- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 6, 2006

NORTHERN IRELAND

Deadline set for power sharing

ARMAGH — Britain and Ireland set a November deadline yesterday for restoring Northern Ireland’s regional administration in a final push to persuade the province’s warring politicians to share power.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern announced plans to recall the Belfast assembly — set up under 1998’s Good Friday peace agreement to end 30 years of violence — in May and give politicians six weeks to form a decision-making executive.

They set an absolute deadline of Nov. 24 for the re-establishment of power sharing between majority Protestants committed to links with Britain and Roman Catholic nationalists who favor a united Ireland.

ISRAEL

Olmert tapped for prime minister

JERUSALEM — Israeli President Moshe Katsav formally chose acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert yesterday to form the next government, and Mr. Olmert said he’d quickly put together a coalition committed to carrying out his West Bank withdrawal plan.

Mr. Olmert, whose centrist party came first in last week’s election with 29 seats in the 120-member parliament, will have up to 42 days to put together a governing coalition.

IRAQ

Kidnap suspect in U.S. custody

BAGHDAD — The U.S. military yesterday announced the arrest of a top terror leader thought to have been responsible for last year’s kidnapping of Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena.

The. military said Mohammed Hila Hammad Obeidi was arrested last month south of Baghdad, but the announcement was delayed until DNA tests confirmed his identity.

Obeidi, also known as Abu Ayman, was an aide to the chief of staff of intelligence under Saddam Hussein and purportedly commanded the Secret Islamic Army in Babil province south of Baghdad. His purported lieutenant, Syrian-born Abu Qatada, was captured by troops Dec. 27 and has “provided valuable information on the Abu Ayman terror network,” the military said.

BRITAIN

Bird flu confirmed in Scotland swan

EDINBURGH, Scotland — The deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu appeared in Britain, killed an Egyptian teen and raised worries about Africa’s preparedness yesterday as it marched relentlessly across large parts of the planet.

The discovery of H5N1 in a dead swan in Scotland extends the westward push of a virus that has been blamed for 109 human deaths since 2003 and has raised fears that a mutated strain that could be passed between humans and kill millions.

A Scottish government spokesman confirmed a dead mute swan, found last week in a harbor on the eastern coast, had H5N1.

NEPAL

Police detain 170 protesters

KATMANDU — Police arrested more than 170 protesters in Nepal’s capital yesterday, chasing them down narrow lanes and beating them with batons on the first day of a general strike to demand the king restore democracy.

Communist rebels, meanwhile, took 28 hostages in a raid on a southern town that left at least 13 persons dead, and a helicopter gunship flying in for a counterattack crashed, killing 10 soldiers. The Defense Ministry blamed engine failure; the rebels claimed they shot it down.

The government ordered troops across the Himalayan country to do whatever was necessary to foil the protests and strike against King Gyanendra’s power grab last year.

CUBA

Smuggler killed; 39 migrants arrested

HAVANA — Cuban coast guards opened fire on smugglers in a U.S.-registered speedboat, killing one smuggler and arresting 39 persons who were waiting to slip out of the country, Granma newspaper said yesterday.

Two smugglers also were wounded when they refused to stop their 40-foot launch and came under fire from a Cuban coast guard patrol boat.

The smuggler’s boat, which is owned by a Cuban-American based in Florida, was intercepted Wednesday morning off the southern coast of the western province of Pinar del Rio.

From wire dispatches and staff reports


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