- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 25, 2007

SINGAPORE

Cheney’s plane has mechanical problem

Vice President Dick Cheney’s jet encountered a small mechanical problem, but there were no safety concerns and the aircraft was scheduled to make a planned refueling stop in Singapore, a White House spokeswoman said yesterday.

Mr. Cheney had been visiting Australia before flying back to the United States.

“The vice president’s plane is fine, and it is stopping for a regularly scheduled stop to refuel in Singapore,” said Emily Lawrimore, a White House spokeswoman. “I think there was a small electrical problem, but … it was not a safety concern.”

FRANCE

Socialist candidate pulls even in polls

PARIS — A new poll shows Socialist candidate Segolene Royal gaining ground on her center-right rival, Nicolas Sarkozy, with the two now projected to finish even in the first round of the presidential election.

The IFOP poll conducted Thursday and Friday found Mr. Sarkozy and Miss Royal would win 28 percent of the vote each in the first round, scheduled for April 22.

In the May 6 second round, Mr. Sarkozy would gain 50.5 percent, compared to Miss Royal’s 49.5 percent, according to the poll, to be published today in the Sunday newspaper Journal du Dimanche.

The poll numbers illustrate a turnaround for Miss Royal, who had fallen behind Mr. Sarkozy.

EGYPT

Accused spy claims torture

CAIRO — An Egyptian charged with spying for Israel pleaded not guilty at the start of his trial yesterday and claimed he had confessed under torture, a court official said.

Mohammed el-Attar, who also holds Canadian citizenship, was arrested on Jan. 1 as he returned from abroad to visit his family in Egypt.

He was charged with spying for Israel and harming Egyptian national interests. Three Israelis, who were charged with Mr. el-Attar, remain at large and are being tried in absentia. If convicted, Mr. el-Attar and his co-defendants face a maximum life sentence, with hard labor.

COLOMBIA

Rebels seek deal on ex-candidate

BOGOTA — The rebels holding a former presidential candidate hostage said Friday they were still willing to strike a deal for her release, five years to the day after her capture.

In a statement, Ivan Marquez, a member of the supreme command of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, also dismissed recent speculation that Ingrid Betancourt was being held outside of Colombia.

The FARC holds about 60 well-known prisoners — including Mrs. Betancourt, former ministers and three U.S. defense contractors who were kidnapped four years ago — which they will release only in return for the freeing of about 500 imprisoned rebels.

Mrs. Betancourt — who has become a cause celebre because of her dual French-Colombian nationality — was kidnapped on Feb. 23, 2002, as she campaigned for president in southern Colombia.

JAPAN

New spy satellite to watch N. Korea

TOKYO — Japan launched its fourth spy satellite yesterday, completing its capabilities to monitor activities worldwide and bolstering its ability to observe neighboring North Korea’s nuclear program.

The satellite, along with a smaller test prototype, was launched from the country’s space center on a remote island in southern Japan atop an H-2A rocket, the workhorse of Japan’s space program.

The launch of the radar satellite enhances a multibillion-dollar, decade-old plan for Japan to have round-the-clock surveillance of the secretive North and other areas Japan wants to watch.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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