- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 28, 2006

GEORGIA

4 Russian officers accused of spying

TBILISI — Georgian authorities detained four Russian military officers on spying charges yesterday, and security forces surrounded Russia’s military headquarters in Tbilisi to demand that another suspect be handed over.

Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili said the Russians, who were detained in the Georgian capital and the Black Sea port of Batumi, had been involved in espionage for several years and were planning a “major provocation.” Twelve Georgians also were detained as part of the spy ring.

The Russian Foreign Ministry summoned Georgia’s ambassador to Moscow to protest the detentions and demand the officers’ immediate release.

The move highlights escalating tensions between the ex-Soviet Caucasus nation and its giant northern neighbor since President Mikhail Saakashvili came to power after Georgia’s 2003 Rose Revolution and pledged to move the country more toward the West.

CUBA

Raul to meet with Russian

HAVANA — Cuba’s acting leader Raul Castro will meet with Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov, who was due in Havana yesterday on a two-day visit, Communist Party newspaper Granma reported.

Moscow and Havana were expected to sign economic, credit and other agreements during the visit. Russia will make it easier for Cuba to repay $160 million in debt and set aside for now a dispute over Cold War-era credits as it seeks to sell planes to the former Soviet client, a Russian diplomat said.

WEST BANK

Israel releases Hamas official

NABLUS — Israel yesterday released Palestinian Deputy Prime Minister Nasser Shaer, the highest-ranking of more than 30 officials in the Hamas-led government jailed as part of a crackdown on the Islamic militant group.

Mr. Shaer, who was held without charge for more than a month, was ordered freed by an Israeli court, which banned him from going to his government office in the West Bank city of Ramallah for two weeks.

The detention of much of the Hamas-led government has been a major sore point in rapidly deteriorating relations between Israel and the Palestinians since Hamas took power.

FRANCE

Scan finds Mona Lisa to be a new mother

PARIS — Mona Lisa had recently given birth, a team of Canadian and French scientists announced yesterday, so her mysterious smile may have expressed the weary joy of a mother with a newborn.

Using infrared technology that allowed them to see beneath a layer of varnish, the researchers found that Leonardo da Vinci’s model had a gauzy layer over her dress they say was typically worn by pregnant women of the time, or mothers who had recently given birth. The filmy robe was called a “guarnello.”

Mona Lisa was Lisa Gherardini, the wife of Francesco del Giocondo, a Florentine cloth merchant. Records suggest that she wasn’t pregnant when she posed for da Vinci, but that the painting was commissioned to celebrate the birth of her third child, says Bruno Mottin, a curator in the research department of the French Museums’ Center for Research and Restoration.

BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA

Ex-parliament head gets 27-year in prison

THE HAGUE — The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia sentenced the former head of the Bosnian Serb parliament to 27 years in prison yesterday for a campaign of ethnic cleansing against Bosnian Muslims and Croats during the 1992-95 Bosnian war.

Captured by NATO-led peacekeepers near Sarajevo in 2000, the former right-hand man to Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic went on trial in February 2004 and pleaded not guilty to all counts. His attorneys had sought his acquittal.

FRANCE

Moroccan linked to 9/11 faces trial

PARIS — Karim Mehdi, a 37-year-old Moroccan man suspected of having links tothe September 11 attackers, went on trial in Paris yesterday accused of terrorist-related offenses.

Mehdi, who was arrested in June 2003, is the only person to face charges arising out of the French judicial investigation into the 2001 attacks in the United States.

Documents read out in court said the Moroccan was in contact with Ziad Jarrah — a Lebanese who was on the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania — as well as Ramzi Binalshibh, a Yemeni who is thought to have been among the plotters.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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