- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 4, 2009


U.S. air raid kills Sunni bomber

BAGHDAD | A U.S. aircraft fired on suspected government-allied Sunni paramilitaries planting a bomb, killing one person and wounding two, the U.S. said Friday - the latest sign of trouble in a program that has been a pillar of the American strategy to stabilize Iraq.

A U.S. statement said the air strike was launched Thursday night after four gunmen, thought to be members of the Sons of Iraq, were seen planting a roadside bomb near Taji, site of a large U.S. air base about 12 miles north of Baghdad.

Sons of Iraq, also known as Awakening Councils, are Sunnis who broke with the insurgents and now work with army and police forces to provide security in their areas.

Last weekend, U.S.-backed Iraqi forces put down an uprising in central Baghdad by members of the local Awakening Council angry over the arrest of their commander on terrorism and criminal charges.


Algerian detainee to go to France

SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO | An Algerian held at Guantanamo is to be settled in France, France’s foreign minister said Friday, marking a possible breakthrough in President Obama’s quest to close the prison and resettle dozens of prisoners in foreign lands.

News of the pending release came as Mr. Obama visited Strasbourg, France, where French President Nicolas Sarkozy said he will accept one detainee. Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said later the person is Algerian.

There was no immediate word on which Algerian would be sent to France. Two Algerian detainees at Guantanamo were ordered freed by a U.S. judge last year, noted Stephen H. Oleskey, an attorney who represents both men. Lakhdar Boumediene and Sabir Mahfouz Lahmar were among six Algerians who were sent to Guantanamo after being detained in Bosnia in 2001 on suspicion of plotting to bomb the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo.


Uzbekistan signs supply route deal

The United States has signed a new deal with the Central Asian nation of Uzbekistan to bring nonmilitary supplies to U.S. fighting forces in Afghanistan.

The deal, announced by the Pentagon on Friday, is part of the U.S. backup plan to compensate for the expected eviction of the Americans from a key air base. That base, in neighboring Kyrgyzstan, will probably close to U.S. operations later this year.

Under the new deal, the U.S. will ship food and other supplies by land and air through Uzbekistan.


Erdogan downplays Armenia deal hopes

LONDON | Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday that a deal with Armenia on their common border would have to wait until Armenia and Azerbaijan resolve a festering dispute over an enclave in the Caucasus mountains.

With signs of a thaw in ties between Turkey and Armenia after a century of hostility, Turkish media have speculated that Ankara could reopen the border, closed by Turkey in 1993 in solidarity with Azerbaijan, which was fighting Armenian-backed separatists over the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region.

President Obama, who will visit Turkey from April 5 to 7, pledged during his election campaign to describe as genocide the killing of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire in 1915 - a term strongly rejected by Turkey.

The media have speculated that Turkey might announce the breakthrough in normalizing ties with Armenia to coincide with Mr. Obama’s visit, in hopes of persuading Washington to step back from a declaration that would severely hurt U.S.-Turkish ties.


South African to head war probe

GENEVA | The United Nations on Friday appointed a widely respected South African judge, who is a trustee of Hebrew University, to lead a high-level mission to investigate purported war crimes committed by Israel in the Gaza Strip.

Israel refused to say whether it would cooperate.

Richard J. Goldstone, the former U.N. chief prosecutor for war crimes in Yugoslavia and Rwanda, was named to head the investigation ordered by the Human Rights Council in January.

According to the mandate, the investigation should focus on Palestinian victims of the three-week war between Israel and Hamas earlier this year. But Mr. Goldstone, a Jewish former judge of the South African constitutional court, said his team would investigate “all violations of international humanitarian law” before, during and after the conflict that ended Jan. 18.


BBC fined for lewd prank calls

LONDON | Britain’s broadcast regulator hit the British Broadcasting Corp. with a record fine Friday for lewd prank phone calls made to a veteran actor by talk show host Jonathan Ross and comedian Russell Brand.

The commission ordered the BBC to pay $219,000 - the highest fine ever levied on the BBC for a single incident - for an on-air radio routine last year in which Mr. Brand and Mr. Ross left recorded messages for Andrew Sachs joking about how Mr. Brand had sex with the actor’s granddaughter.

The two later laughed that Mr. Sachs might hang himself as a result of the news.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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