- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 21, 2007

EGYPT

Man with belt bomb held in Sinai region

EL-ARISH — Egyptian border and security authorities have arrested 23 Palestinians and Egyptians in the Sinai region, including one who was wearing an explosives belt and had crossed from Gaza to Egypt in an underground tunnel, security officials said yesterday.

The authorities put their security forces in northern Sinai on high alert yesterday in a bid to make sure that no more armed people were at large. Police set up more checkpoints and border guards were seen using iron poles to probe the ground near the newly found tunnel in a search for more.

One of the Palestinian detainees, a man in his early 20s, was caught Tuesday as he tried to cross the Gaza-Egypt border in an underground tunnel near the Egyptian border city of Rafah. He had wrapped himself in an explosives belt, a soldier said.

Eyewitnesses said Egyptian security forces surrounded a building in Rafah yesterday and arrested two other Palestinians. The security official said the two arrests were linked to the purported suicide attack plot.

LEBANON

Israeli warplanes fired at in south

BEIRUT — Israeli warplanes flew at a low altitude over large areas of southern Lebanon yesterday, witnesses said, and the Lebanese army said it had fired on an unmanned Israeli spy plane.

The Lebanese army said it fired on an Israeli reconnaissance plane that had flown near the southern city of Tyre.

U.N. peacekeepers and Lebanon say Israeli overflights violate Security Council Resolution 1701 that ended the July-August war between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas.

SAUDI ARABIA

7 prisoners return from Guantanamo

RIYADH — Saudi Arabia said yesterday that seven Saudis held at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, had arrived home after the United States freed them.

Saudi public anger over the treatment of Saudi detainees in Guantanamo has been high in the Gulf Arab state, a key U.S. ally. Two Saudis were among three prisoners who hanged themselves in June at the prison.

Kateb al-Shammari, an attorney for the Saudi detainees, said 68 Saudis are among the nearly 400 detainees still held at the facility.

ETHIOPIA

More than 680 killed in cholera outbreak

ADDIS ABABA — More than 680 people have died in a suspected cholera outbreak in Ethiopia that has also affected neighboring countries, officials said yesterday.

About 60,000 people have been infected, but the country’s Health Ministry is resisting pressure to declare an emergency despite a U.N. warning that the disease is an epidemic.

The United Nations has not officially declared the outbreak, which began nearly a year ago, to be cholera. But U.N. officials speaking privately because of the sensitivity of the issue are saying it is cholera, something local officials continue to deny.

ARGENTINA

Kirchner backs Chavez, rejects U.S. concerns

EL TIGRE — In a one-day visit to Venezuela, Argentina’s president pledged yesterday to strengthen ties with the oil-rich South American nation, snubbing a U.S. diplomatic effort to counter the influence of leftist President Hugo Chavez in the region.

President Nestor Kirchner offered wholehearted support to Mr. Chavez less than two weeks after meeting with top U.S. State Department officials who expressed concern that the Venezuelan leader was steering his country toward authoritarianism.

“It cannot be that it bothers anyone that our nations become integrated,” Mr. Kirchner said. During the visit the two countries signed a series of economic cooperation agreements.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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