- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 28, 2009


Russian jet warned before Obama visit

TORONTO | Fighter jets were scrambled to intercept a Russian bomber in the Arctic as it approached Canadian airspace on the eve of President Obama’s visit to Ottawa last week, Canada’s defense minister said Friday.

Peter MacKay said the bomber never entered Canadian airspace. But he said two Canadian CF-18 jets met the bomber in international airspace and sent a “strong signal that they should back off.”

“I’m not going to stand here and accuse the Russians of having deliberately done this during the presidential visit, but it was a strong coincidence,” he said of the Feb. 18 incident.

Mr. Obama arrived in Ottawa the next day and Canadian security services were focused on his arrival. But the Arctic incident did not stretch Canada’s resources, he said. A Russian air force spokesman said the flight of the Tu-160 bomber had been planned in advance and was part of routine patrols.


Fidel Castro seen walking in Havana

CARACAS | Cuba’s ailing former leader Fidel Castro, not seen in public for years, appeared on the streets of Havana and people cried when they recognized him, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Friday.

Mr. Chavez, a close friend of the legendary revolutionary, spent several hours with Mr. Castro in Cuba last weekend and said he was in his best health since falling ill three years ago. Mr. Chavez did not say when Mr. Castro went out on the streets.

Mr. Castro, 82, has not appeared at any public event since being operated on for an undisclosed intestinal problem in July 2006. He was formally replaced by his younger brother, Raul Castro, as president last year.


Sharif supporters keep up protests

LAHORE | Supporters of opposition leader Nawaz Sharif protested and battled police for the third day after a court ruling barring him from elected office.

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court upheld a ruling that banned Mr. Sharif from contesting elections because of a past criminal conviction. The court also disqualified Mr. Sharif’s brother from continuing as head of the government in Punjab province, prompting President Asif Ali Zardari to oust the regional government.

Late Friday, thousands of Sharif supporters thronged peacefully through Lahore’s main boulevard, waving his party’s green flags and chanting “Go Zardari go!” But rioting also continued for a third day, with police swinging batons and firing tear gas at stone-throwing youths among hundreds of people who blocked the six-lane highway between the capital Islamabad and the nearby city of Rawalpindi.


Tehran offers Iraq help to rebuild

TEHRAN | Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Friday the Islamic state wanted to help neighboring Iraq to accelerate its development, state television reported.

Mr. Ahmadinejad met Iraqi President Jalal Talabani on Thursday during his second trip to Iran since 2007. State television, which reported the visit, gave no further details, but Iran has previously said it is ready to help in fields such as agriculture, the economy, transport and energy.


Military talks with U.S. resume

BEIJING | China and the U.S. resumed military-to-military consultations Friday after a five-month suspension over American arms sales to Taiwan, but a top Chinese officer warned the exchanges remain in a “difficult period.”

China froze military exchanges in October to register its anger over a $6.5 billion U.S. arms sale to Taiwan that included advanced weaponry such as Patriot missiles and Apache attack helicopters. China, which claims self-ruled Taiwan is part of its territory, complained that the sale interfered with its internal affairs.

Contacts resumed with talks led by David Sedney, a U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense, and Maj. Gen. Qian Lihua, the Chinese Defense Ministry’s head of foreign affairs.


Former cleric guilty of genocide

ARUSHA, Tanzania | A U.N. tribunal convicted a former Rwandan military chaplain Friday of attempted rape and genocide for crimes that included killing people who had sought refuge in a seminary.

The three-judge panel sentenced Emmanuel Rukundo to 25 years in prison. There was clear evidence that Rukundo, who is 50, directed the killings of Tutsi civilians in the central Rwanda area of Gitarama during the 1994 genocide, said Judge Joseph Asoka Nihal de Silva.


EU aid sought to save Auschwitz

WARSAW | Poland’s prime minister has appealed to leaders of EU countries for help raising about $150 million for urgently needed restoration work at the sprawling former Nazi death camp of Auschwitz.

The camp - a 495-acre expanse with 155 buildings and 300 ruins, including barracks and gas chambers - was set up by the Nazis in occupied Poland during World War II. More than 1 million people, mostly Jews, died in the camp’s gas chambers or through forced labor, disease or starvation.

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said in a letter sent to EU leaders earlier this month and obtained by the Associated Press on Friday that the former camp’s museum plans to set up a foundation to finance and oversee “urgent” conservation work.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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