Pre-Iraq war details ordered released
LONDON — Britain’s information watchdog ordered the government yesterday to release the minutes of Cabinet meetings held in March 2003, at which the legal justification for going to war in Iraq was discussed.
Release of the documents could embarrass Prime Minister Gordon Brown, whose predecessor Tony Blair was accused by critics of glossing over lawyers’ initial reservations about launching the invasion of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Mr. Blair was President Bush’s strongest ally in the war, which started on March 20, 2003.
Information Commissioner Richard Thomas ruled on a request from a member of the public for the government to release confidential records of two Cabinet meetings held between March 7, 2003, and March 17, 2003, just days before the conflict began.
Raul Castro meets No. 2 Vatican aide
HAVANA — Cuban President Raul Castro met with the Vatican’s No. 2 official yesterday in his first talks with a foreign visitor as Cuba’s new leader.
Two days after succeeding his brother, Fidel Castro, the new president met with Vatican secretary of state Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who has criticized U.S. sanctions against Cuba during a six-day visit and said the Catholic Church will work with the Cuban government for the good of Cubans.
The 76-year-old general donned a dark business suit instead of his brown uniform to receive the cardinal in the government headquarters overlooking Havana’s Revolution Square.
New leaders reassess defense projects
CANBERRA — Australia has up to $23 billion worth of risky defense projects under way and will rethink several costly purchases, including U.S. fighter planes, Defense Minister Joel Fitzgibbon said today.
“This is a list of projects that are under real risk, real risk in terms of capability and real risk for the Australian taxpayer,” the minister told reporters, brandishing a confidential list of troubled military buys.
The center-left Labor government, which won power in November, may dump several projects, including the $6.5 billion purchase by the former conservative government of 24 Super Hornet fighter planes from Boeing.
Court upholds president’s election
ABUJA — A Nigerian election tribunal upheld the president’s declared victory in last year’s disputed election, according to a ruling announced yesterday.
A five-judge panel ruled that the election was not significantly undermined by irregularities claimed by the opposition.
International observers called the April 27 vote that brought President Umaru Yar’Adua to power deeply flawed, but analysts long predicted that a court victory for the opposition was unlikely.
Treasure hunters dig for Nazi plunder
DEUTSCHKATHARINENBERG — German treasure hunters began digging yesterday for what they say may be plunder buried by the Nazis in a man-made cavern near the Czech border.
The area’s mayor, Hans-Peter Haustein, and a man who thinks he found the coordinates for the buried booty in a notebook among his deceased father’s belongings, maintain that a scan of the spot has revealed that a large quantity of metal is about 20 yards below the surface. Mr. Haustein said last week they could have found the storied Amber Room treasure.
From wire dispatches and staff reports