- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 21, 2006


Top Muslim leader, 20 others arrested

PARIS — Dhaou Meskine, secretary-general of the Council of Imams of France, has been arrested on suspicion of money laundering linked to Muslim extremists, police said yesterday.

Imam Meskine was arrested Monday with 20 members of his family and aides in a swoop ordered by Paris prosecutors. Many of the arrests took place in the northwest Seine-Maritime region, where the Meskine family has bought property with the aim of building a leisure park, officers said.

Imam Meskine, of Tunisian background, helped start interreligious dialogue in France among Christians, Jews and Muslims, and founded France’s first private Muslim high school in Aubervilliers, a northern Paris suburb. Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy consulted with him several times in his dealings with France’s Muslim community, Western Europe’s largest.


Japan to withdraw its military forces

TOKYO — Japan has decided to withdraw its troops from Iraq, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi announced yesterday, ending its riskiest and most ambitious overseas mission since World War II.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Monday that Iraqi forces will take over security next month in Muthanna, a southern province where the British oversee a multinational contingent that includes Japanese troops.

The troop dispatch won praise from the Bush administration but was opposed by many at home, who said the military deployment violates Japan’s pacifist constitution.


Russians, Americans at odds over nukes

MOSCOW — Russians and Americans have nearly polar opposite opinions on whether and how to punish Iran if it continues to produce nuclear fuel despite international pressure to stop, a poll published yesterday shows.

Only 23 percent of Russians favor economic sanctions, whereas 68 percent of Americans think some form of trade or sales embargo against Tehran is appropriate, according to an April poll that questioned 1,000 people in both countries.

Asked whether the U.N. Security Council should still negotiate “if Iran continues to produce nuclear fuel that could be developed for use in nuclear weapons,” 62 percent of Russian respondents said yes, while 26 percent of Americans indicated that talks would be pointless.

Weekly notes …

Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao arrived in Luanda yesterday on a landmark visit to oil-rich Angola, where Chinese firms are leading efforts to step up oil production and rebuild a country ruined by nearly 30 years of war. Mr. Wen, the most senior Chinese official to visit Angola since a brutal 27-year civil war ended in 2002, was scheduled to discuss bilateral economic ties with President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, visit a Chinese-funded hospital in the capital and meet with resident Chinese businessmen later in the day. … Australia expects to be able to review its troop deployment in Iraq by the end of this year, Defense Minister Brendan Nelson said today. But Mr. Nelson said any plans to withdraw troops would depend on how successful Iraq is at taking control of its own security.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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