- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 30, 2008

IRAQ

Al-Maliki eyes deal on pact with U.S.

BAGHDAD | Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Monday that the government is ready to compromise to reach a security accord with the United States because his country still needs American troops despite the drop in violence.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Mr. al-Maliki said neither he nor Iraq’s parliament will accept any pact that fails to serve the country’s national interests. A poorly constructed plan would provoke so much discord in Iraq that it could threaten his government’s survival, he said.

Mr. al-Maliki said, however, that he is firmly committed to reaching an accord that would allow U.S. troops to remain in the country beyond next year.

The Iraqi prime minister spoke at length about the difficulty he faces in trying to negotiate the accord that would set the terms for the U.S. presence in Iraq for years to come. Supporters of anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr oppose the accord, arguing U.S. forces should leave Iraq as soon as possible. Neighboring Iran also has been speaking out vociferously against a long-term U.S. presence in Iraq.

ISRAEL

Olmert urges sacrifice of West Bank for peace

JERUSALEM | Israel will have to give up virtually all of the West Bank and East Jerusalem if it wants peace with the Palestinians, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said in a farewell interview published Monday.

Mr. Olmert, who began talks with the Palestinians and Syria during his soon-to-end term, also said Israel would have to leave the Golan Heights in order to obtain peace with Syria.

The comments were the clearest sign to date of Mr. Olmert’s willingness to meet the demands of Israel’s longtime enemies in peace negotiations. But their significance was uncertain, since Mr. Olmert’s days in office are numbered and peace negotiations will soon become the responsibility of a different Israeli leader.

More than anything, the interview marked Mr. Olmert’s transformation from a vocal hard-liner who for decades opposed any territorial concessions to the Palestinians, to a leader whose views are virtually identical to those of the dovish politicians he once pilloried.

LEBANON

Car bomb targets bus with soldiers

TRIPOLI | A car bomb exploded Monday near a military bus carrying troops going to work in northern Lebanon, killing at least five people and injuring 25 others, Lebanese security officials said.

A senior military official told the Associated Press that four soldiers were among the dead and that 22 of the injured in six area hospitals were soldiers.

It was the second deadly attack targeting troops in northern Lebanon in less than two months.

Security officials said the car packed with explosives was parked on the side of a road and detonated by remote control as the bus drove in the Bahsas neighborhood on the southern entrance to the northern port city of Tripoli.

They said the explosives used were mixed with ball bearings to maximize casualties.

The blast, which tossed the car about a dozen yards, occurred during the morning rush hour, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

ALGERIA

Suicide bombing kills 3 at checkpoint

ALGIERS | A suicide bomber killed three people and injured six as he blew up his explosives-laden car at a military checkpoint east of Algeria’s capital, a local security official said Monday.

The attack occurred in the Dellys area of Boumerdes, about 30 miles east of Algiers, late Sunday during iftar, the meal that breaks the daily fasting during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, the official and national media said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility. But most attacks in Algeria are claimed by al Qaeda in Islamic North Africa, a local Islamic insurgency movement that joined Osama bin Laden’s terrorism network in 2006.

An officer from the communal guards said two militants attempted to drive into a military barracks, but came under heavy fire at a checkpoint.

One assailant blew himself up at the checkpoint, while the other jumped out of the car, the security official told the Associated Press. The second militant was detained, he said.

AUSTRIA

Anti-immigrant parties eye government posts

VIENNA | Austria’s future direction lay in doubt Monday after two anti-immigration parties made big gains in national elections while the governing coalition lost seats in Parliament.

The conservative Austrian People’s Party and the Social Democrats had their worst showings since World War II.

Two rightist parties - the Freedom Party and the Alliance for the Future of Austria - won a combined 29 percent in Sunday’s balloting. Both parties advocate an end to immigration and the expulsion of foreigners and asylum seekers who commit crimes.

At least one of the parties could participate in a new government. Talks are expected to begin later this week and could drag on for months.

SRI LANKA

Tamil rebels bomb capital

COLOMBO | Suspected Tamil separatists set off a bomb in a parking lot in Sri Lanka’s capital Monday, wounding three people a day after fighting in the country’s intensifying civil war killed 20 rebels and one soldier, the military said.

The violence came as government forces closed in on the rebels’ administrative capital, Kilinochchi, in a campaign aimed at routing the guerrillas and ending the 25-year-old war that has killed more than 70,000 people.

