- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 11, 2006


Assad appoints Cabinet ministers

DAMASCUS — Syrian President Bashar Assad appointed new interior and foreign ministers yesterday, filling a major vacuum in his government as the country faces pressure over its role in Lebanon.

The appointment of senior security officer Bassam Abdel Majeed as interior minister and career diplomat Walid al-Moualem to the foreign affairs portfolio were the key changes in a Cabinet reshuffle announced through the state news agency SANA.

Mr. Majeed succeeds the late Gen. Ghazi Kanaan, whom the authorities said committed suicide last year. Farouq al-Shara, who had served as Syria’s foreign minister for 22 years, was appointed vice president and was replaced by his deputy Mr. al-Moualem.


Musharraf confirms strike killed terrorists

PESHAWAR — Pakistan’s president said yesterday that an American missile attack last month killed a close relative of al Qaeda’s No. 2 leader and a terror suspect sought by the United States.

It was the first time that President Pervez Musharraf has provided details about the terror suspects killed in the strike. Until now, he has only said that “foreigners” had died.

Gen. Musharraf did not offer the names of the two militants killed in the Jan. 13 attack, but Pakistani intelligence officials have told the Associated Press that they were Midhat Mursi al-Sayid Umar and Abdul Rehman al-Maghribi, a relative of al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri.


Rumsfeld, leaders vow to combat terrorism

TUNIS — Citing their nations’ shared experience as victims of terrorism, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and leaders of this Muslim nation pledged yesterday to build closer military ties to help combat Islamic extremism.

“They have been attacked by terrorists in this country; they have felt the sting of that type of violence,” Mr. Rumsfeld told reporters after meeting with President Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali at the presidential palace.

Mr. Rumsfeld was referring to an April 2002 terrorist attack on the historic El-Ghriba synagogue on the island of Jerba that killed 21 persons. The al Qaeda terrorist network claimed responsibility. Tunis was the first stop on a three-day North Africa tour that also includes Algeria and Morocco.


Hamas leaders set to visit Moscow soon

JERUSALEM — Hamas militants confirmed yesterday they plan to travel to Moscow this month for talks with President Vladimir Putin, a trip that has enraged Israeli leaders, who fear the international community’s resolve to shun the Islamic group is weakening.

Hamas said it does not expect Russia to impose any conditions on the group, despite U.S. calls for Moscow to send a clear message that Hamas halt attacks on Israel and recognize the Jewish state.

“We are going to present our positions … about the political developments and issues related to the rights of our people,” said Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza. “Russia will listen to Hamas and Hamas will listen to Russia.”


Preval supporters anticipate victory

PORT-AU-PRINCE — Thousands of chanting supporters of presidential candidate Rene Preval marched from a seaside slum past the national palace in a victory celebration yesterday as electoral officials continued counting ballots that have given Mr. Preval a wide lead.

The former president had 49.6 percent of 1.46 million valid votes counted so far, with the other candidates far behind, Haiti’s election council said.

The winning candidate needs 50 percent plus one vote to avoid a March 19 runoff with the second-place finisher. Final results are expected today.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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