- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 11, 2008

SYRIA

Traces of uranium found at site

VIENNA | U.N. investigators have found traces of uranium at a Syrian site Washington says was a secret nuclear reactor almost built before Israel bombed the target last year, diplomats said Monday.

They said the minute uranium particles turned up in some environmental swipe samples U.N. inspectors took at the site in a visit last June. They said the finding was not enough to draw conclusions but raised concerns requiring further clarification.

The International Atomic Energy Agency and Syria had no immediate comment. However, word of the finding leaked hours after IAEA officials confirmed Director Mohamed ElBaradei was preparing a formal written report on Syria for the first time.

Moreover, Syria has been made an official agenda item at the year-end Nov. 27-28 meeting of the U.N. watchdog’s 35-nation board of governors, unlike previously when IAEA officials said initial inquiries were inconclusive.

Syria says the unverified U.S. intelligence was fabricated.

BRITAIN

Osama ‘ambassador’ faces trial

LONDON | Extremist preacher Abu Qatada, once called Osama bin Laden’s ambassador to Europe, faces a hearing Tuesday after being arrested again in West London.

Abu Qatada was taken into custody over the weekend, apparently for violating his strict bail conditions, according to British newspaper reports.

The prominent terrorist suspect had been freed on bail in June despite government objections, but was confined to his home 22 hours per day and forced to wear an electronic monitoring device at all times.

His case is to be heard Tuesday morning by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission, a spokeswoman said.

Abu Qatada has so far been able to frustrate British government attempts to deport him or keep him in prison. British appeals courts have ruled that Abu Qatada cannot be deported to Jordan because he could face torture there. He has been convicted in Jordan for his role in two bombings.

RUSSIA

Stricken submarine was for Indian navy

MOSCOW | India’s navy was supposed to lease the brand-new Russian nuclear submarine that suffered an accident over the weekend that killed 20 people, news reports said Monday - a development that would unsettle the military balance of power in Asia.

An Indian naval spokesman would not comment Monday on leasing this or any submarine from Russia - but his boss has said previously that India was interested.

The Akula-class sub was undergoing trials in the Sea of Japan when its fire-extinguishing system activated in error, spewing Freon gas that suffocated the victims and injured 21 others.

Russia’s navy said the submarine itself was not damaged in Saturday’s accident and returned to its Pacific Coast port Sunday under its own power.

Russia’s top business dailies Kommersant and Vedomosti reported Monday that the Nerpa was to be handed over to India’s navy next year under a 10-year, $650-million lease.

ISRAEL

Archaeologists find ancient earring

JERUSALEM | Israeli archaeologists have discovered a 2,000-year-old gold earring beneath a parking lot next to the walls of Jerusalem’s old city, the Israel Antiquities Authority said Monday.

The discovery dates back to the time of Christ, during the Roman period, said Doron Ben-Ami, director of excavation at the site. The piece was found in a Byzantine structure built several centuries after the jeweled earring was made, indicating it was likely passed down through generations, he said.

The find is luxurious: A large pearl inlaid in gold with two drop pieces, each with an emerald and pearl set in gold.

In a statement released Monday, the authority said the piece of jewelry was “astonishingly well-preserved.” Finds from the Roman period are rare in Jerusalem, because the city was destroyed by the Roman Empire in the first century A.D.

SOMALIA

Gunmen kidnap two Italian nuns

GARISSA, Kenya | Heavily-armed Somali gunmen kidnapped two Italian nuns Monday in a predawn raid on a remote Kenyan border town, witnesses said.

Somalia is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for aid workers, who are often abducted or killed in attacks usually blamed on Islamist insurgents or clan militia.

Cross-border raids are common in the remote, arid region, but generally involve cattle rustlers or bandits targeting local business people in both countries.

One local aid worker in the small town of El Wak said the kidnappers hurled a grenade and then fired a rocket at a Kenyan police post about 1 a.m. Sunday.

Italy’s Foreign Ministry said both women were Italian, but did not give their names or other details.

The Kenyan Red Cross Society said the gunmen had escaped in three hijacked vehicles, and that it was feared they had taken their captives back across the border into Somalia.

The abduction came just days after Kenya’s army ended a military operation to seize illegal firearms in the area.

POLAND

Independence gala snubs Walesa

WARSAW | Lech Walesa is a national icon in Poland - a hero of the anti-communist movement, a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize and a former president. But he wasn’t invited to Poland’s independence gala, and Poland’s current president is facing a lot of criticism for the deliberate slight.

President Lech Kaczynski will greet the leaders of Germany, Afghanistan and Ukraine at Tuesday’s gala marking the 90th anniversary of Poland’s independence. Poland regained independence on Nov. 11, 1918, after more than a century of partition and occupation by three 19th-century powers - Russia, Prussia and the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

But Mr. Walesa, the founder of the Solidarity pro-democracy movement, won’t be there. Kaczynski aide Michal Kaminski said the intent was to avoid conflict between the two men.

Mr. Kaczynski was once active in Solidarity and was an adviser to Mr. Walesa when the latter was president in the early 1990s. But the two fell out later when political disputes turned personal and bitter.

AUSTRALIA

Down syndrome child leads to visa rejection

SYDNEY | Life has become a waiting game for the Moellers, a German family denied permanent residency in Australia because their youngest child has Down syndrome.

Bernhard Moeller has appealed the immigration department’s October decision, in which they said because of his son’s “existing medical condition” the family’s residency was “likely to result in a significant and ongoing cost to the Australian community.”

