- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Arab parties banned from election

JERUSALEM | Israel on Monday banned Arab political parties from participating in next month’s parliamentary elections, drawing accusations of racism by an Arab lawmaker who said he would challenge the decision in the country’s Supreme Court.

The ruling by parliament’s Central Election Committee reflected the heightened tensions between Israel’s Jewish majority and Arab minority caused by Israel’s offensive in the Gaza Strip. Arabs have mounted a series of demonstrations against the offensive.

Parliament spokesman Giora Pordes said the election committee voted overwhelmingly in favor of the motion, accusing the country’s Arab parties of incitement, supporting terrorist groups and refusing to recognize Israel’s right to exist. Arab lawmakers have visited some of Israel’s staunchest enemies, including Lebanon and Syria.

The decision does not affect Arab lawmakers in predominantly Jewish parties or the country’s Communist Party, which has a mixed list of Arab and Jewish candidates.


Obama inaugural request rejected

SEOUL | North Korea wants to send its chief nuclear envoy to President-elect Barack Obama’s inauguration, news reports said.

Pyongyang’s proposal to send Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan to Mr. Obama’s Jan. 20 inauguration was made last month through its mission to the United Nations, the JoongAng Ilbo newspaper reported Monday, citing an unidentified South Korean government official.

Washington rejected the idea, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said.

Asked to confirm the reports, South Korean Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan said he has heard “such talk,” and added, “I understand things are not going that way.”

Aaron Tarver, a spokesman at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, said he had no information about any inauguration requests from Pyongyang.

The U.S. and North Korea do not have diplomatic relations.


Militants captured during raid on base

ISLAMABAD | Four militants captured in a brazen weekend raid on a military base in Pakistan’s northwest came across the border from Afghanistan, the military said Monday.

The paramilitary camp was attacked early Sunday by about 600 militants, most believed to be from Afghanistan, sparking a major clash that left six security troops and 49 insurgents dead.

The raid in Pakistan’s Mohmand tribal agency suggested sophisticated cross-border coordination and the continued strength of the Taliban militancy in the isolated region despite a Pakistani military offensive.

The Pakistani Frontier Corps said in a statement Monday that four militants captured in the battle came from Afghanistan’s Kunar province directly across the border. It identified each by name but did not say how they had been captured, where they were being held or whether they would be charged with crimes.


Ex-vice president blamed for rapes

THE HAGUE | War crimes prosecutors accused former Congolese Vice President Jean-Pierre Bemba on Monday of using systematic rape to terrorize civilians suspected of supporting rebels during a bloody power struggle in neighboring Central African Republic.

Defense attorneys argued that Mr. Bemba’s troops were not under his command once they crossed the border, and that the prosecution failed to show that Mr. Bemba ordered his men to commit atrocities during the upheavals of 2002 and 2003.

The two sides outlined their arguments at a pretrial hearing at the International Criminal Court called to assess whether there is enough evidence to put Mr. Bemba on trial.

Judges scheduled four days of hearings, then have 60 days to decide whether to put him on trial, seek more evidence or let him go.


Weather hinders ferry rescuers

PAREPARE | Huge waves and driving rain hindered rescuers Monday as they searched for at least 230 people missing and feared dead after a ferry packed with passengers and cargo capsized in a cyclone off Indonesia’s Sulawesi island.

At least 33 people have been rescued so far and one body found.

Many passengers were sleeping when the 700-ton Teratai Prima was struck by tropical cyclone Charlotte before dawn Sunday, officials and witnesses said. It sank about 30 miles off the coast of western Sulawesi.

“People were screaming, ‘Help, help!‘“said survivor Sampara Daeng Gassing, 35, who clung to a tire for two hours in the pounding storm but lost his 9-year-old son.

“I lost hold of my son and my father-in-law when a big wave hit me,” Mr. Gassing said, weeping.

The ferry was slammed by 13-foot-high waves, he said. He arrived Monday with other survivors in Parepare - where the ferry journey had begun.


Shells explode in residential area

MOGADISHU | Shells hit a crowded Mogadishu market and nearby residential area Monday, killing at least 11 people in fighting between Islamist insurgents and Ethiopian-backed government forces.

Medical staffers told Reuters they had transported 11 corpses and 16 wounded people from Bakara market and the Gedjael neighborhood after the insurgents exchanged shells with Somali soldiers and their Ethiopian military allies.

Islamists have been battling government and Ethiopian troops for the past two years, since Addis Ababa sent forces to oust the Islamic Courts Union from Mogadishu.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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