- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 22, 2009

IRAN

Reporter’s sentence could be lowered

TEHRAN | Iran may reconsider an eight-year jail term for an American journalist during her appeal, the judiciary spokesman said Tuesday in an indication her sentence will be commuted.

The statement was the latest hint Iran could be backing off from the imprisonment of 31-year-old Roxana Saberi on charges of spying for the U.S. On Monday, the judiciary chief ordered a full investigation into the case, a day after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad urged Tehran’s chief prosecutor to ensure Miss Saberi be allowed a full defense during her appeal.

“We can’t influence the judge’s verdict, [but hope] the verdict will be reconsidered at the appeals court,” the official Islamic Republic News Agency quoted judiciary spokesman Ali Reza Jamshidi as saying.

The statement was seen as a rare prediction from the judiciary about a pending case.

The U.S. has called the accusations against Miss Saberi, a dual American-Iranian citizen, baseless and demanded her release.

BOLIVIA

Hungary skeptical on anti-Morales plot

BUDAPEST | Hungary’s government said Tuesday there is no credible evidence so far that a group made up of Hungarians and other Europeans plotted to assassinate Bolivian President Evo Morales.

Three people were killed and two others taken into custody Thursday in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, in what officials in the South American country said was a shootout with a group plotting to kill Mr. Morales. Political opponents accuse Mr. Morales’ leftist government of trying to distract voters from political issues in Bolivia before December elections.

VENEZUELA

Chavez foe seeks asylum in Peru

LIMA, Peru | A Venezuelan opposition leader who says he is a victim of political persecution by President Hugo Chavez’s government has requested political asylum in Peru, one of his attorneys said Tuesday.

Manuel Rosales, a leading Chavez opponent, has been charged with corruption in Venezuela, but says his trial there would not be fair. Lawyer Javier Valle-Riestra said the asylum request for Mr. Rosales was made in Peru on Tuesday.

Mr. Rosales, who lost a presidential race to Mr. Chavez in 2006, stepped down as mayor of Maracaibo, Venezuela’s second-largest city, in March and went into hiding in response to harassment and fears he could be in danger, his party said.

KOREAS

North refuses to free worker

SEOUL | North Korea refused Tuesday to release a seized South Korean worker during tense talks with Seoul officials, underlining the soured nature of relations between the two rivals.

The meeting had been billed as a major step - the first government-to-government dialogue since conservative South Korean President Lee Myung-bak took office in February last year with a vow to get tough on North Korea over its nuclear ambitions.

But the talks - which lasted just 22 minutes - only started after a full day of bickering over how they should be conducted.

MOLDOVA

Recount confirms Communist victory

CHISINAU | Moldova’s ruling Communist Party was again declared the winner Tuesday in the ex-Soviet state’s disputed parliamentary election, in a recount ordered after violent protests against the initial result.

The results of the April 5 election gave President Vladimir Voronin’s Communist Party 60 out of 101 seats in parliament, just one short of the 61 needed for the party to fully control the selection of the next president.

CHINA

Monk faces trial on weapons charge

BEIJING | A respected Tibetan lama went on trial on weapons charges Tuesday as three people were sentenced to lengthy prison terms for deadly arson attacks during last year’s rioting in the Tibetan capital.

Phurbu Tsering Rinpoche, who headed a convent in Ganzi, a predominantly Tibetan prefecture in Sichuan province, is accused of illegally possessing weapons, his Beijing-based attorney, Li Fangping, told the Associated Press.

The 52-year-old monk could be imprisoned for up to 15 years if found guilty, Mr. Li said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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