- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 13, 2005


Ex-U.N. envoy charged in oil-food scam

PARIS — A former French ambassador to the United Nations was placed under investigation yesterday in connection with an inquiry into corruption linked to the U.N.-run oil-for-food program in Iraq, a judicial source said.

Jean-Bernard Merimee, detained Monday over accusations that he may have benefited from oil allocated under the program by former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, was charged with corruption and corruption of foreign public servants.

Released on bail, he is one of almost a dozen French political, diplomatic and other personalities whom Judge Philippe Courroye has questioned or wants to question over the oil-for-food program.

Mr. Merimee was France’s U.N. ambassador from 1991 to 1995 and was ambassador in Italy from 1995 to 1998. Most of the oil-for-food negotiations began in 1996.


Economist leads election race

MONROVIA — Former Finance Minister Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and soccer star George Weah emerged as early front-runners yesterday in Liberia’s first postwar elections, officials said, citing initial results.

Expectation gripped the West African country after an enthusiastic turnout in the presidential and parliamentary elections Tuesday, which were aimed at restoring stability after the civil war that ended two years ago.

First results from 39 out of a total of 3,070 polling stations showed Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf, a 66-year-old grandmother and Harvard-trained economist, and 39-year-old Mr. Weah, a former AC Milan soccer star, leading the field of 22 presidential candidates.


Two journalists abducted in Gaza

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Palestinian gunmen briefly kidnapped an American and a British journalist yesterday as the pair drove through the central Gaza town of Khan Younis, one of the abducted journalists said.

Dion Nissenbaum, an American reporter for the Knight Ridder newspaper chain, and British photographer Adam Pletts, who was working on contract for Knight Ridder, were freed last night after several hours in captivity, Mr. Nissenbaum said.

Palestinian security officials said the men had been kidnapped by a renegade group of members of the ruling Fatah party. They said Fatah officials and Palestinian security officers negotiated their release.


Protests mark attack anniversary

BALI — Hundreds of protesters demanding death for the Bali bombers broke down the gates of a prison on the third anniversary of the nightclub attacks, amid rising anger after fresh terrorist strikes on the resort island this month.

Kerobokan jail is home to several Islamist militants convicted in the Oct. 12, 2002, blasts that killed 202 persons, mostly young foreign tourists.

The 2002 attacks were blamed on the al Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah, which is also accused in the Oct. 1 triple suicide bombings that killed 20 persons and wounded more than 100.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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