- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 29, 2008

IRAQ

Al-Sadr urged to resume fighting

BAGHDAD — Influential members of Muqtada al-Sadr’s movement have urged the anti-U.S. Shi’ite cleric not to extend a cease-fire when it expires next month, officials said yesterday, a move that could jeopardize recent security gains.

Sheik al-Sadr’s August cease-fire order to his feared Mahdi Army militia, asking them to freeze activities for six months, was seen by U.S. commanders as a major factor in a nationwide reduction of violence.

But U.S. and Iraqi forces insisted they will continue to hunt so-called rogue fighters who ignored the order. Sheik al-Sadr’s followers claim this is a pretext to crack down on their movement.



The maverick cleric threatened not to renew the cease-fire unless the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki purges “criminal gangs” operating within security forces that he claims are targeting his followers.

THAILAND

Thaksin ally is new prime minister

BANGKOK — A combative veteran politician representing former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s interests was chosen as premier yesterday, a move that could put him on a collision course with the military that ousted Mr. Thaksin in 2006.

Samak Sundaravej easily beat the Democrat party candidate, taking a key step toward restoring democracy, but experts fear the election of a Thaksin supporter may further divide Thailand.

“It is likely to be a turbulent premiership ahead,” said Panithan Wattanayagorn, a political scientist at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University.

INDONESIA

Thousands mourn former leader

SOLO — Tens of thousands of Indonesians mourned former dictator Suharto during his state funeral yesterday.

As mourners watched a motorcade carry the former dictator’s body to the Suharto family mausoleum, many sobbed and called out the name of the man whose rule, though harsh, brought economic growth and stability to Indonesia.

The former president died Sunday of multiple organ failure after more than three weeks on life support at a Jakarta hospital.

AFGHANISTAN

Private investment drops, group says

KABUL — Private investment in Afghanistan dropped last year to $500 million — about half the amount invested in 2006 — due to the worsening security situation, a business group said yesterday.

The Afghanistan Investment Support Agency said investment last year compared unfavorably with the $1 billion invested in 2006 and the $570 million invested in 2005.

Security concerns, the targeting of businessmen by criminal gangs and “burdensome bureaucracy” were among the key factors that caused the sharp drop, AISA said.

FRANCE

Aid workers get eight years

CRETEIL — A court sentenced six French charity workers to eight years in prison in France yesterday, after they were convicted in Chad of trying to kidnap 103 children they said were orphans from Darfur.

In October, Chadian authorities arrested members of the aid group as they sought to send 103 children on a plane to France. Investigations showed most of the children had at least one parent or close adult relative.

Chad sentenced the six to eight years of hard labor and transferred them to France under a bilateral agreement.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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