- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 30, 2008

PAKISTAN

War with India to be avoided

ISLAMABAD | Pakistan’s army chief stressed Monday the need to avoid conflict with India, days after he ordered troops toward the rivals’ shared border amid tensions following last month’s terrorist attacks in Mumbai.

Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani made the remarks to a top Chinese diplomat who was visiting Islamabad to try and ease the situation between nuclear-armed Pakistan and India.

Gen. Kayani’s remarks were believed to be his first about the tensions with Pakistan’s traditional rival and could help reassure a jittery region that the country does not intend to escalate the crisis further.

On Friday, Pakistani intelligence officials said thousands of troops were being shifted toward the Indian border, though there has been no sign yet of a major build up at the frontier.

CHINA

Trial begins over poisoned food

BEIJING | Nine people went on trial Monday in connection with China’s tainted-milk scandal, state media reported, following the announcement of steps to compensate the families of hundreds of thousands of children harmed by contaminated infant formula.

The tainted formula gave babies painful kidney stones, and news of the problem sent parents across the country rushing their babies to emergency rooms for tests to see whether they were affected. Chinese dairy exports such as chocolate and yogurt were also found to be tainted, triggering a slew of product recalls elsewhere in Asia and in Europe, Africa and Latin America.

At least four of the suspects on trial Monday could be given the death penalty.

Hearings were held in the northern city of Shijiazhuang, where the company at the heart of the scandal - Sanlu Group Co. - is headquartered, along with three other cities in surrounding Hebei province.

IRAN

Hard-liners recruit to fight in Gaza

TEHRAN | A prominent Iranian hard-line political party is registering volunteers to fight against Israel in response to the air assault against the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

The party, the Combatant Clergy Society, announced it was looking for volunteers on its Web site. It says the volunteers can fight Israel by helping in three fields: military, financial and propaganda.

The group said Monday it decided to sign up volunteers after Iran’s supreme leader issued a religious decree Sunday that said anyone killed while defending Palestinians in Gaza would be considered a martyr.

The Combatant Clergy Society has considerable political and economic power in Iran, which backs Hamas. It says the registration period will last about a week.

GHANA

Opposition candidate takes narrow lead

ACCRA | Opposition leader John Atta Mills is narrowly leading Ghana’s presidential balloting, according to unofficial results collated Monday by radio and TV stations.

The influential and independent Radio Joy FM reported that Mr. Atta Mills has 50.64 percent of some 8.7 million votes counted by midday Monday. Results were outstanding from seven constituencies with nearly 340,000 voters.

Joy FM gave 49.36 percent of counted votes to Nana Akufo-Addo of the ruling party.

Certified results, from only 99 of the 230 constituencies, gave Mr. Atta Mills 54.1 percent of votes to 45.9 percent for Mr. Akufo-Addo.

SWEDEN

U.S. urged to try security detainee

STOCKHOLM | Sweden says it has urged the U.S. to prosecute or release a Swedish citizen held by American forces in Iraq.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Amelie Heinsjo says the man has been held as a security detainee since May.

She says Sweden has presented “a demand for a legal process and that he is given a public defense counsel, or that he is released.”

Newspaper Norrkopings Tidning reports the man became a Swedish citizen after moving from Iraq in 2000. It says he returned to Iraq in May to start a construction business.

The U.S. interprets the U.N. Security Council resolution that authorizes the Iraq mission as giving the coalition broad powers to detain anyone believed to pose a security threat.

TAIWAN

Indicted ex-leader returns to jail

TAIPEI | Former Taiwanese president and anti-China firebrand Chen Shui-bian was sent back to jail Tuesday because of the severity of the graft charges against him, a court spokesman said.

Mr. Chen became the first former president to be indicted after prosecutors charged him and more than 10 family members and aides on Dec. 12 with corruption, forgery and money laundering.

Mr. Chen was arrested last month and had been held in jail until his conditional release on Dec. 13.

The Taipei District Court ordered Mr. Chen back to jail after more than 12 hours of deliberation because of the gravity of his purported crimes and for fear he could alter evidence, court officials told reporters.

Mr. Chen - whose pursuit of independence for self-ruled Taiwan upset rival China as well as Taiwan’s main ally, the United States, during his presidency from 2000 to 2008 - denies wrongdoing and has described the probe involving him as a political plot.

“Chen Shui-bian thanks the outside world for his support,” his attorney, Cheng Wen-lung, told reporters. “He will continue to stick up for his good name.”

Prosecutors said they would recommend the heaviest sentence possible for the charges. They accuse Mr. Chen and his wife together of embezzling $3 million from a special presidential fund when he was president.

They also accuse him of accepting bribes totaling around $9 million related to a land-procurement deal and an additional $2.73 million in kickbacks to help a contractor win a tender for a government construction project.

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

U.S. Navy seizes hashish from boats

DUBAI | The U.S. Navy says it and British forces have seized more than 20 tons of drugs smuggled along a “hash highway” through the waters of the western Indian Ocean.

The Navy estimates the narcotics seized since October - mostly hashish - are worth $100 million. It said proceeds could have helped fund militants in Afghanistan.

The seizures occurred in the Arabian Sea and Gulf of Aden along a route the Navy calls the “hash highway” in a Monday statement. The area is also the frequent scene of attacks by Somali pirates.

Navy 5th Fleet spokesman Lt. Nathan Christensen would not say where the drugs originated. But he says many of the narcotics along the route are going “to and from Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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