- The Washington Times - Monday, September 25, 2006

IRAQ

Feuding groups agree to federalism debate

BAGHDAD — Iraq’s feuding ethnic and sectarian groups agreed yesterday to consider amending the constitution and begin debating legislation to create a federated nation after a two-week deadlock.

Sunni Arabs have fought the federalism bill, which would permit the creation of partly self-ruling regions, fearing that it will splinter the country and deny them a share of Iraq’s oil.

But they agreed to a legislative debate after all parties accepted a Sunni demand that a parliamentary committee be set up to study amending the constitution. The committee will be named today, and the federalism bill will be read to the 275-member parliament tomorrow.

SWITZERLAND

Voters easily approve tougher asylum limits

BERNE — Switzerland voted by a big majority yesterday to make it harder for asylum seekers to gain entry to the rich Alpine state.

Despite warnings of damage to the country’s humanitarian reputation, 68 percent of voters approved changes to asylum rules, making them among the West’s toughest, and on limiting access for non-European job seekers.

Voters accepted the arguments of conservative Justice Minister Christoph Blocher that the new regulations, featuring a requirement that every asylum seeker have a passport, were necessary to fight abuse.

SOMALIA

Islamist militiamen seize key seaport

KISMAYO — Hundreds of Islamic militiamen in heavily armed trucks took over the southern town of Kismayo, one of the last seaports outside their control in Somalia, witnesses said yesterday.

The takeover by the Islamic Courts movement was the latest blow to Somalia’s virtually powerless government. The country’s defense minister, Col. Barre “Hirale” Aden Shire, was among those who fled.

Members of the Islamic Courts, which the United States accuses of harboring al Qaeda terrorists, were not available for comment.

BRITAIN

Blair warns his party to end infighting

MANCHESTER — Prime Minister Tony Blair urged his Labor Party yesterday to stop squabbling over who will succeed him and focus on policy as Labor began its last annual conference with Mr. Blair in charge.

Despite his pleas, the frenzy over the leadership grew as Mr. Blair declined to name his exit date or echo an earlier endorsement of Finance Minister Gordon Brown as his successor.

The party fears infighting will further dent its dwindling popularity. Labor trailed the resurgent Conservative Party by four points in a YouGov poll for the Sunday Times.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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