Dr. Moeller met with the Migration Review Tribunal last week and was told an appeal decision can take up to six months. He later received a letter saying his case had been given priority.

“I have no idea what that means. Five months instead of six?” he told the Associated Press by telephone from Horsham, the rural town in southeastern Victoria state where he settled with his family more than two years ago.

Dr. Moeller was recruited by a regional hospital to be the only physician to serve a region of 54,000 people.

The case provoked an immediate outcry across the country. Internet and radio chatter rallied behind the family, and media swarmed to Horsham to capture images of the family.

MEXICO

Lawyer named interior minister

MEXICO CITY | Mexican President Felipe Calderon named a little-known lawyer Monday to be his new interior minister after the previous holder of the job died in a plane crash last week.

The new minister, Fernando Francisco Gomez Mont, is a former federal lawmaker for Mr. Calderon’s conservative party who the president said would push forward justice and security reforms.

Mexico’s interior minister is in charge of domestic security but also works with the country’s political parties to push the government’s agenda in Congress.

Mr. Calderon, speaking in a televised address, also said he had given his new minister specific instructions to work to keep organized crime out of elections.

Mexico will hold midterm elections to Congress next year. Mr. Calderon last year warned that powerful drug gangs were trying to intimidate and buy candidates.

GUANTANAMO BAY

Prisoner transfer said readied for U.S. trial

President-elect Barack Obama’s advisers are quietly crafting a proposal to ship dozens, if not hundreds, of imprisoned terrorism suspects to the United States to face criminal trials, a plan that would make good on his promise to close the Guantanamo Bay prison but could require creation of a controversial new system of justice.

During his campaign, Mr. Obama described Guantanamo as a “sad chapter in American history” and has said generally that the U.S. legal system is equipped to handle the detainees. But he has offered few details on what he planned to do once the facility is closed.

Under plans being put together in Mr. Obama’s camp, some detainees would be released and many others would be prosecuted in U.S. criminal courts.

A third group of detainees - the ones whose cases are most entangled in highly classified information - might have to go before a new court designed especially to handle sensitive national security cases, according to advisers and Democrats involved in the talks. Advisers participating directly in the planning spoke on the condition of anonymity because the plans aren’t final.

The move would be a sharp deviation from the Bush administration, which established military tribunals to prosecute detainees at the Navy base in Cuba and strongly opposes bringing prisoners to the U.S.

According to three advisers participating in the process, Mr. Obama is expected to propose a new court system, appointing a committee to decide how such a court would operate.

NICARAGUA

Sandinistas see gains in municipal elections

MANAGUA | Nicaragua’s ruling Sandinista National Liberation Front took an early lead in municipal elections marked by violence and allegations of fraud, early returns showed Monday.

In Managua, with more than 7 percent of the vote counted, Sandinista candidate Alexis Arguello led Eduardo Montealegre of the main opposition Liberal Constitutional Party 55.2 percent to 41.6 percent, according to returns issued by the Supreme Electoral Council.

Voting took place Sunday in 146 of 153 municipalities. But the election was postponed in the seven remaining municipalities until January because of storm damage from last year’s Hurricane Felix.

Police arrested 33 people in unrest outside polling places in parts of the capital. In Leon, about 55 miles northwest of Managua, two people were wounded when police dispersed crowds with tear gas, police spokeswoman Vilma Reyes said.

The civic group Ethics and Transparency said it had recorded irregularities in 32 percent of the polling places it monitored. The group was among many would-be election observers the government had refused to accredit.

The electoral campaign, which finished Wednesday, was marred by violence between followers of the government and the Liberal Constitutional Party. Three smaller parties also took part in the vote.

The government of President Daniel Ortega, a former Marxist guerrilla, came under fire for barring two opposition parties from fielding mayoral candidates and for police raids against nongovernmental organizations.

Mr. Ortega led Nicaragua from 1979 to 1990 after Sandinista guerrillas overthrew the Anastasio Somoza dictatorship. He was re-elected in 2006.

GUATEMALA

Tragedy strikes farm workers

GUATEMALA CITY | Sixteen people died Sunday when a bus carrying agricultural workers burst into flames for unknown reasons, rescue workers and forensics experts said.

The incident occurred 87 miles east of the capital, an official with the fire department in the nearest town of La Fragua said.

The burnt bodies of victims were still in their seats, so disfigured that their identity and even their gender was impossible to determine, spokesman Gerardo Lorenti said.

Authorities are not ruling out the hypothesis that the fire was set intentionally, as gasoline was found on and around the bus, the Prensa Libre newspaper reported on its Web site.

PERU

Lawsuit against Yale sought over artifacts

LIMA | Peru has reportedly approved a plan to sue Yale University for thousands of Inca artifacts excavated decades ago by a U.S. scholar at Machu Picchu.

State newspaper El Peruano said Sunday the Justice Ministry will assign a prosecutor to press the government’s case against the New Haven, Conn., university.

Thomas Conroy, a Yale spokesman, said the university was aware of the news report.

“It is, of course, disappointing, since we had a positive informal meeting with the foreign minister, and have expected to have further discussions,” he said.

Peru demanded the collection back in 2006, saying it had never relinquished ownership when Hiram Bingham III, a Yale scholar, rediscovered Machu Picchu in 1911 and sent thousands of ceramics, textiles and bones to the university. Peru officials have threatened to sue in the past, but never did.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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