- The Washington Times - Monday, December 18, 2006


Ex-official flees in jailbreak plot

BAGHDAD — Private guards in sport utility vehicles helped Iraq’s former electricity minister escape from a police station just outside the heavily fortified Green Zone where the dual U.S.-Iraqi citizen was being held on corruption charges, officials said yesterday.

Ayham al-Samaraie, who had escaped previously after being convicted in October, walked out of the detention facility Sunday with private security who once protected him, said Faris Kareem, deputy head of Iraq’s Public Integrity Commission.

It was the second high-profile escape in Iraq this month. On Dec. 9, Ayman Sabawi, a nephew of Saddam Hussein serving a life sentence for bomb making, escaped from a prison in northern Iraq aided by a police officer.


Morales expands coca, defying U.S. law

LA PAZ — Bolivian President Evo Morales said yesterday his government will significantly expand the legal area for growing coca, the raw material for cocaine, disregarding restrictions set out in a U.S.-sponsored law.

The eradication plan is negotiated with growers, and Mr. Morales calls it a “rationalization” plan. The leftist leader and former coca farmer is backing a program sponsored by Venezuela to export health, hygiene and beauty products containing legal coca.


Hezbollah rally demands new vote

BEIRUT — Lebanon’s opposition, led by the militant Islamist Hezbollah movement, called yesterday for early parliamentary elections after the anti-Syrian governing coalition refused to agree to its demand for a national unity government.

Opposition forces dominated by Hezbollah have been holding a round-the-clock protest in central Beirut since Dec. 1, threatening to topple the government unless it gives the opposition effective veto power in the Cabinet.

Prime Minister Fuad Siniora, backed by the United States, thus far has refused to give in, saying the opposition wants to increase the influence of Syria and Iran in Lebanon.


Russian specialists remove nuclear fuel

DRESDEN — Russian specialists working by night removed a large quantity of highly enriched uranium from a Soviet-era reactor in Germany yesterday and flew it to Russia for processing.

Protesters forced a convoy carrying the nuclear material to stop briefly despite efforts to keep the route secret and a heavy police presence.

The enriched uranium, enough for several bombs, was heading to a processing center in Podolsk, Russia, from the former Rossendorf research reactor near Dresden, where the material was stored, U.S. and German officials said.

About two-thirds of the uranium is highly enriched. In Russia, it reportedly will be mixed with low-grade uranium to make reactor fuel that no longer represents a proliferation risk.


Children don’t know Christmas’ meaning

LONDON — Less than half of British children between 7 and 11 are aware that Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus, according to a British Broadcasting Corp. poll being published today.

Just 44 percent of 1,063 children questioned understood that Christmas marks the birth of Christ. Children from Northern Ireland were the most aware of the link, with 71 percent giving the correct response.

Among the children questioned, 29 percent said Christmas was primarily about thinking of others, while 24 percent said it more about giving than receiving presents.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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