- The Washington Times - Monday, March 19, 2007

IRAQ

Saddam’s deputy executed at dawn

BAGHDAD — The former deputy in Saddam Hussein’s government was hanged before dawn today for the killings of 148 Shi’ites, an official with the prime minister’s office said.

Taha Yassin Ramadan, who was Saddam’s vice president when the regime was ousted four years ago, was the fourth man to be executed in the killings of the Shi’ites after a 1982 assassination attempt against Saddam in the city of Dujail.

The official, who witnessed the hanging, said precautions had been taken to prevent a repeat of what happened to Saddam’s half brother Barzan Ibrahim, who was decapitated on the gallows. Ramadan was weighed before the hanging and the length of the rope was chosen accordingly, the official said.

Ramadan was convicted in November of murder, forced deportation and torture and sentenced to life in prison. A month later, an appeals court said the sentence was too lenient, and returned his case to the High Tribunal, demanding he be sentenced to death. The court turned it into a death sentence.

IRAN

U.S. approves visa for Ahmadinejad

The United States has approved a visa for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to enable him to address the U.N. Security Council over Tehran’s nuclear program, the State Department said yesterday.

The United States is at loggerheads with Iran over its nuclear program, and Mr. Ahmadinejad wants to address the Security Council in New York before it votes on a resolution imposing new arms and financial sanctions against Tehran.

A draft resolution introduced to the council last week would ban all Iranian arms exports, but not imports, and freeze financial assets abroad of 28 individuals, groups and companies.

RUSSIA

Coal-mine blast kills at least 78

MOSCOW — A methane gas explosion ripped through a Siberian coal mine yesterday, killing at least 78 miners among nearly 200 working underground, government and emergency officials said. It was among the deadliest mining accidents in Russia in the past decade.

The Ulyanovskaya mine is in Novokuznetsk, a sprawling city about 1,850 miles east of Moscow in a coal-rich swath of south-central Siberia known as the Kuzbass.

EGYPT

Parliament approves changes in statute

CAIRO — Egypt’s parliament approved a series of constitutional amendments yesterday billed as reforms, but rights groups say the measures will gravely undermine what they see as already shaky human rights protections in Egypt.

The amendments, which still must be approved in a popular referendum, include a counterterrorism clause that appears to enshrine in the constitution sweeping police powers of arrest and surveillance.

Lawmakers, mostly from President Hosni Mubarak’s National Democratic Party, cheered and sang the national anthem after the amendments were passed. Parliament Speaker Fathi Sorour said 315 members of the 454-seat lower house had voted in favor.

The amendments also would allow the president to dissolve parliament unilaterally and weaken judicial oversight of elections that have been marred by irregularities.

GAZA STRIP

Hamas attacks wound Israeli

GAZA CITY — The armed wing of Hamas said it carried out its first attacks against Israel since a shaky November truce in the Gaza Strip, shooting and wounding a utility worker near the border yesterday and firing two mortar bombs at soldiers.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s office denounced what it called a “terror” attack and said it showed the new Palestinian unity government, dominated by Hamas, was failing to meet Western demands to halt violence and recognize Israel.

Palestinians hope the government that took office on Saturday between Hamas Islamists and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ secular Fatah faction will stop fighting between the groups and ease a crippling economic embargo that has increased poverty.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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