- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 23, 2007

AFGHANISTAN

Al-Zawahri tape eulogizes slain chief

CAIRO — Al Qaeda’s No. 2 leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, presented a eulogy for a slain Afghan Taliban commander in an audiotape released yesterday, according to a transcript issued by a U.S. group that monitors militant messages.

The SITE Institute, based in Washington, did not say how it obtained the audiotape, but it has been known to obtain copies of al Qaeda messages before their release.

In the tape, the deputy al Qaeda leader offers condolences to the Taliban for the loss of Mullah Dadullah, a one-legged commander who orchestrated suicide attacks and beheadings before dying of gunshot wounds in a U.S.-led operation on May 12 in southern Afghanistan.

EGYPT

Opposition leader awaits medical release

CAIRO — A decision on whether to release Egypt’s imprisoned opposition leader Ayman Nur on medical grounds was postponed yesterday pending a medical examination.

A judge announced that a committee of medical professionals appointed by the Ministry of Justice will carry out further tests on Nur, an insulin-dependent diabetic, before giving its decision on June 12.

“I’m very disappointed,” his wife and campaign manager, Gamila Ismail, told Agence France-Presse. “I don’t know how long this will last — weeks, months. … I’m just not sure Ayman’s health can handle it.”

The firebrand opposition figure, who stood against President Hosni Mubarak in an election in 2005, is serving a five-year prison term for forging affidavits needed to set up his Ghad party.

LEBANON

EU offers mediation of political crisis

BEIRUT — EU foreign affairs chief Javier Solana arrived yesterday to meet with leaders of the two sides locked in Lebanon’s political crisis: Prime Minister Fuad Siniora and parliament speaker Nabih Berri.

Mr. Solana told reporters that the European Union wants to help Lebanon resolve the crisis and tackle its economic woes once the bloodshed is halted in the north, where the army has been battling Islamic militants since Sunday. Two bombs exploded in residential areas of Beirut Sunday and Monday nights, killing a woman and wounding 20 other persons.

“The violence must stop in all theaters,” Mr. Solana told reporters on his previous stop in Israel, whose army has been striking at Palestinian militants in Gaza firing rockets across the border.

Weekly notes …

The European Union will prolong by a year its mission on the Gaza Strip border with Egypt, the Palestinians’ sole direct trade and transit gateway to the outside world, an EU official said Monday. The decision to extend the EU Border Assistance Mission by 12 months was made at ambassadorial level and will be endorsed before the end of the week, the official said. The ambassadors “simply found there was no obstacle” posed by either Israel or the Palestinians to the extension of the mandate, which is set to expire on Friday, he said. … Saudi Arabia beheaded two men by the sword yesterday, adding to an execution rate that has more than doubled last year’s toll. Barhan al-Shamri, a Saudi, was executed for murder, and Sufan Zahifi, a Yemeni, was executed for sexual assault, said a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency. The latest beheadings raised to 83 the number of executions carried out this year. Last year, at least 37 persons were executed in the oil-rich country.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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