- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 30, 2006


Convert thanks Rome for asylum

ROME — An Afghan Christian convert who took asylum in Italy to escape the death sentence for apostasy thanked the Rome government and Pope Benedict XVI yesterday for leading an international campaign for his release.

Abdul Rahman, 41, arrived in Rome on Wednesday and was formally granted asylum yesterday. His exact whereabouts are being kept secret, but yesterday he gave a recorded television interview at a police station, with cameras showing only his back.

Asked why he had decided to convert to Christianity, he said in broken English: “Because I read the Bible and I became convinced of the goodness of this religion.”


Asian workers allowed to unionize

DUBAI — Hours after Human Rights Watch criticized the United Arab Emirates for what it called wanton abuses of Asian workers, the country’s labor minister said yesterday that a law in the works will give laborers the right to form trade unions and bargain collectively.

Labor Minister Ali al-Kaabi said the law, to be in place by year’s end, was required by Washington before a free-trade pact could be completed with this Persian Gulf state.

Last week, 2,500 laborers rioted on the construction site of a building meant to be the world’s tallest.


Quartet urges Hamas to recognize Israel

BRUSSELS — The Quartet of Middle East mediators — United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations — warned the Hamas-led Palestinian government yesterday that it must recognize Israel and seek peace talks if it wants to be guaranteed continued aid.

The new Palestinian Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar has said the new Palestinian Authority government would not give in to international pressure to change its ways and that it had no plans to negotiate with Israel.

Meanwhile, a Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up near a Jewish settlement in the West Bank yesterday, killing four Israelis. The Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, part of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah movement, claimed responsibility.


Cyclone hits northwest town

PERTH — Torrential rain and winds gusting to 100 mph lashed the remote northwest Australian fishing town of Onslow yesterday as a severe tropical cyclone made landfall from the Indian Ocean. There were no immediate reports of substantial damage or injuries.

Cyclone Glenda first hit land yesterday afternoon along the sparsely populated Pilbara coast of Western Australia state, about 620 miles north of the state capital, Perth, weather officials said.


U.S. group to restore Hemingway’s boat

HAVANA — The boat Ernest Hemingway used to fish for marlin in the Gulf Stream and track German submarines during World War II will be restored at the writer’s estate in Cuba, American conservation specialists said yesterday.

Hemingway bought the 40-foot boat he named Pilar from a Brooklyn, N.Y., shipyard in 1934 and used it for deep-sea fishing trips that inspired “The Old Man and the Sea,” for which he won the 1954 Nobel Prize for Literature.

The U.S. National Trust for Historic Preservation last year declared the Spanish colonial villa on a hillside outside Havana where Hemingway lived from 1939 to 1960 a most endangered site, the first foreign property to be listed.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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