- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 20, 2009


Syrian leader lauds Ahmadinejad

TEHRAN | Syrian President Bashar Assad congratulated Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Wednesday on his re-election as president of Iran and condemned foreign interference in the Islamic state, Iran’s official IRNA news agency reported.

Mr. Assad, whose country is a close ally of Iran’s, is one of the first foreign leaders to visit Tehran since Mr. Ahmadinejad won the June 12 presidential election, which his moderate opponents say was rigged. Iranian authorities deny the allegation.

“I came here today to personally convey my warm congratulations to you and the Iranian nation,” Mr. Assad told Mr. Ahmadinejad, IRNA reported. “I believe what has happened in Iran was a great event and a great lesson for foreigners.”


44 suspects with al Qaeda ties held

RIYADH | Saudi authorities arrested 44 suspected militants with al Qaeda links in a yearlong sweep that also uncovered dozens of machine guns and electronic circuits for bombs, the government said Wednesday.

Thirty members of the group hold advanced university degrees and some have received training in the kingdom and abroad on preparing explosives, forging travel documents and using light and heavy weapons, said the Interior Ministry.

The ministry’s spokesman, Mansour al-Turki, told the Associated Press that the suspected militants sought to set up cells “that would carry out their goals without their direct involvement.”


U.N. envoy slams secretary-general

OSLO | Norway’s ambassador to the United Nations has accused Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a confidential letter of weak leadership, lack of charisma and angry outbursts, the Oslo newspaper Aftenposten reported Wednesday.

The newspaper published what it said was a letter to Norway’s foreign ministry from Mona Juul.

“At a time when the U.N. and multilateral solutions to global crises are more needed than ever, Ban and the U.N. are notable by their absence,” the letter read.

Mrs. Juul and her husband Terje Roed-Larsen - now a U.N. special envoy - had key roles in secretly brokering the now-failed 1993 Oslo peace agreement between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Mrs. Juul wrote that Mr. Ban showed “weak handling” of international challenges. She said he was a “passive observer” to Myanmar’s arrest of opposition leader and Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, and she blasted his slow reaction to the civil war in Sri Lanka.


Rocket launch nixed after technical glitch

SEOUL | A technical glitch forced South Korea to abort liftoff of its first rocket into space Wednesday, delaying a launch that threatened to heat up tensions with rival North Korea.

Both Koreas are eager to develop their space programs, and had aimed to launch satellites into space this year. Pyongyang beat Seoul to it with the April liftoff of a three-stage rocket it claimed sent a communications satellite into orbit, although experts doubt it really succeeded.

The South’s planned launch could prove a setback to recent signs of easing tensions. The North this week agreed to resume some joint tourism and industry projects with the South.


Swiss expand border at Italy’s expense

BERN | Switzerland has expanded its border at Italy’s expense because of melting glaciers in the high Alps.

The Swiss government Wednesday approved shifting the border up to 164 yards into Italian territory in some areas.

The changes were made after the Swiss Federal Office of Topography found that the watershed, which determined the border in 1942, had moved because of melting glaciers and snowfields.

The Italian Embassy in Bern said the change had been approved by Rome.

From wire dispatches and staff reports.

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