- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 22, 2005

IRAQ

Shi’ite cleric OKs draft constitution

BAGHDAD — The country’s most powerful Shi’ite cleric endorsed the draft constitution yesterday, rejecting opposition voiced by two popular leaders of Iraq’s majority sect and underlining a rift also on display in anti-British violence in the southern city of Basra.

Two officials in the Shi’ite Muslim hierarchy in Najaf said Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani called together senior aides and told them to promote a “yes” vote among the faithful during the Oct. 15 national referendum on the constitution.

Iraq’s minority Sunni Arabs, who lost power and privilege with the fall of Saddam Hussein in the U.S.-led invasion, are opposed to the constitution. They form the bulk of the country’s violent insurgency and have stepped up attacks on Shi’ites in advance of the vote.

BRITAIN

Muslims begin anti-extremist drive

LONDON — Muslim groups yesterday announced proposals to help tackle extremism in Britain after consultations with the government in the wake of the London bombings.

Proposals included the creation of a National Advisory Council of Imams and Mosques. The body would advise mosques on how to prevent infiltration by extremists and how to reduce their reliance on imams from abroad. It also would be responsible for setting standards and improving the leadership skills of imams.

SUDAN

Unity Cabinet sworn in

KHARTOUM — Sudan’s new national unity Cabinet was sworn in yesterday, a key step under the country’s peace deal that was delayed by two weeks of tough negotiations between the ruling party and former southern rebels.

The government aims to incorporate Sudanese from the mostly Christian and animist south, who fought the Muslim Arab-led government in Khartoum for 21 years, and include them in power.

The move is part of a broad attempt under the January peace agreement to give the south a share in the nation’s resources, particularly oil, and a stake in the country, in part to dissuade them from voting to secede in a referendum promised in six years.

MEXICO

Minister’s death seen accidental

MEXICO CITY — Fog and not foul play almost certainly caused a helicopter crash that killed a top figure in Mexico’s fight against drug gangs, the government said yesterday, although it vowed to investigate thoroughly.

Public Security Minister Ramon Martin Huerta and eight others died Wednesday when their helicopter slammed into a fog-shrouded mountain near the capital.

Mr. Martin Huerta was a close ally and friend of President Vicente Fox, and a key operative in a war on drugs that has experienced a surge in violence along the U.S.-Mexico border this year.

SOUTH AFRICA

Commercial farm to be expropriated

JOHANNESBURG — South Africa yesterday announced the first expropriation of a commercial farm after the owner rejected the government’s purchase offer.

After 2½ years of negotiations failed to produce a settlement, the Commission on Restitution of Land Rights said an expropriation notice would be served on Hannes Visser, owner of a farm in North West Province. The government offered to buy the 1,250-acre cattle and crop farm for $275,000, but Mr. Visser rejected the offer, saying his farm was worth twice that.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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