- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 2, 2007


Al Qaeda leader reported killed

BAGHDAD — Iraq’s government received reports that the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq had been killed, but officials said yesterday that the information had not been confirmed and an insurgent coalition insisted that he was alive.

Similar reports in the past proved inaccurate. A series of reports yesterday said Abu Ayyub Masri — also known as Abu Hamza al-Muhajer — had been killed, either by rivals in al Qaeda or Sunni tribesmen who have turned against al Qaeda.

Masri, an Egyptian militant, took over leadership of the terror network and was endorsed by Osama bin Laden after Abu Musab Zarqawi was killed in June by a U.S. air strike in Diyala province.


Corn price raised by 700 percent

HARARE — The government yesterday announced a nearly 700 percent increase in the price of corn, the mainstay of the Zimbabwean diet, during worsening economic woes that already have many people eating one meal a day or less.

Boiled corn meal, known as sadza, is the foundation of many typical dishes, accompanied by vegetable or meat stew. The price of an 11-pound bag of corn meal now will sell for $1.45, up from 21 cents.

Agriculture Minister Rugare Gumbo said the price increase will fund a nearly 600 percent increase in the government-controlled price that corn farmers receive, a measure to encourage food production, state radio reported.


Blair backs Brown as successor

EDINBURGH — Tony Blair endorsed longtime finance minister Gordon Brown as Britain’s next leader yesterday and said he would announce next week when he was stepping aside as prime minister.

Ten years after the landslide election win that swept his Labor Party to power, Mr. Blair told a Labor gathering in Scotland that it is time for a new team to run Britain and that Mr. Brown would make a “great prime minister.”


St. Lucia denounced for recognizing Taiwan

BEIJING — China lashed out at the tiny Caribbean nation of St. Lucia yesterday for restoring diplomatic relations with Taiwan, the self-governing island that Beijing claims as Chinese territory.

The resumption of ties with Taiwan was an “open violation” of a 1997 agreement that established diplomatic relations between St. Lucia and Beijing, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said.

China has whittled away at Taiwan’s diplomatic engagement, reducing the island’s allies to just 24 mostly small and impoverished nations in the South Pacific and Africa. Yesterday’s announcement that St. Lucia had agreed to become No. 25 was the first diplomatic plus for Taiwan in some time.


Le Pen urges backers to boycott runoff

PARIS — French far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen urged supporters yesterday to abstain from Sunday’s presidential runoff rather than vote for either front-runner Nicolas Sarkozy or socialist Segolene Royal.

Mr. Le Pen’s 3.8 million voters, like the 6.8 million who voted for centrist Francois Bayrou, could be decisive in the second round.


Stampede kills 7 at Arab ‘Idol’ concert

TUNIS — A stampede at an open-air concert by stars of the Arab version of “American Idol” killed seven persons and injured 32 in southern Tunisia, a Health Ministry official said yesterday.

Fans swarmed the stage late Monday in the southern city of Sfax at the “Star Academy” concert attended by more than 10,000 people.

Six boys and young men ages 12 to 21 were trampled to death and one girl, whose age was not provided, died overnight of injuries suffered in the crush.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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