- The Washington Times - Friday, February 10, 2006

GAZA STRIP

Egyptian diplomat freed by captors

GAZA CITY - An Egyptian diplomat abducted at gunpoint in the Gaza Strip was released early today Saturday, officials said, a day after an unknown Palestinian group took responsibility for the kidnapping.

Egyptian officials said Hussam Almousaly was unharmed and back at his home in Gaza City.

The Egyptian officials would not say how the release took place or whether the kidnappers’ demands had been met. The abduction had been widely condemned in the region.

IRAQ

Kidnappers set Feb. 26 deadline

KUWAIT CITY — The kidnappers of American journalist Jill Carroll have set a Feb. 26 deadline for their demands to be met or they will kill her, the owner of Kuwait’s Al Rai TV said yesterday.

People close to the kidnappers told the private TV channel earlier yesterday that Miss Carroll is “in a safe house owned by one of the kidnappers in downtown Baghdad with a group of women,” Jassem Boudai told the Associated Press.

Miss Carroll, who was kidnapped in Baghdad on Jan. 7, appeared in a video broadcast Thursday. Her kidnappers have demanded the release of all Iraqi women held in U.S. military and Iraqi jails.

MALAYSIA

Man quit terror plot after seeing 9/11

KUALA LUMPUR — A Malaysian recruited by al Qaeda to pilot a plane in a second wave of September 11-style attacks on the United States has been in custody in his homeland since December 2002, Southeast Asian security officials said yesterday.

Zaini Zakaria, a 38-year-old engineer, pulled out of the plot after seeing the carnage at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and was unwilling to die as a martyr for Islam.

The officials spoke a day after President Bush outlined details of a purported plot to use shoe bombs to take control of a plane and crash it into the Library Tower in Los Angeles, a 73-story building since renamed the US Bank Tower.

HAITI

Favorite may face runoff in vote

PORT-AU-PRINCE — Former President Rene Preval could be headed for a runoff in Haiti’s first election since Jean-Bertrand Aristide was ousted two years ago, according to the latest election results issued late yesterday.

With about half the votes counted, Mr. Preval held 50.3 percent, just above the majority needed to avoid a March 19 runoff.

Another former president, Leslie Manigat, was in second place with 11.4 percent. Mr. Preval, the favored candidate of Haiti’s poor masses, was heavily favored to win Tuesday’s election.

AUSTRALIA

Government faulted in oil-for-food deals

SYDNEY — A former Australian intelligence officer said it was “absolutely impossible” the government did not know about massive suspected kickbacks to Saddam Hussein under the U.N. oil-for-food program.

A government inquiry is investigating whether Australia’s monopoly wheat exporter, AWB Ltd., paid up to $222 million in bribes to secure wheat deals in Iraq.

Prime Minister John Howard’s center-right government has denied any knowledge of the deals, but former Secret Intelligence Service officer Warren Reid said the government would have been well aware of AWB’s dealings.

ITALY

Judge dismisses case on Jesus

ROME — An Italian judge has dismissed an atheist’s petition that a small-town priest should stand trial for asserting that Jesus Christ existed, both sides said yesterday.

Luigi Cascioli, a 72-year-old retired agronomist, had accused Father Enrico Righi of violating two laws with the assertion, which he called a deceptive fable propagated by the Roman Catholic Church.

SERBIA-MONTENEGRO

Kosovo elects new president

PRISTINA — Kosovo lawmakers elected a moderate new president yesterday, paving the way for the start of talks on the province’s future status.

Fatmir Sejdiu, 54, replaces pro-independence leader Ibrahim Rugova, who died of lung cancer on Jan. 21.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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