- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 8, 2009

NORTH KOREA

U.S. to assess future of talks

The United States thinks North Korea may be ready to resume talks on its nuclear program but will not offer any new inducements to get Pyongyang back to the negotiating table, a senior U.S. official said Monday.

U.S. Ambassador Stephen Bosworth is due to arrive in Pyongyang on Tuesday, launching the first direct high-level move by the Obama administration to revive a stalled six-party deal aimed at ending the reclusive state’s atomic ambitions.

The senior official said Mr. Bosworth hopes to assess whether North Korea is truly ready to resume the talks and reaffirm commitments made under a 2005 agreement in which it pledged to give up its nuclear weapons program in exchange for aid and security guarantees.

The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak for attribution.

IRAQ

Election officials seek 45-day delay

BAGHDAD | Iraq’s electoral commission on Monday recommended a 45-day delay in parliamentary elections until Feb. 27, raising concerns that the postponed balloting could complicate the planned withdrawal of U.S. combat troops and bring a surge of violence.

American commanders have noted the chance of increased pre-election bloodshed aimed at destabilizing the pro-Western government. A series of attacks that struck the country as officials tried to hammer out the election timetable included an explosion outside a Baghdad elementary school that killed 10 people, including six children.

The recommendation for Feb. 27 voting was sent to Iraq’s presidential council, which still must approve it, said Qassim al-Aboudi, a senior electoral commission official. Though other dates remained on the table, there was little reason to believe the council would raise objections.

The delay from the original Jan. 16 date is needed to give authorities time to prepare after months of political stalemate that was broken with a dramatic vote by lawmakers Sunday.

SUDAN

U.N. chief phones Sudanese leader

UNITED NATIONS | U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon took the unusual step of calling Sudan’s president, who is the target of an international arrest warrant in connection with the abduction of two staff members in Sudan, Mr. Ban’s spokesman said Monday.

The Hague-based International Criminal Court issued the warrant in March for President Omar Bashir on suspicion of war crimes in the violence-torn region of Darfur.

U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said the world body’s leadership was under legal advice to minimize contacts with Lt. Gen. Bashir but that the secretary-general made the call Sunday on humanitarian grounds.

Mr. Ban “called to urge the president’s direct engagement in securing the release” of the two staff members, Mr. Nesirky said. “To my knowledge, it’s the first call that he has placed [to Gen. Bashir] since [the International Criminal Court] indictment.”

GUINEA

Civilians arrested in assassin attempt

CONAKRY | Commando units loyal to the wounded leader of Guinea’s military junta have swept through neighborhoods near the capital, arresting civilians suspected to have ties with the soldier who tried to assassinate him.

The arrests were made as the ruling junta tried to reassure the population about the president’s health, insisting that Capt. Moussa “Dadis” Camara was recovering well from a surgery in a Moroccan hospital.

Residents say at least three military trucks filled with soldiers descended Monday on the suburb of Cosa, where they arrested four civilians.

Those arrested included a marabout, or local witch doctor, thought to have cast spells for the former chief of the presidential guard, who is accused of having tried to assassinate the president.

HAITI

President marries economic adviser

PORT-AU-PRINCE | Haiti has a new first lady.

President Rene Preval and Elisabeth Debrosse Delatour married in a private ceremony at her house above Port-au-Prince on Sunday morning.

The first lady is Mr. Preval’s economic adviser. She has worked for an electrical utility and a road contractor, and is the widow of former central bank chief Leslie Delatour.

Mr. Preval, 66 and twice divorced, also got married during his first term. He has two adult daughters.

An aide said the president will take off work for a couple of days.

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