- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 30, 2006

IRAQ

Talks on creating unity regime falter

BAGHDAD — Critical talks on Iraq’s long-awaited national unity government stumbled yesterday with the cancellation of a key meeting. Simultaneously, gunmen in police commando uniforms killed eight persons inside a Baghdad shop.

The meeting, which was to have been hosted by President Jalal Talabani, was canceled after Sunnis and Shi’ites clashed over who will control the security portfolio in the next government.

“The Shi’ites want the prime minister, who is their candidate, to control security, while the Sunnis want a say in this and want a deputy premier who will also have authority on security matters under the supervision of the prime minister,” lawmaker Mahmud Othman said.

“This is the dispute at the moment, but we expect this to be solved in the next couple of days.”

Three months after the national elections, Iraqi efforts to form a government have been delayed by bickering over Cabinet posts and resistance to outgoing Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari’s drive to keep his job.

SAUDI ARABIA

40 arrested in terrorist raids

RIYADH — Saudi authorities arrested 40 suspected members of al Qaeda — including some who reportedly were involved in last month’s attempted bombing of a key oil complex — and seized a large cache of weapons and explosives, the official Saudi Press Agency reported yesterday.

The agency, quoting an Interior Ministry official, said security forces carried out simultaneous operations in the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, and Qasim in the north and Asir in the south.

Authorities said 19 of those arrested were suspected of financing terrorist attacks and disseminating “disinformation on the Internet,” the official said. They included Saudis and “residents,” the official said.

AFGHANISTAN

Soldiers killed as Taliban attack

KABUL — The Taliban attacked a military base in Afghanistan yesterday, killing a U.S. soldier and a Canadian soldier and losing 32 of their own men, then declared that a spring offensive had begun.

The two foreign soldiers and 12 Taliban were killed in the initial attack by a large Taliban force on the base in the southern province of Helmand, the U.S. military said.

U.S.-led forces, backed by aircraft, later attacked the Taliban forces as they were attempting to escape.

FRANCE

Algerian jailed for 1995 blasts

PARIS — A French court sentenced an Algerian to 10 years in jail yesterday for helping militants who blew up Paris underground railway stations more than a decade ago, the worst bombings in France since World War II.

Rachid Ramda, who lost a 10-year fight against extradition from Britain in December, was expected to appeal the sentence, his attorney said.

The man refused to participate in hearings in February after saying he was not guilty and expressing his sympathy for the victims of the attacks.

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

U.S. to collect digital fingerprints

DUBAI — The U.S. Department of Homeland Security plans to collect digital fingerprints of merchant sailors arriving at U.S. ports, thinking that will improve security and allow more seafarers to visit the United States, a department official said.

Robert A. Mocny, deputy director of the department’s visitor technology program, said Tuesday that immigration inspectors at major cargo terminals would be given hand-held scanners that photograph a sailor and capture his fingerprints.

The data then would be checked against the 1.5 million names on U.S. lists of terror suspects, criminal fugitives and immigration violators.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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