday that Saudi Arabia’s detention this week of at least 10 prominent activists was a step backward for political change in the oil-rich kingdom.

A Saudi Foreign Ministry official said the State Department should have consulted Saudi authorities to get the facts before criticizing the kingdom.

FRANCE

Bomb hoax hits Paris-London trains

PARIS — A fake bomb near Paris held up rail traffic to northern France and London yesterday, a week after devastating train bombings in Madrid.

The “bomb” turned out to be an empty oxygen canister with the words “Whatever you do, do not touch me” painted on it, as well as the name of a shadowy group AZF, which has threatened to blow up parts of the French railway.

IRAQ

U.N. prosecutor seeks world trial of Saddam

GENEVA — Former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein should face an international court, chief U.N. war-crimes prosecutor Carla del Ponte said yesterday. His trial should not be held in Iraq, as it would be difficult to avoid “political interference,” she told reporters.

Saddam, arrested by U.S. forces in December, is accused of atrocities, including a poison-gas attack by aircraft that killed 5,000 Kurds in Halabja 16 years ago.

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