- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 25, 2006

IRAQ

Tariq Aziz defends Saddam at trial

BAGHDAD — A pajama-clad Tariq Aziz, once the most prominent public face of Saddam Hussein’s regime, defended his former boss in court yesterday and said Iraq’s current Shi’ite leaders should be on trial for attempts to kill him and Saddam in the 1980s.

Mr. Aziz, 70, a former foreign minister and deputy prime minister, appeared thin and pale in his checkered pajamas and wore what looked like a hospital bracelet on his right wrist. His family has said he suffers from heart trouble.

BRITAIN

Ambassador survives fiery airplane crash

LONDON — A special forces Royal Air Force plane carrying the new British ambassador, Stephen Evans, to Afghanistan crashed yesterday while landing at a primitive airstrip, defense sources told the London Daily Telegraph.

The Hercules C130K, crammed with sophisticated communications equipment, burst into flames after the tires picked up debris that penetrated and ruptured the fuel tanks, causing a blaze in the engines. Everyone on board escaped unhurt.

SPAIN

Train bomb suspect set free by mistake

MADRID — A court clerk said he was partly to blame for an oversight that led to the release of an indicted suspect in the Madrid train bombings, court officials said yesterday.

Moroccan Saed el Harrak was allowed to go free last week after authorities failed to apply for permission to extend his stay in jail because of an oversight.

In a letter to the General Council of the Judiciary, a body that oversees the Spanish court, clerk Luis Martin Velasco said he failed to catch a typographical error made by a judge in a court document that led to the release.

SAUDI ARABIA

Crackdown announced on religious police

RIYADH — Saudi Arabia said yesterday it had taken measures to limit the power of religious police who detain people for not following the nation’s strict religious code.

The religious police have wide powers in Saudi Arabia, which imposes a strict version of Sunni Islam, to prevent the spread of drugs, alcohol and prostitution as well as unrelated men and women mixing in public.

In 2002, at least 14 schoolgirls burned to death after the religious police prevented men who were not relatives from entering the building to rescue them.

NEW ZEALAND

Hillary says shame on Everest climbers

WELLINGTON — Mount Everest pioneer Sir Edmund Hillary said yesterday that he was shocked that dozens of climbers left a British mountaineer to die during their own attempts on the world’s tallest peak.

More than 40 climbers are thought to have seen David Sharp, 34, as he lay dying and continued to the summit without offering assistance.

“Human life is far more important than just getting to the top of a mountain,” Mr. Hillary was quoted as saying in an interview with the New Zealand Press Association.

AFGHANISTAN

Battles continue as Taliban strengthen

KANDAHAR — Fighting in rugged southern Afghan mountains killed at least 24 militants and five Afghan troops, while the U.S. military acknowledged yesterday that the Taliban have grown in “strength and influence” in recent weeks.

The violence erupted after a week of some of the deadliest violence since the Taliban regime’s ouster in 2001. As many as 336 persons have died, mostly militants, Afghan and coalition figures show.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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