- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 14, 2006

BRITAIN

Troops in Iraq to be cut by 800

LONDON — Britain said yesterday that it will cut its forces in Iraq by 10 percent — a reduction of about 800 troops — by May because Iraqi security forces are becoming more capable of handling security.

Defense Secretary John Reid told the House of Commons that Britain’s commitment to the Iraqi people “remains total.”

Britain had 46,000 military personnel in Iraq during combat operations in March and April 2003. That dropped to 18,000 in May 2004 and to 8,500 at the end of 2005.

BRAZIL

Lebanese woman held in bank fraud

SAO PAULO — Brazilian police have arrested a Lebanese woman wanted in a major bank scandal in Lebanon who they say may be linked to the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Rana Abdel Rahim Koleilat, 39, who was sought by the international police agency Interpol, was arrested at a hotel in the city of Sao Paulo on Sunday afternoon. She was carrying a false British passport.

In Beirut, a Lebanese judicial source said she had no connection with the Hariri assassination.

INDIA

Rebels attack trains; passengers safe

NEW DELHI — Police and soldiers reached the scene where a train was seized by communist rebels overnight in eastern India, and all the passengers were safe, an official said today.

K.K. Sone, the top official in the district where the seizure occurred, in an isolated part of Jharkhand state, said the militants had fled by the time authorities arrived.

Communist rebels attacked two trains yesterday, and authorities had not been able to immediately contact one of the trains, which was carrying more than 200 people. There were concerns that the rebels were holding the passengers on the train.

BRITAIN

‘Da Vinci Code’ author denies plagiarism

LONDON — In a rare public appearance, “The Da Vinci Code” writer Dan Brown dismissed as “completely fanciful” the claims by two authors that he had stolen their ideas. He said he did not read their book until the structure of his theological thriller was in place.

The multimillionaire writer appeared in London’s High Court to deny accusations of copyright infringement from authors Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh. Both books explore theories that Mary Magdalene was not a prostitute but Jesus’ wife; that the couple had a child; and that the bloodline survives.

NEPAL

Rebels offered amnesty, land

KATMANDU — Nepal’s royal government offered amnesty, cash, jobs and land yesterday to communist rebels who surrender in the next three months.

Senior Maoist rebel leaders will be given up to $14,000 if they surrender, and guerrillas will receive up to $7,000 if they hand over their weapons by mid-June, the government said.

The guerrillas have fought for a decade to replace Nepal’s constitutional monarchy with a communist government. The insurgency has claimed nearly 13,000 lives.

BRITAIN

Police chief faces phone-tap rap

LONDON — Britain’s most senior police officer was reprimanded yesterday for secretly recording phone calls of the government’s top legal adviser and members of an investigation commission.

In September, Commissioner Ian Blair secretly taped a call from Attorney General Peter Goldsmith that press reports said had centered on the admissibility of telephone wiretap evidence in British courts.

The chairman of the Metropolitan Police Authority, which oversees the London police and can discipline their senior officers, told Commissioner Blair that his actions were “wholly unacceptable.”

Mr. Goldsmith said he had spoken to the commissioner yesterday and received an explanation and apology.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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