- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 11, 2007

FRANCE

Chirac to step down after 45-year career

PARIS — French President Jacques Chirac announced yesterday that he would not seek re-election next month, bowing out of front-line politics after a 45-year career.

Mr. Chirac has served as president since 1995, and his widely expected decision to stand aside marks the end of an era for France, clearing the way for a new generation of politicians.

“I will not seek your backing for a new mandate,” the 74-year-old said in a televised address to the nation. He promised to continue fighting for “justice, for progress, for peace, for the greatness of France” but did not say in what capacity.

IRAN

Ahmadinejad offers to face U.N. panel

TEHRAN — Iran yesterday said President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wanted to brief the U.N. Security Council about his country’s civilian nuclear plans, which the West says are a covert attempt to make atomic bombs.

The five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany are considering imposing new sanctions on Iran over its nuclear ambitions, which Tehran insists are entirely peaceful.

The Islamic Republic News Agency quoted a government spokesman as saying Mr. Ahmadinejad planned to attend “if the Security Council has a meeting on Iran’s nuclear program.” The Foreign Ministry spokesman confirmed the news to reporters but gave no more details.

RUSSIA

Kremlin parties lead in bellwether vote

MOSCOW — Russians voted yesterday in regional elections seen as a dress rehearsal for parliamentary elections in December, and an exit poll suggested that two big pro-Kremlin parties were likely to win by a large margin.

Opponents of President Vladimir Putin, ignored by the state-controlled press and trailing in opinion polls, were reduced to mounting isolated protests after officials struck them off the ballot in four regions for purported electoral misdeeds.

About 31 million voters in 14 regions were eligible to cast ballots yesterday, just less than a third of the total electorate.

ZIMBABWE

Opposition leader nabbed in protest

HARARE — Armed police broke up a prayer meeting that was planned to protest government policies yesterday, arresting Zimbabwe’s main opposition leader and dozens of others, witnesses and opposition members said.

Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, was among those detained, said a senior party aide, Eliphas Mukonoweshuro. A party spokesman said he was roughed up by police.

Human rights observers reported at least 100 arrests and sporadic skirmishes with police.

SYRIA

Talks with Iran cover military links

DAMASCUS — President Bashar Assad met with Iranian Defense Minister Mostafa Najjar yesterday to discuss military links between the two countries, the official Syrian news agency said.

Mr. Najjar is the latest high-level Iranian official to visit Syria, which has been reinforcing ties with Tehran as the two countries come under pressure from the United States.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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