The bomb, placed between two vehicles in a parking lot in Colombo’s busy Pettah neighborhood, exploded shortly after noon and slightly wounded three bystanders, said military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara. The Tamil Tigers, who have been accused of scores of bombings and other attacks on civilians, were suspected in the blast, he said.

CHINA

National Day festival cheers Olympic success

BEIJING | China kicked off its National Day celebrations Monday by highlighting its hosting of the Beijing Olympics and the country’s first spacewalk, two hard-won successes in a tumultuous year marked by natural disasters, ethnic unrest and another food-safety scandal.

The spacewalk on Saturday boosted a wave of Chinese pride and patriotism stemming from the Olympics, which is still a big news story in the domestic media one month after it ended. China’s Olympic heroes were honored in a three-hour ceremony at the Great Hall of the People that was broadcast live on national television.

State broadcaster CCTV showed the three returning astronauts, with flower garlands around their necks, waving and smiling as they were treated to a homecoming parade in Beijing. Their mission, including China’s first spacewalk, put the country closer to building a space station and landing a man on the moon.

Holding up Chinese flags and balloons, hundreds of people, many of them uniformed soldiers, cheered and applauded as the astronauts went by, with some shouting out, “Learn from the astronauts and salute the astronauts.”

CANADA

Separatists regain lead in Quebec

OTTAWA | The separatist Bloc Quebecois has regained a lead in support among Quebec voters in the Canadian election campaign, a Leger poll showed Monday.

The pollster previously had the Conservatives two points ahead of the Bloc in the French-speaking province. But the separatists now are ahead, by 33 percent to 26 percent.

The Bloc seeks independence for Quebec but cannot achieve it in the federal Parliament.

The Conservatives still have a strong lead in national polls, but this latest poll suggests their scope for strong gains in Canada’s second most populous province will be limited on the Oct. 14 election day.

The Liberals are polling at 23 percent in Quebec, the left-wing New Democrats at 12 percent and the Greens at 5 percent.

Pollsters say Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been hurt by perceptions that he does not support subsidies for arts and culture, particularly important in Montreal.

In Montreal, the Conservatives might continue to be shut out, but the Journal de Montreal, which published the poll, said the Conservatives could sweep the less-populous Quebec City region.

VENEZUELA

Russia to help build nuke energy

CARACAS | President Hugo Chavez said Sunday that Russia will help Venezuela develop nuclear energy - a move likely to raise U.S. concerns over increasingly close cooperation between Caracas and Moscow.

Mr. Chavez said he accepted an offer from Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin for assistance in building a nuclear reactor.

Mr. Putin offered Mr. Chavez assistance in developing nuclear energy during a meeting in the Russian city of Novo-Ogaryovo last week. The prime minister did not specify what kind of cooperation he could offer Venezuela, but Russia is aggressively promoting itself as a builder of nuclear power plants in developing nations.

MEXICO

Report slams probe of reporter’s death

MEXICO CITY | State and federal police have mishandled investigations of the 2006 slaying of a U.S. journalist-activist, the Mexican National Human Rights Commission said Sunday.

The commission said its own probe of the Bradley Roland Will killing found that Oaxaca state investigators failed to interview witnesses, collect relevant evidence or complete an autopsy of Mr. Will.

The 36-year-old reporter for indymedia.org was fatally shot in October 2006 while videotaping a clash between protesters and gunmen on the outskirts of Oaxaca City.

The conflict in Oaxaca began as a strike by teachers seeking higher pay. It quickly grew into a broader movement including Indian groups, students, farmers and left-leaning activists, who claimed Gov. Ulises Ruiz rigged his electoral victory and repressed opponents. At least nine other people were killed in the violence.

State investigators arrested two town officials in Mr. Will’s killing but later released them after then-state Attorney General Lizbeth Cana suggested that he may have been shot by someone in the group of protesters he was accompanying at the time.

The commission said its own analysis found Mr. Will’s killer shot at least 100 feet away from him.

MEXICO

Police find 97 tons of marijuana in field

MEXICO CITY | Mexican authorities say they have found and destroyed 97 tons of marijuana in a field in the northern border state of Sonora.

The Public Safety Department said Sunday the plants were spotted in a 13-acre field during an aerial search over the town of Nacori Chico in Sonora state, across the border from Arizona. The department said the plants were pulled out and incinerated.

From wire dispatches and staff reports.

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