- The Washington Times - Monday, September 8, 2008

ISRAEL

Police recommend charges for Olmert

JERUSALEM | Israeli police recommended on Sunday that criminal charges be filed against Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who has vowed to resign this month amid a series of corruption scandals.

Israel’s attorney general has the final word on whether to indict Mr. Olmert in what could be a protracted process.

Israeli opinion polls show Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Transport Minister Shaul Mofaz, a former defense chief, are favorites to win a Sept. 17 election to succeed Mr. Olmert as Kadima Party leader. Either could forge a coalition similar to the current one. It would take office once sworn in by parliament in late October.

Another option would be to hold early elections.

MOROCCO

Rice defends U.S.-Iraq ties

RABAT | Facing allegations that the U.S. spied on its Iraqi allies, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Sunday defended the relationship between the two governments as “very open and transparent.”

The top U.S. diplomat did not directly confront the assertion, raised in a new book by Bob Woodward of The Washington Post, that the Bush administration spied extensively on Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and others in the Baghdad government. She was asked how the U.S. would rebuild trust with Iraq if such spying took place.

“I can say that we have an open and political diplomatic relationship with the Iraqis that is cooperative,” Miss Rice told reporters on her trip to North Africa.

Mr. Woodward’s book, “The War Within: A Secret White House History, 2006-2008,” is due for release Monday.

IRAN

June date set to elect president

TEHRAN | Iranian state radio is reporting that authorities have chosen June for the next presidential election.

The report quotes the director of elections in the Interior Ministry, Ali Asghar Sharifirad, as saying June 12 will be the election date.

Sunday’s radio report adds that the date was proposed by the ministry and ratified by the Guardian Council, the conservative electoral watchdog in Iran.

It will be the 10th presidential election in Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, which brought the Islamists to power.

Hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won the 2005 election and is expected to seek a second term.

IRAQ

Natural-gas deal approved with Shell

BAGHDAD | Iraq’s Cabinet approved an initial gas agreement Sunday between the Oil Ministry and Royal Dutch Shell to invest in a joint venture to tap natural gas in southern Iraq, a government statement said.

The agreement calls for establishing a joint venture between the state-run South Oil Co. and Shell to exploit the fields, the statement added without any other details.

In June, Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani told parliament that Iraq was expected to finalize a deal this summer that would enable it to exploit flared associated gas for domestic use and exports.

Shell had approached the Oil Ministry in December with its plans and since then, meetings have been held outside Iraq, mainly in Damascus, Syria.

Shell is expected to invest $3 billion to $4 billion over five years to gather at least 500 million to 600 million cubic feet of flared gas per day from the southern fields.

The state-run South Oil Co. is expected to control 51 percent of the venture, while Shell would hold the remaining 49 percent.

HONG KONG

Light election turnout hurts democrats

HONG KONG | Hong Kong voters turned out in thinner numbers Sunday for legislative elections that threatened to set back the pro-democracy opposition and its push for greater political freedoms in the Chinese-ruled territory.

The opposition camp was expected to win fewer votes than in the 2004 election as concerns about wages, education and inflation overshadowed issues of democratic reform. Four years ago, democratic parties captured new seats amid widespread anger over Beijing-backed officials and policies.

Polls were to stay open for 15 hours, with results expected Monday morning. Turnout was lagging the pace of the last legislative poll, reaching about 33 percent by Sunday evening. A record 55 percent of registered voters cast ballots in 2004.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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