- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 15, 2009

BOLIVIA

Morales ends hunger strike

LA PAZ | President Evo Morales ended a five-day hunger strike Tuesday after Bolivia's congress broke a political deadlock, enabling him to run for re-election in December.

Mr. Morales, a husky Aymara Indian, looked exhausted and a few pounds thinner as he formally announced the law before a crowd that chanted “Evo, the people are with you!”

Mr. Morales, 49, had spent the weekend reclining on a mattress in the presidential palace, drinking chamomile tea and chewing coca leaves, a mild stimulant that helps suppress the appetite.

The political opposition insisted on the new standards to prevent fraud, arguing that Mr. Morales' support rose suspiciously in recent elections - including the August recall Mr. Morales won with 57 percent approval - after Venezuela helped the government provide free ID cards.

AFGHANISTAN

Taliban firing squad executes couple

KABUL | Taliban gunmen used a firing squad to kill a young couple in southern Afghanistan for trying to elope, shooting them with rifles in front of a crowd in a lawless, militant-controlled region, officials said Tuesday.

The woman, Gul Pecha, 19, and the man, Abdul Aziz, 21, were accused by the militants of immoral acts, and a council of fanatical clerics decided that the two should be killed, officials said.

The two had fled their homes and hoped to travel to Iran, but their parents sent villagers to bring them home, said Sadiq Chakhansori, the chief of Nimroz's provincial council. Once back home, the pair was either turned over to the Taliban by their parents or the militants came and took them by force, the officials said, providing slightly varying accounts.

IRAN

Ahmadinejad to attend anti-racism meeting

GENEVA | Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will attend a U.N. anti-racism conference starting in Geneva next week, the United Nations said Tuesday.

The addition of Mr. Ahmadinejad to the speakers adds to fears by some Western countries that the conference could be diverted by Muslim countries into a verbal attack on Israel.

Mr. Ahmadinejad has repeatedly called for the elimination of Israel and questioned whether the Holocaust occurred. The conference will be held Monday to April 25.

SPAIN

Prosecution eyed for U.S. interrogators

MADRID | Spanish prosecutors will likely decide this week whether to recommend a full investigation into allegations that six Bush administration officials sanctioned torture of terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay, an official in the prosecutor's office said Tuesday.

The decision would put the case back in the hands of an investigative judge on Spain's National Court. However, the judge would not be bound by the prosecutor's recommendation.

The case against the American officials - including former Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and former Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith - was brought by human rights lawyers before Spain's investigative judge, Baltasar Garzon, who sent it on to the prosecutors last month. The suspects deny any wrongdoing.

UKRAINE

Suspects arrested in dirty bomb case

KIEV | Ukrainian security agents have arrested a regional lawmaker and two companions for trying to sell a radioactive substance that could be used in making a dirty bomb, officials said Tuesday.

The legislator in the western Ternopyl region and two local businessmen were detained last week for trying to sell 8.2 pounds of radioactive material to an undercover agent of the security service, said Marina Ostapenko, a spokeswoman for the service.

The suspects tried to peddle the substance as plutonium-239, a highly radioactive material that can be used to build nuclear weapons, and demanded $10 million, Ms. Ostapenko said.

Security experts later determined that the material was likely americium, a widely used radioactive material.

THAILAND

Violent protests called off

BANGKOK | Leaders of demonstrations that plunged the Thai capital into chaos Tuesday called off their protests following rioting that left two dead and more than 120 injured across Bangkok. Police issued warrants for 14 protest leaders, including the former prime minister whose ouster is at the heart of three years of political turmoil.

The swift and unexpected resolution ended with a final crowd of 2,000 die-hard protesters dutifully lining up for government buses to take them home. There were no confrontations with the combat troops ringing the demonstrators' last stronghold, nor any visible anger. Many looked broken, tired and almost in shock.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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