- The Washington Times - Monday, December 28, 2009


U.S. soldier killed in bomb attack

KABUL | A bomb killed a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan, NATO said Sunday, bringing the number of U.S. troops killed in the country this year to twice as many as in 2008.

The NATO-run International Security Assistance Force said the soldier died in southern Afghanistan from an improvised explosive device, the biggest killer of foreign troops in the eight-year war.

The death takes this year’s international military casualties in Afghanistan to 506, according to a tally on independent Web site iCasualties.org. Of those deaths, 310 have been Americans, compared with 155 Americans for 2008.


Netanyahu meets opposition leader

JERUSALEM | Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a two-hour meeting with opposition leader Tzipi Livni on Sunday to discuss her centrist Kadima party’s joining a broad-based coalition.

Neither politician made any statement after the talks, but Kadima said its leadership would meet Monday to discuss Mr. Netanyahu’s offer.

Ms. Livni’s centrist party is the largest in parliament with 28 of its 120 seats; Mr. Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud has 27.

Israeli news reports said the prime minister was offering just two ministries without portfolio in an expanded Cabinet.

Mr. Netanyahu also insisted that he would remain in sole charge of policy toward U.S. efforts to revive the Middle East peace process, the news reports said.


U.N. finds explosives in southern Lebanon

BEIRUT | A U.N. peacekeeping patrol has found large quantities of explosives in southern Lebanon near the border with Israel, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon announced Sunday.

The patrol stumbled on the explosives late Saturday after “observing suspicious movement of approximately five persons” near the town of Khiam, five miles from the border with Israel, a statement said.

The peacekeeping force said it opened an investigation into “the precise nature of the explosives and the circumstances under which it was found,” noting that the find violates U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701.

Resolution 1701 ended a 2006 war between Israel and the Lebanese Shi’ite militant group Hezbollah and calls for the dismantling and disarming of all militias operating in Lebanon.

Hezbollah has refused to heed the disarmament demand, arguing that it needs to retain its arsenal for defense against Israel.


China pays ransom to pirates for ship

BEIJING | A Chinese cargo ship and its crew of 25 were rescued from Somali pirates Monday, state media said, after their kidnappers collected a ransom of $3.5 million, the Xinhua News Agency reported, citing government officials.

The bulk carrier Dexinhai was hijacked Oct. 18 northeast of the Seychelles as it was sailing to India from South Africa, Xinhua said. The vessel, owned by Qingdao Ocean Shipping, had been taken to the Somali coast, between the pirate lairs of Harardere and Hobyo, where it laid at anchor with other captured vessels, and negotiations on its fate began.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said the hijacked vessel was under the protection of the Chinese naval escort fleet.

“After the medical checkup of crew members and resupply of provisions, the fleet will escort the ship and the crew to a safe sea area, and then ensure their safe return to China as soon as possible,” Xinhua said.

The Dexinhai was seized more than 550 nautical miles from the Somali coast, showing the range of action of pirates in the Indian Ocean despite the efforts of foreign patrols.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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