- The Washington Times - Friday, December 16, 2005

FRANCE

Two more suspects linked to Zarqawi held

PARIS — French police seized weapons and arrested two persons as part of a probe into an Islamic militant group said to have indirect links to al Qaeda’s leader in Iraq, Abu Musab Zarqawi, officials said yesterday.

The two arrests, on Wednesday, followed a string of dawn raids in the Paris region Monday, when police arrested 25 persons suspected of financing Islamic militancy by staging armed robberies. Four have been released.

BRITAIN

Mosques allowed to remain open

LONDON — Britain announced yesterday that it had dropped plans to close mosques deemed to be breeding grounds for extremism after opposition from police and the Muslim community.

The contentious measure was proposed in the aftermath of suicide bombings in London in July, when four British Islamists killed themselves and 52 others on subway trains and a bus. Two weeks later, an identical plot was botched when the bombs failed to detonate.

The proposal was part of a 12-point anti-terrorism plan put forward by Prime Minister Tony Blair in August.

NEPAL

Soldier ends dispute by killing 12 villagers

KATMANDU — A Nepalese soldier ended an argument with a group of villagers by spraying them with bullets, killing 12 persons, officials and witnesses said.

The soldier killed 11 civilians and injured 19 in the shooting in Nagarkot, about 20 miles northeast of Katmandu, late Wednesday, the Royal Nepalese Army said. One of the injured died in hospital. The army said the soldier also died in the incident.

Yesterday, about 15,000 protesters led by an alliance of seven political parties marched through Katmandu to condemn the killings.

ERITREA

Western forces begin withdrawal

ASMARA — Western peacekeepers began leaving Eritrea yesterday after the United Nations agreed to pull out Americans, Canadians and Europeans from its mission set up to prevent war with neighboring Ethiopia.

The U.N. Security Council had said the world body would “temporarily relocate” military and civilian staff from Eritrea to Ethiopia in the interests of safety.

Asmara ordered out Western peacekeepers last week. The order affects about 180 Western military observers and civilian logistics staff.

EGYPT

Envoy sees move to political center

Minimizing election gains by the Muslim Brotherhood, Egyptian Ambassador Nabil Fahmy said yesterday that his country was moving toward a centrist, not an Islamist, political position.

Reflecting on monthlong parliamentary elections over breakfast with American reporters in Washington, Mr. Fahmy said, “I see it as a vote for change rather than going Islamist. It is an evolution, not a revolution.”

The Muslim Brotherhood, an officially banned Islamic movement, performed better than most expected in the elections, winning 88 seats compared with the 15 it held in the outgoing 454-member parliament.

AUSTRIA

EU hits Russia for Iran missile deal

VIENNA — The European Union has formally protested to Russia about its sale of sophisticated missiles to Iran, European and U.S. officials said yesterday, adding that the diplomatic row reflected disarray on how to pressure Tehran to scale back its suspect nuclear program.

In a note to the Russian Foreign Ministry, the European Union complained that the deal sent a wrong signal at a time when Iran is increasingly isolated because of harsh anti-Jewish rhetoric from its president, suspicions that it is aiding terrorists and a poor human rights record, the officials said.

AFGHANISTAN

U.S. soldier killed in clash

KABUL — An American soldier was killed in a firefight with Taliban suspects in Afghanistan yesterday, the U.S. military said.

The clash occurred in the southern province of Kandahar as Afghan and U.S. troops were conducting a joint combat patrol, the U.S. military said.

One militant was killed, and a U.S. soldier and an Afghan soldier were wounded. Nearly 60 American soldiers have been killed in attacks this year by remnants of the ousted Taliban regime.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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