- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 23, 2009


73 soldiers killed fighting Yemeni rebels

AL-KHOBA | Seventy-three Saudi soldiers have been killed, 470 wounded and 26 are missing since fighting broke out in November between Saudi forces and Yemeni rebels, a Saudi Cabinet minister said Tuesday.

Deputy Defense Minister Prince Khaled bin Sultan announced the toll in a speech at a news conference in Al-Khoba in the southern Jizan province.

“We believe that 12 of [the missing soldiers] were killed, while we do not know about the fate of the other 14,” Prince Khaled said.

It was first time that Saudi Arabia had given a death toll for the fighting, which began more than a month and a half ago, between Saudi forces and Yemeni Shi’ite rebels, also known as Houthis. On Nov. 3, rebels killed a Saudi border guard and occupied two villages inside the kingdom’s territory. Saudi jets began bombing Houthi positions the next day.

Prince Khaled said the bulk of operations were now over but noted that a small border village, Al-Jabiriyah, was still under Houthi control.

Although the conflict between Saudi Arabia and the Houthis began recently, fighting between the rebels and the Yemeni government has occurred sporadically since 2004.


Border spat called misunderstanding

TEHRAN | Iran on Tuesday said its recent takeover of an Iraqi oil well was the result of a “misunderstanding” and called for the two nations to open talks to clearly demarcate their border.

The Iranian and Iraqi foreign ministers spoke over the weekend and agreed to re-establish a long-standing joint border committee, said Ramin Mehmanparast, spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry. He said it was critical that the committee immediately get down to work.

Iranian forces seized the No. 4 well at the al-Fakkah oil field last Thursday, immediately raising tensions between the uneasy neighbors, who fought a war from 1980 to 1988. The Iranians withdrew early Sunday.

It’s not clear why Iran seized the well, which sits about 50 yards from the border and is not producing oil. Both countries claim parts of the oil field, and the border itself is under dispute in some places, highlighted by Iranian officials who said the No. 4 well was on Iranian soil.

The al-Fakkah well is about 200 miles southeast of Baghdad and has an estimated 1.5 billion barrels in reserves.


3 American hikers still investigated

TEHRAN | Three Americans arrested in July after crossing into Iran from neighboring Iraq are still under investigation, a prosecutor said Tuesday as he underlined Tehran’s concern about 11 Iranians who it says are being held in the United States.

Iranian officials have repeatedly mentioned the cases together, and U.S. officials have been concerned that Iran could try to use the detained Americans - said by their families to be innocent hikers who went astray - as bargaining chips. The Tehran prosecutor did not explicitly link their case to those of the 11 Iranians.

“The Americans should know that there are 11 Iranian nationals in U.S. prisons. We hope the Americans are treating them based on regulations,” prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dowlatabadi said, according to the official Islamic Republic News Agency.

Iran released a list earlier this month of 11 Iranians whom it says are being held in the U.S. - including a nuclear scientist who disappeared in Saudi Arabia and a former Defense Ministry official who vanished in Turkey. The list also includes an Iranian arrested in Canada on charges of trying to obtain nuclear technology.


Trial postponed for Swiss businessmen

TRIPOLI | Proceedings against two Swiss businessmen caught up in a diplomatic row with Libya over the treatment of leader Moammar Gadhafi’s son was postponed Tuesday until January, their attorney said.

Max Goeldi and Rashid Hamdani had been planning to attend the appeal hearing but remained holed up in the Swiss Embassy after “changing their minds,” attorney Salah Zahaf told Agence France-Presse.

Mr. Goeldi, a senior manager at the Swedish-Swiss engineering giant ABB, and Mr. Hamdani, who works for a small construction firm, were detained in 2008 after Hannibal Gadhafi and his wife were arrested in Switzerland.

They are appealing their 16-month jail terms a Libyan court handed down Nov. 30 for overstaying their visas.

The next hearings will be Jan. 14 for Mr. Goeldi and Jan. 10 for Mr. Hamdani.

The postponement came as a Swiss court said Mr. Gadhafi’s son had filed suit against the Swiss canton of Geneva and a local newspaper over the publication of police mug shots taken when he was arrested last year.

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